Manager on ThursdayThursday, 20th Feb 2020
20/02/20: SC - “The break has given me an opportunity to go and watch Partick Thistle twice.
The trials and tribulations created by storms Ciara and Dennis have proven to be the latest challenges to Stevie Crawford, he told the media this week:-
“You plan to get a head of things but the weather in the last week became a bit of a pain. We are fortunate that we have got a facility along at Michael Woods Centre in Glenrothes. We trained there indoors on a couple of days but also with Kelty covered in snow for most of the week right up until last Friday, we managed to get on the outside Astro Michael Woods.
“It makes it that little bit more challenging and you have to end up changing training based on the weather to get a good working week under us and we were back at Kelty this week.”
There will have been three weeks between the last and next Pars match and while the weather was foul Stevie was still uncertain whether the enforced break was a good thing:-
“I have been speaking to supporters, players, people around about the club who work at the club that we are missing football and there is a frustration to it on the back of the excellent home victory against Dundee considering the the form with the run of games without a victory. Back-to-back victories brings the confidence and the two performances against Partick Thistle this season have been good ones.
“The break has given me an opportunity to go and watch Partick Thistle twice. Jason and I watched them against Dundee and then I went through and watched them play against Raith Rovers as well. Ian McCall has added players to his squad and he will feel that he has strengthened.
“He is possibly still searching for his best formation but that is not for me to talk about. They started up at Dundee with a 4-3-3 and ended up changing it at half time to a 3-5-2. I went through and watched them against Raith Rovers on Friday and he went for a 4-4-1-1 formation. I am aware of what we are going to come up against but I think we have to try and replicate the performance through at Partick earlier in the season and how we went about our business against Dundee in the 2-0 victory recently.
“We are eight points ahead of Partick who are bottom of the league and we are five points behind Inverness who are sitting second. We are in a bit of form albeit there has been a break in games. The two victories will bring us confidence when we look back to see why we have won those games.
“It comes down to the boys working together, working to be more compact as a unit and then our record this season shows that we have got goals in the team. We cannot take that for granted because the minute you do that, you are asking for trouble. We are very much aware that out of possession, we can look more solid and give ourselves an opportunity to win the game.”
The break has also afforded his five January window signings to gel with their new team mates. Ethan Ross and Dom Thomas came in earlier in the window but the break has given Owain Fon Williams, Jonathan Afolabi and Dylan Duncan a further couple of weeks to familiarise themselves with the squad. Stevie continued:-
“We have been lucky on that front that the five characters that we have brought in are good types. We had done our homework, asking people what kind of boys they were anyway and I am sure that they will be good additions to the squad towards the end of the season.”
Now having gone without matches since the first day of February, Dunfermline Athletic face a schedule of five matches in fifteen days. It will be an important spell and which could test the strength of Stevie’s squad. He agreed:-
“We know where we are going to try and prepare for this game. You have to take every game as it comes and we are focused in what we are going to try and do through at Partick. It is then dangerous to look beyond that because you can pick up injuries suspensions and what not.
“We must fully focus on the Partick game but we are going to be reliant on the whole squad. That will be vital over this period to give us a chance to be where we want to be be at the end of the two week period coming up.”
One squad member who has escaped the wet February is Ethan Ross. The player who is on loan from Aberdeen is currently away with the Scotland Under 19s in Murcia, Spain. Ethan started and scored in the 1-1 draw against the Czech Republic on Tuesday and the team is due to face the same opponents on Thursday evening. Stevie accepts that it is good for one of his squad to be involved at that level but hopes that he returns fit for Saturday’s match in Glasgow:-
“It is not for us to say how Billy Stark picks his Scotland teams, it is great that Ethan is in that squad and that is what you want for players who are at your club but I will be looking through my fingers to see if he is going to have played the two games and obviously be ready to be involved at the weekend. It is great that he is away with the squad but I just hope that he does not get too much game time when he is away.”
For the rest of the squad it has been a matter of getting game time in the reserves and in a bounce game last Saturday. Stevie explained how he had tried to use the match schedule:-
“We had the reserve game against Morton on the Tuesday after the Queen of the South game. We did plan on then using the next reserve game against Kilmarnock but unfortunately that got postponed due to the weather conditions. We did have a bounce game organised but due to the other team picking up injuries that had to get cancelled.
“We had a good hour playing against ourselves to replicate the game. It was a decent work out for us on Saturday. We have been working hard since then on the training ground and Tuesday`s reserve game allowed five or six who are around the first team squad to play. Having missed the opportunity to play in the reserve game last week it was right to get minutes under their belt.”
Stevie conceded that there is a risk when players are asked to train at a tempo and play at match speeds that injuries are going to be picked up.
“There are a couple of players who we are monitoring at the moment. I do not want to go public and say who those players are but there is not too much concern that they are going to be missing at the weekend. We just have to make sure that we are not pushing boys that could possibly mean that they could then miss three, four or five games. We will do our work right on that one but I do not see any major problems.”
While out of action other Championship teams have picked up points meaning the Pars have slipped from fourth to sixth but depending on results elsewhere recapturing the last play off place could be achieved with a win over Partick Thistle. SC said:-
“It’s a funny League and if results go their way it is possible that Arbroath could be second in the league come Saturday night.”
Stevie pointed out that you only need to look back quotes from him earlier in the season and he has said how competitive league it is.
“Dundee United put a run of results together to open up that gap between them and the rest of the teams. Results get thrown left, right and centre at you and if you were a betting man you wouldn`t want to be betting on the Scottish Championship the way it is this year. We have just got to take confidence from the last two games and make sure that we are concentrating on the job we have in hand.”
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