Mark Connolly insists Dundee United’s gruelling stint in the Championship has steeled him for Dunfermline’s travails.
The Tannadice defender, on loan at East End Park until January, was a key part of United’s title-winning 2019/20 side.
However, he vividly recalls the attritional, ugly battles along the way; forgettable shares of the spoils and narrow victories.
And Connolly is convinced that the Pars’ penchant for gritty stalemates — five draws from their last six games — will soon turn into victories as they seek to climb the table.
— SPFL (@spfl) October 27, 2021
“There are such fine margins,” said Connolly.
“I’ve been in this league before with Dundee United and there were times when we weren’t playing well but found a way to grind out results.
“We won a league title, but still went through phases where we struggled to win games.
“But we kept picking up points — we didn’t lose many — and eventually that momentum becomes wins. That’s what you need to do.
“I remember after winning the league, sitting in the dressing room with Dundee United and all the boys were thinking what a tough slog it had been.
“There is no magic wand. It’s not ‘if you start passing this way, or doing this, you’ll immediately win’ — it is pure hard work, determination and wanting to win more than the opposition.”
If casting a sympathetic eye over Dunfermline’s 11-match winless run in the league, then draws against the likes of Inverness, Kilmarnock and Raith Rovers are certainly creditable results.
And any doubts regarding the quality and mentality within the Pars dressing room have been assuaged in Connolly’s mind.
“When I first came here, and the team being bottom of the league, you maybe wonder ‘what is the team like?’” Connolly continued.
“But there is real quality in the dressing room and I’ve seen a huge change in mentality, work rate.
“It would be different if I was thinking ‘we should have got beat’, but that isn’t the feeling.
“We have played Kilmarnock, one of the favourites in the league, and we could have beaten them. Raith, on Tuesday, will be up there and we should have won.
“We are close.”
However, with rock bottom Dunfermline now the only side in the SPFL without a league win, Connolly is loath to patronise a frustrated fanbase.
He added: “There are only so many times we can keep speaking about it. We need that win.”
Relishing the challenge
He has been consistent, vocal and aerially dominant in both boxes.
Having endured five months on the sidelines after sustaining a knee injury with United in May, he is visibly getting back to his best.
“I knew when I was coming here that it would be a tough challenge but, after being out for such a long time, I am relishing it,” he added.