BY IAIN COLLIN – Capital City Press
Dunfermline may face one of the least-enjoyable away days when they drive the winding road to face Stranraer this afternoon, but the journey is likely to barely register with goalkeeper Sean Murdoch.
The former Hibernian and Hamilton Accies number one spent some time earlier this year with Rochester Rhinos, a team based on the United States side of the border with Canada in New York state, who play in the United Soccer League, the North American third-tier.
A quick hop across to Toronto was the shortest trip for the Rhinos but most away days involved hours and hours of travelling, with teams from North and South Carolina in the same league and even journeys to neighbouring states taking up to half a day.
“Nothing in Scotland’s a long journey for me now – I would say even Ross County’s a short journey for me now,” admitted Murdoch.
“Most of the time we used to fly to games, or you were about an 11 or 12-hour bus journey, which isn’t ideal.
“But travelling’s never really bothered me, to be honest, although you would rather be at home and have short journeys.
“Last weekend, it was nice to have a short journey to Paisley, because I stay in Glasgow.
“At the end of the day, you just have to put the journey out of your head and focus on the game.”
Just as everything in the States was an adventure, Murdoch admits life in League One with Dunfermline, who he also began his senior career with, is a new experience.
There are unfamiliar grounds and fresh opposition for a player who is tasting his most consistent spell of starts since season 2011-12, when he was south of the border with Accrington Stanley.
He added: “I’ve never played down at Stranraer before and I don’t really know much about them, although I do know a couple of the players in the team.
“But that’s the case most Saturdays and I think most of the players in the dressing room are like that.
“That’s not being disrespectful at all, but I’ve just never played at most of the grounds in this division and I only know a few of the players.
“But we go through a lot of footage of the opposition with the manager before the games, and he identifies what their strengths and their weaknesses are so we can familiarise ourselves with the opposition.”
Dunfermline head to the south-west on the back of a 4-0 hammering from Championship strugglers St Mirren in the Petrofac Training Cup quarter-finals last weekend.
It is a measure of the impressive way Allan Johnston’s side have started the season that defeat, never mind the comprehensive nature of it, came as a shock.
However, going to Stair Park a point behind league leaders Ayr United, Murdoch insists the Pars are fully focused on one particular prize this term.
He went on: “A few of the guys have said, and I said it myself, that no-one ever wants to get beat, we want to win every game possible, which every team wants to do.
“But if we are going to have an off-day and get beat, you would probably want it in the cup, because the league games are so important this season.
“We need to win and get out of this division. A club like Dunfermline should be, minimum, in the Championship and, really, in the Premiership – with the fan-base, the ground, the whole infrastructure.”