Nearly 9,000 tickets have been sold as table-toppers Dunfermline welcome second-placed Falkirk to Fife. Thirteen miles and five points separate the two towns (or city, in Dunfermline’s case) and with both teams on excellent runs of form, the two remaining league matches will go a long way to deciding who will gain automatic promotion to League One.
Dunfermline are the last team to defeat Falkirk on league business. John McGlynn’s men have recovered spectacularly from that 1-0 reversal in early November, winning eight of their past nine games in the division and also reaching the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup. There is a feeling that the Bairns are peaking just at the right time under their wily, experienced boss, but they will need to do something no club has done this season: win at East End Park.
While Falkirk have been languishing in Scotland’s third tier since 2019, the Pars hurtled through the Championship trapdoor under John Hughes in embarrassing fashion via the play-offs last season. Former Dundee manager James McPake was brought in to try and manufacture an immediate return and, with one league defeat all season – an mid-season reversal at Montrose – they are in pole position to do so. McPake arrived with little fanfare but the 38-year-old has made Dunfermline really hard to beat. He has been shrewd with loan signings, landing midfielders Chris Mochrie from Dundee United and Kane Ritchie-Hosler from Rangers. He’s also restored previously under-performing goalkeeper Deniz Mehmet to strong levels, conceding only 13 goals this season in the league. Perhaps the best summer arrival, though, has been Kyle Benedictus, who joined from Fife rivals Raith. Appointed club captain, the 31-year-old has been rock-solid. Dunfermline have an extraordinary obdurate defence. Draws, however, have been plentiful – eight draws, six of which at home – and that has allowed Falkirk to hang on to their coattails.
McGlynn – also appointed this summer – had a turbulent start to life at the Falkirk season, but they are now motoring. They are a very different team to Dunfermline; open, attack-minded with plenty of ammunition. Gary Oliver, Kai Kennedy and Rumarn Burrell all chip in with goals but it is former Hearts winger Callumn Morrison, with 12 goals this season, who is their major threat. The spine of the team has plenty of experience too, with Brad McKay, Coll Donaldson – part of last year’s relegated Dunfermline team – and captain Stephen McGinn allowing others to go on and play. They hammered Peterhead 5-0 at the weekend to prepare nicely for this encounter.
Postponed on January 2 due to a frozen pitch, there had been a fear that a big crowd would not turn up on a midweek match. Both clubs have statures far bigger than League One and both have horrible recent memories of the play-offs. However, with so much on the line, East End Park will be rocking come 7.45pm on Tuesday. The two teams meet again at the Falkirk Stadium on April 8 but with only ten matches to left to play, the onus is on Falkirk to land a telling blow.