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Takeaways from the Championship - 1/9/18



Another week, another episode of the Stephen Dobbie show
If you looked up 'futility' in a dictionary, you might find the clip of a drunk Ayr fan - at least, we hope he was drunk - invading the pitch as Stephen Dobbie missed a penalty (QOS were 4-0 up at the time, and it wasn't even half-time yet). Or you might find Daniel Harvie, shown a second yellow for dissent in the second half. Harvie has given away a penalty and been sent off in each of his last two league appearances for Ayr.

Or you might simply find the word's definition is now 'trying to defend against Stephen Dobbie'. Despite having that spot kick saved, the striker scored a stunning four times in the Doonhamers' 5-0 win. That's following on from his hat-trick at Falkirk last week and moves him onto eighteen goals this season. Add in a treble on the last day of last season and he's on twenty-one from his last eleven matches. It led Dobbie to joke afterwards that he'd only leave Palmerston if Rangers moved for him.

Lest we forget, Dobbie is 36 in December. Remarkably whilst his experience no doubt contributes to his wonderful decision-making and off-the-ball movement, he still clearly has a burst of pace over a few yards which is enough to gain space on defenders. He also seems to be enjoying his football as much as ever, going by his repertoire of goal celebrations.

Dobbie is not the only talent in the Queen of the South squad, though he is unquestionably the biggest. Lyndon Dykes is proving the perfect foil for him up front, while fellow veteran Gary Harkins continues to wind the clock back with some glorious performances and a superb goal of his own at the weekend. The price of having all three at a club with a limited budget is threadbare depth, so if any of those three get crocked the team will be an entirely different proposition. If that doesn't happen, they could go as far as Dobbie can fire them.

Dunfermline's defensive woes continue
Allan Johnston worked hard to improve Dunfermline's attacking options ahead of the transfer deadline. Schemer Malaury Martin should do well at this level after a torrid spell at Hearts, while Robbie Muirhead is less than two years removed from being a first choice at Tynecastle and could tear apart this league. Another forward, Aidan Keena, was also signed.

But the Pars' problems are at the other end of the park. They've now shipped twelve goals in four league games, and after a close first half they went to pieces when they fell behind to Inverness. As soon as the home side started chasing the game they were picked apart, with Liam Polworth and Aaron Doran wreaking havoc for the visitors.

The club are still recovering from losing lynchpin Callum Morris in the summer, but it's unclear whether the problem is lack of quality, or the three at the back system, or both. Mark Durnan and Danny Devine arrived at the club on the back of terrible years at Dundee United and Partick respectively and both have continued their lousy form. Worryingly the previously solid Lee Ashcroft has been dragged down with them.

And playing all three means no space for a creative player like Kallum Higginbotham. Even when they went to a back four at 1-0 down Johnston didn't help things by sacrificing right-back Ryan Williamson for Higginbotham and moving Ashcroft to an unfamiliar role on that flank where he struggled badly. A solution needs to be found quickly before any more ground is lost.

Another game, another disappointment for Dundee United
Coming off back-to-back league wins, United's draw at Alloa - who continue to show they can punch well above their part-time weight - could on the face of it be regarded as a blip rather than a disaster, especially when it took a wonder-goal from Iain Flannigan to deny them the three points. But United had toiled for long periods before goal machine Paul Watson's opener and the fact that they didn't deserve the win stuck in the craw of the travelling Arabs.

There were plenty of signs for concern aside from the performance, with tales of midfielder Adam Barton getting into a slagging match with supporters criticizing his efforts and a disagreement between the two benches at the end when Alloa boss Jim Goodwin went to shake hands just before the final whistle rather than after. Whilst United still have enough quality to win without playing well, there are too many signs still that this will be a re-run of the last two seasons.

Thistle look reinforced and ready to challenge
The post-game focus at Firhill was understandably on the goal that somehow wasn't given, but thankfully Thistle won anyway so the assistant referee's moment of insanity didn't matter so much. More importantly, after a tough start to Championship life there are clear roots of recovery. Alan Archibald has managed to reinforce a squad that was dreadfully depleted a few weeks ago. Deadline day signings Tam Scobbie and Jai Quitongo weren't ready for this game, but Brice Ntambwe did enough on his debut to suggest he can fill the midfield gap vacated by Abdul Osman. With Souleymane Coulibaly hopefully available soon, this now looks like a very decent team.

But most crucially of all, Stuart Bannigan made his first appearance for nearly a year with a 15 minute cameo off the bench. If he has finally overcome his injury problems he could light up this division just like he did five years ago...which is when Thistle last won it.

County's strength in depth puts them top
Ross County took 68 minutes to break the deadlock but don't let that fool you. They absolutely dominated against a Falkirk side clearly treading water until Ray McKinnon takes over this week and the victory, which takes them top, was pretty much inevitable.

The fact that the two goalscorers, Jamie Lindsay and Declan McManus, were substitutes shows what incredible options County's management team have on the bench. Ross Stewart also came on, while Davis Keillor-Dunn was unused. Harry Paton and Ryan Dow weren't even part of the matchday squad. With so many options available in the event of injury or loss of form, County's depth going forward is awesome and will prove crucial over a full season.

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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