Dunfermline’s dismal 3-0 defeat against Arbroath marked the Pars’ worst showing since the arrival of John Hughes.
The Fifers failed to lay a glove on the Championship leaders and, following a few heartening showings of late, it was a rangy step backwards.
The failings were familiar and Hughes remains acutely aware of what must change in January — and beyond.
Nevertheless, it made for grim viewing for those Dunfermline fans watching on Pars TV.
Courier Sport was at East End Park to analyse the talking points.
Men against boys
Owain Fon Williams; Mark Connolly; Graham Dorrans; Ryan Dow — Dunfermline do have a handful of experienced professionals and leaders.
But it’s only a handful.
Of the other 11 starters against Arbroath, Craig Wighton and Aaron Comrie (24) were the oldest players in the side.
The Pars have some fine young talents. But to be pitched, en masse, into a fraught relegation battle is an almighty task.
The lack of ‘nous’ cited by John Hughes — encapsulating game-management, decision-making and being vocal — is only going to be rectified by senior reinforcements.
Compared to an Arbroath line-up which was well-drilled, experienced and clinical, the difference was stark.
Of Dunfermline’s 18 Championship matches this season, they have fallen behind on 12 occasions.
Nine of those strikes have come in the opening 25 minutes of games.
The Pars have consistently failed at the most basic tenet of football: giving oneself a foothold in the match.
So, the sense of deja vu was overwhelming when Rhys Breen inexplicably skewed a harmless Anton Dowds cross into his own net after six minutes.
While some supporters grew irked by the repetitive nature of Peter Grant’s post-match assessments, the former boss was absolutely correct about the bewildering amount of individual errors.
Unfortunate Vytas Gaspuitis
There is no mystery to Gaspuitis’ absence.
Boss Hughes has explained that he believes the balance of his side benefits with a natural left-footer beside Mark Connolly in central defence.
Breen has been drafted into the starting line-up to fill that role.
Nevertheless, Dunfermline’s Lithuania internationalist can consider himself exceptionally unlucky.
From a purely defensive perspective, he and Connolly have been the Pars’ best partnership.
He may not be Frank de Boer with the ball at his feet, but Gaspuitis has been one of the club’s most solid centre-backs in an otherwise porous campaign.
The lack of tempo and intensity to Dunfermline’s game was remarked upon by management and players alike.
The Pars were tepid; seemingly content to knock the ball about in pedestrian fashion with little penetration.
Lewis McCann dropped too deep, deliveries from wide areas were dreadful and the hosts constantly picked the safe pass.
If Dunfermline are going to shake themselves out of this malaise — four games without a win and mired in ninth spot — they must lift the intensity, be courageous and start asking questions of their opponents.