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4 Dunfermline talking points: The damning numbers behind the Pars’ joint-heaviest EVER defeat against Morton

Coll Donaldson heads into his own net
Coll Donaldson heads into his own net

In a lamentable campaign for Dunfermline, Saturday’s 5-0 defeat against Morton was a new low.

A meek, porous first-half performance from the Pars saw the hosts effectively secure three points within 45 minutes, with Gary Oliver, Cameron Blues and Gavin Reilly finding the net.

A Coll Donaldson own goal and a neat chip by Robbie Muirhead brought up the high five.

And Courier Sport was at Cappielow to pick the bones from an encounter which saw the Fifers hit the bottom of the Championship with a shuddering crash.

In numbers

Quite aside from the comprehensive nature of the result, the context of the defeat is staggering.

Morton had not won a home match in the Championship since March 20, 2021.

The last time the Greenock side scored five goals in a league game was a 5-1 triumph over Partick Thistle in November 2018.

Delight: Morton

The reverse equalled the Pars’ heaviest EVER defeat against Morton, having succumbed to the same scoreline in a Scottish Cup tie in 1980.

Of Morton’s 22 league goals this season, 10 have come against Dunfermline; 45 per cent.

The Fifers have now won the fewest matches in the Championship, scored the fewest goals and are level with Hamilton in conceding the most.

By every conceivable measure — beyond simply looking at the league table — they are the worst team in the division.

This was rock bottom and, if this does not prove to be a wake-up call, then nothing will.

22 days to save Dunfermline’s season

John Hughes is evidently keen not to repeat the mistakes of yesteryear.

There was no dressing down of his underperforming players; just an acknowledgement that the group are naive and allowed their heads to drop.

He still has faith in this squad, contended Hughes.

But despite those soothing words in public, he will know reinforcements are badly needed.

Dejection: New arrival Donaldson

Dunfermline desperately require a proven centre-half to counter the impending exit of Mark Connolly; a midfielder with box-to-box qualities is sorely lacking; a ‘No.10’ to link the middle of the park with an isolated attack is a necessity. That is not Stevie Lawless’ game.

The lack of balance is staggering.

While there are scarce defensive options, Craig Wighton, Niko Todorov and Kevin O’Hara — 34 goals between them last season — sit on the bench.

Some juggling needs to be done to free up wages and reshape this skewed squad.

Most of all: the Pars need experience and leadership. So often this season, heads have gone down in the face of adversity.

Saturday was another illustration of that. But for the interventions of Owain fon Williams, Morton could have scored eight as they cut open their submissive visitors with ease.

Playing out

While personnel issues can be traced back to Peter Grant’s errant recruitment last summer, the aspirational style of football is Hughes’.

The experienced coach wants his side to play out from the back, pass through the lines and dominate possession.

If he can achieve that feat with this Dunfermline squad — so shorn of confidence — it will be one of his finest achievements.

On Saturday, however, it often resulted in Owain fon Williams passing to centre-half Lewis Martin and, with a complete scarcity of options, the ball was shelled towards an isolated Lewis McCann.

For all the talk of the Pars being the better side in the first half and controlling the ball, the possession percentage was ultimately registered as 50/50. 

Whether Hughes can make his preferred footballing philosophy work at East End Park, or whether he considers a more pragmatic approach in a relegation dogfight, will be a fascinating aspect of the next few weeks.

Lewis Martin return

Suffice to say, this was not the return to the team Martin would have envisioned.

Nevertheless, his first start in 669 days is a landmark which ought to be recognised.

Fightback: Lewis Martin

For the 25-year-old to emerge from a tortuous battle with illness — at one point fearing he may never play again — is a laudable feat.

And he was far from the worst performer at Cappielow. He was vocal, aggressive and Hughes clearly trusted him to start attacks from deep.

With 90 minutes under his belt, Martin will only get stronger and better.

But will Dunfermline?

John Hughes adamant ’embarrassing’ Morton collapse ‘might be the best thing’ that happens to Dunfermline

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