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Takeaways from the Championship - 22/9/18



Another week, another strange Ross County lineup
Are two heads really better than one? That's a reasonable question to ask of Ross County's co-managers after yet more chopping and changing to the starting lineup did more harm than good. This time it was the benching of Iain Vigurs, so often able to control Championship games on his own, and Josh Mullin, the team's only quick wide player. It was no surprise that County were too narrow yet unable to dominate in the centre of the pitch; for the first three quarters of the match Inverness were more likely to score.

With the duo introduced as substitutes the home side finished far more strongly and could have snatched a winner, but it was ultimately too little too late. Whichever one of Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson is currently choosing the tactics needs to admit that it's the other one's turn. If it's both of them together, then they need to get a grip because they are holding back their players with strange decisions like these.

(Edit 26/9/18 - at the risk of sounding cryptic, it has subsequently become clear that there were good reasons for County's lineup decision on Saturday which reflect rather better on Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson. So feel free to ignore what I wrote above)

Dunfermline need a decent keeper
Lee Robinson's CV probably has 'journeyman' stamped on it. Only at Queen of the South, where he spent three seasons as first choice keeper over two spells, has he ever really settled. And the Doonhamers dumped him a year ago, despite him being goalkeeping coach as well. He only ended up in Dunfermline in January as an emergency signing because of Sean Murdoch's injury. As I said, emergency. And yet he is still here, because Murdoch is still out.

The Pars have another goalkeeper in Cammy Gill, but the 20 year old has been stuck on the bench since Robinson's arrival despite being highly rated. Perhaps Gill's time has come. Robinson hasn't inspired much confidence; his nadir came with a dreadful blunder that gifted Morton an equalizer and denied Dunfermline their first league win since opening day.

In truth, Allan Johnston really should have worked harder at reinforcing the position in the summer. Murdoch is hardly an outstanding shot-stopper himself, but Robinson could be the weakest first choice goalie in the Championship. And a club with such aspirations need someone more talented to be their first line of defence.

Alloa's resilience won't last forever
"I didn't think there was much between the sides. They're a good side but I think we held our own for a part-time team. The difference between the sides was Lawrence Shankland." Jim Goodwin's post-match comments were fair enough, and were meant to be a positive take on another battling effort from Alloa. But it was another battle lost. They remain above Falkirk in the table, but are still winless since their return to the second tier.

The yardstick for the Wasps is of course last season's dreadful Brechin City team. Alloa are vastly superior to them in every respect and will certainly finish with a far better record. But even the hardiest team lose confidence eventually if they are being beaten most weeks by opponents with better players and better resources. Goodwin's side have put so much into the opening two months of the season - how much competitive fire have they left for the remaining 30 games, when their situation already looks pretty hopeless?

Falkirk's hard work may count for little
Ray McKinnon isn't messing about; according to midfielder Paul Paton, Falkirk players are being put through three training sessions a day as the new manager tries to drill them into something vaguely resembling a Championship team (if it's also because they need to build up fitness, that reflects pretty badly on his predecessor). The Bairns were certainly better organized but that was far from sufficient against a pretty ordinary Dundee United side...though it would have helped if Leo Fasan hadn't cocked up for the first goal, or if Deimantas Petravicius hadn't spurned a golden chance for a leveller.

The concern remains that organization is not the issue, or at least not the only issue. The club chairman issued a bizarre call to arms this week that reminded fans that there were "more than ninety points still available" as if a promotion challenge was still a possibility. The truth is that Paul Hartley has left McKinnon with a bunch of haddies to pick from. Big changes can't be made until January and even Guardiola himself couldn't make some of these duffers look like professional footballers. And so Falkirk's target has to be eighth, and anything higher is a pipedream.

Thistle can't only depend on home comforts
Having lost half of their league games so far, it says something about the tightness of this league that Partick Thistle are only four points off top spot. There was plenty of evidence in favour of them being one of the better teams in this league - not least the 18 pass move finished off by Kris Doolan for their first goal. The return of Stuart Bannigan has made an enormous difference and if he can stay fit then Thistle are a much different proposition.

However, a push up the table mainly depends on finding some away form. Thistle have maximum points at Firhill and zero elsewhere. Next up is a travel to Dunfermline, before hosting Ross County and Dundee United on their own patch in a game brought forward to an international weekend from a midweek at the end of October. Where Alan Archibald's side are after those three games will tell us a lot more about their prospects.

Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.

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