Kevin O’Hara has lauded Declan McManus’ evolution into an inventive midfielder and reckons the rapport between Dunfermline’s attacking three will only get stronger.
Pars boss Stevie Crawford has successfully found a way to accommodate his marquee trio of attacking threats, with McManus operating in a more withdrawn role and flexing his creative muscles at the tip of a central diamond.
It is a departure from the perception of McManus as a clinical goal-getter but he is thriving in a deeper position and has cultivated an increasingly potent rapport with Craig Wighton and O’Hara.
A sequence of five games unbeaten going into Friday night’s trip to Alloa serves to underline the efficacy of Fifers’ shape — and the growing momentum at East End Park.
“Declan has always been a goal-scorer but he’s a clever player, can use his body well and have a fight in the middle of the park,” said O’Hara. “He has good quality and can see the passes when we make the run.
“I think we make it easier for him and he makes it easier for us — perfect.
“We speak about it before the games and in training: if Deccy gets on the half-turn then I know that’s my cue to get on my bike and spin in behind. I think it’s the same with Craig [Wighton]. It becomes second nature.
“Even in training, we’re looking sharp.”
Wighton is also thriving as part of the triangle up top, notching six goals in 11 matches since joining the club from Hearts in January.
The former Dundee and Scotland under-21 starlet has always been a mercurial talent, but now appears to possess the confidence and consistency to prove that on the pitch every week.
“It’s always good when competition comes in because it brings out the best in me,” continued O’Hara. “I’m really enjoying playing up front with Wighty just now.
“I think we complement each other. We’ve got similar styles but it’s clicking and long may that continue. The boys are enjoying playing in this shape, with a bit of freedom.”
Then again, O’Hara is grateful to be playing at all.
The waspish attacker has found himself restricted to the role of impact substitute during portions of this season and there were fears that the arrival of Wighton would push him further down the pecking order.
🏁 Dunfermline continued their good form with a win over Alloa at the Indodrill Stadium.
Kevin O’Hara came off the bench to score an impressive hat trick against his former club.
— The Twelfth Man (@TwelfthManXII) October 24, 2020
However, he is adamant that challenge only made him more determined to succeed when his opportunity came.
“I’ve been champing at the bit to be in the team,” he smiled. “That’s why you work hard every day. I’m reaping the rewards for the hard work that I’ve put in; I’m getting in the team and scoring the goals.”
While he has cut a frustrated figure at times, O’Hara boasts a passable tally of 11 goals this term, carrying on the prolific streak which lit up his time at Alloa last term and ultimately earned him a move to East End Park.
As such, he will be forever indebted to the Wasps — and will endure a bittersweet outing when he plays in their final Championship match, for now, due to their relegation.
“I can’t thank Alloa and Peter Grant enough for what they did for me,” added O’Hara. “If it wasn’t for them, I might not be at Dunfermline right now. They gave me that platform to play week-in, week-out and show my qualities.
“It’s sad to see them relegated but, this being football, we need to focus on ourselves and win the game. It’s been a tough season for them but I hope they bounce right back up — and I’m sure they will.”