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Friday 9th October 2015

St Mirren v Dunfermline Athletic preview

St Mirren meet Dunfermline Athletic in the Petrofac Training Cup quarter-final in Paisley on Saturday, with a place in Monday's semi-final draw at stake.

St Mirren meet Dunfermline Athletic in the Petrofac Training Cup quarter-final in Paisley on Saturday, with a place in Monday's semi-final draw at stake.

How do St Mirren stop Dunfermline scoring?
With 46 goals in all competitions, only Rangers have amassed more goals than Dunfermline this season. Faissal El Bakhtaoui leads the club's scoring chart with 15, but the Pars are far from a one-man band. Joe Cardle has generally been known as a player who facilitates goals, rather than scores them, but with nine to his name the winger has already posted his highest tally for a season - an indicator of Dunfermline's willingness to get men forward. Add in Michael Moffat, who is starting to recapture the goal-laden form which tempted Dunfermline into signing him from Ayr United, and you can see the difficulties Ian Murray's side face.

While St Mirren's goals-against column doesn't look great, it's also a little misleading, with almost half the goals conceded coming in the opening-day defeat to Rangers and a poor second-half performance against Falkirk last month. The acquisitions of goalkeeper Jamie Langfield and centre-half Andy Webster has added both experience and quality to the defence, and the return of Jim Goodwin has inserted some grit to the midfield.

It's an intriguing fixture, which has the potential to be the tie of the round.

Can Allan Johnston repeat his success?
There looks to be clear parallels between Allan Johnston's Queen of the South side from the 2012/13 season, and his current Pars team. His swashbuckling Doonhamers swept aside all and sundry, winning 29 of their 36 matches, as they cantered to the Second Division title, scoring 92 goals in the process. It was a season which culminated in a double success, with Queens also adding the Challenge Cup to their collection, knocking out Rangers at Ibrox on penalties in the process, before taking care of Partick Thistle in the final by the same tense means.

Dunfermline aren't having things their own way in Ladbrokes League 1 at the moment, sitting second behind Ian McCall's impressive Ayr United, but they have the same swaggering style about them, as well as a mean defence - something which is overlooked with their goal-grabbing exploits taking centre stage. It isn't beyond the realms of possibility for Johnston to win this tournament with two different third-tier sides.

How does Ian Murray replace Lawrence Shankland?
With Aberdeen forward Lawrence Shankland impressing since arriving on loan at St Mirren Park, it was initially anticipated he could make a real difference against Dunfermline - a club where he also enjoyed a loan spell last year. However, with Shankland on international duty with the Scotland U21 side, Buddies manager Ian Murray is left with the quandary of how best to replace a player who has scored two goals in four starts for the Paisley club.

Shankland was part of an attacking triumvirate, which also included Steven Thompson and Calum Gallagher, against Alloa Athletic on Saturday, although it's unlikely Murray would be so bold against a free-scoring Dunfermline team. Top scorer Scott Agnew could potentially be recalled to the midfield, with Thompson paired with the fleet-footed Gallagher, or perhaps even Celtic loanee Paul McMullan could be brought back into the starting XI to play behind the striker, a role the 19-year-old clearly thrives in. While the loss of Shankland is a blow to St Mirren's hopes, there are still a fair few options for Murray to choose from.

Shaughan McGuigan