BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
ALLAN Johnston insists he was surprised no more of his Dunfermline players made the running for the PFA Scotland League One player of the year award after top scorer Faissal El Bakhtaoui and winger Joe Cardle were included on the short-list.
El Bakhtaoui has reportedly attracted admiring glances from the likes of Motherwell, Aberdeen and Hibernian in scoring 30 goals so far this term, whilst Cardle has flourished after returning to the club following an unhappy spell with Ross County last season.
Both were instrumental in the Fifers romping to the League One title last month with weeks to spare.
And, although he accepts Peterhead striker Rory McAllister and Cowdenbeath marksman Greig Spence merit their inclusion in the voting after netting 31 times and 18 times, respectively, Johnston insists the East End Park side could have been more heavily represented in the award.
Asked about El Bakhtaoui and Cardle’s nominations, he said: “It’s well-deserved. They’ve been incredible this season.
“I’m just surprised there were boys from other teams involved as well, because our boys have been amazing.
“Right from the very first game and right the way through the season, the consistency and quality they’ve displayed has shown in the results we’ve had.
“It’s not just Faiss’s goals, it’s his work-rate, and that goes for Joe Cardle as well. He’s a team player, the same with Faiss.
“The two of them work incredibly hard – and they’ve got quality as well. It’s about Faiss’s goals and Joe’s goals, but what they give to the team as well.
“People look at goals don’t they? Rory McAllister has scored a lot, Greig Spence has scored a lot, so they’re in it and deservedly so as well.
“But when it comes to the team of the year I would expect the majority of our team to be in it.”
Meanwhile, Johnston is happy with his decision to tinker with his starting line-up, despite last weekend’s disappointing 4-1 defeat to Stranraer.
El Bakhtaoui and Cardle were just two of the first-team regulars left out at Stair Park as the likes of recent recruits Scott Robinson and Conner Duthie, as well as David Hopkirk, Ryan Williamson, Lewis Martin and David Hutton, were handed rare starts.
But, with tomorrow’s trip to face Airdrie followed by the trophy presentation after the final-day meeting with Peterhead, Johnston insists he has been right to mix it up.
He added: “It’s an important time of the year. We’ve got a great opportunity to look at some players and to give game-time to some boys who have waited patiently.
“There’s been a lot of changes, some boys haven’t played a lot, so you’re going to get results like last weekend.
“The boys have shown this season that, even when they’ve had setbacks and disappointments, they’ve handled that no problem and they’ve responded the right way.
“You just have to look at the league table to see how far ahead we are and that’s shown on the park week-in, week-out.”