Stevie Crawford, by his own admission, is not one for singling players out. As a general rule, the Dunfermline manager is no more likely to shine the spotlight on a star performer than he would publicly pin-point a weak link. That is to say: not likely at all.
So the stream of effusive plaudits he aimed in the direction of Dom Thomas serves to underline just how special the winger’s display against Queen of the South on Saturday was.
“I thought Dom was magnificent,” lauded Crawford. “For a boy who played in a wide role, some of the stuff he did to affect the game was outstanding.”
Pasta at 8 a.m. must be a recipe for success for Thomas because the 25-year-old was irrepressible in this early kick-off against the visitors from Dumfries.
From the first minute, he tortured James Maxwell. If the on-loan Rangers left-back has been farmed out to learn some harsh lessons in the unforgiving environment of the Championship, consider that box ticked at East End Park.
Thomas danced in from the right flank with devastating regularity and invariably unleashed an effort on target, forcing Rohan Ferguson, between the sticks for Queens, to be in fine fettle.
One of those saves, however, resulted in the rebound being fired home by Kevin O’Hara after 10 minutes.
The soaring leap and roar of pure catharsis from O’Hara summed up how important that goal — ending a barren run of 326 minutes without finding the net at home — spoke volumes; a maddening monkey off their backs.
The efficacy of Thomas and his cohort on the channel, Aaron Comrie, forced Queens into a tactical change. Dapo Mubude, repeatedly failing to track runners on the wing, shifted up front and Ciaron Dickson told to pick up his defensive duties as they matched the Pars’ 4-1-3-2.
But Thomas would go on to claim two assists after the break.
His mazy dribble and pin-point cut-back which allowed Fraser Murray to find the net was simply sensational, while the late pass across the face of goal to allow Ewan Henderson to add gloss to the scoreline was cooler than the other side of the pillow.
If Thomas can rediscover his early-season form, when he racked up three assists and a goal from his opening five league games, then perhaps the Pars are not to be discounted from the promotion shake-up yet.
“We need to get the ball to Dom more often to allow him to do those things,” continued Crawford. “It is difficult to bring consistency to that role. People will look at Dom on Saturday and ask: ‘Why can’t he get to those levels more often?’
“That is not a criticism of Dom; players like him are a dying breed and we need to get the best out of him. Possibly we were getting him the ball a little earlier and a little higher up the pitch. That allowed him to show what he was able to do.
“Will he cut inside? Will he go on the outside? They end up doubling up on him, which creates space for others to take advantage of.”
Good Morning #DAFC fans
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Even Queens manager Allan Johnston was moved to note: “Dom creates the first goal and, honestly, he was probably the difference between the two teams. He played a part in all three goals, which tells a story.”
A Maxwell goal — some solace during a difficult afternoon defensively — did briefly bring the scoreline back to 2-1 but that will be a footnote to an afternoon in which Dunfermline got back to winning ways and, perhaps more importantly for their beleaguered fans, did so with a little panache.
Thomas was man-of-the-match by an almost comical distance (one of his teammates, chatting in passing, described his display as ‘a joke’) but there were plenty of other impressive performers.
Henderson has added verticality to the Pars midfield and his willingness to burst into the box gives them a much needed threat from deep; Lewis Mayo deputised for skipper Euan Murray with aplomb; O’Hara’s movement was intelligent and proved impossible for Queens to pin down; Declan McManus, playing as a ‘No.10’, linked the play brilliantly.
Goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams also shone, making fine saves from Ayo Obileye and Connor Shields on the cusp of half-time.
🎥 Watch the goalmouth action from yesterday's 3-1 win over Queen of the South.
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— Dunfermline Athletic (@officialdafc) April 17, 2021
It has been a tough 2021 for Dunfermline fans, but this was cause for optimism. The challenge for Crawford is to ensure it is not a false dawn.
“We knew we had to win that game and that’s a pressure to play under, after a number of games without a win,” added Crawford. “That proved we have battling qualities.
“We won’t get carried away but that was far more like it from us, and what I want us to be.
“We went into the game knowing we had three big games; three games we wanted to win. We’ve won one. Now, it’s on to Arbroath.”