East Fife 0 Dunfermline Athletic 1
Although there will be a lot of interest this season in visiting some of the less familiar outposts of the Scottish football map, this was a reminder that much of the actual football will not be pretty. Again the Pars took an early lead through a Ryan Wallace penalty, this time in the second minute, but otherwise the match was largely forgettable, with few chances being created, and the Pars managed to hold on to their lead.
And so to the league season, with the opening fixture being the short but tricky trip east to play East Fife, who had looked like they were going to have a real go at promotion after making a number of close-season additions to their squad. The Pars and East Fife haven’t met that often of late – I can remember a trip to the old Bayview many years ago when Fife Cup ties were played as a pre-season double header, and there have been a handful of visits to the new ground – a cup tie in the Davy Hay era, a pre-season friendly that was as memorable for the thunderstorm over the Forth as the 7-1 victory, and an early League Cup exit a couple of years ago.
The ground was mobbed, and the ticket that I had ordered for the back of the stand eventually materialised to be for the front row, level with the edge of the six yard box, which meant a view frequently obscured by security staff and police officers. However, I had good sight of the substitutes’ frequent warm-ups – new rules meant there were 7 on the bench – Hrivnak, the loanees Moore and Johnston, coach Dargo, Williamson, El Bakhtaoui and Josh Falkingham, not fully recovered from the knock he took last week. Thus Geggan in for his skipper was the only change from last week’s starting eleven (and Andy took the captain’s armband as well as he slotted in on the left on a midfield 4, with Kane holding, Ferguson advanced and Byrne on the right). Scully was in goals, with a back four of Millen, Young, Morris and Whittle; Thomson and former East Fife player Wallace formed the strike-force.
The home team had one or two familiar names in it – Liam Buchanan wore the number 19 in attack, Pat Clarke, completing the quartet of senior Fife clubs, was on the left side of midfield and Scott McBride and Paul Willis were on the bench, along with a trialist goalkeeper who had an air of Greg Paterson about him.
The Pars took kick-off playing towards the Forth, and contrived to take the lead in the second minute with the first (and, to be brutal, virtually the last) passage of decent football of the half. A nice ball from Geggan found Thomson in space on the left, he hared down the line and centred for Wallace, who was bundled over by Pat Clarke when he looked to have a great chance to score. The penalty was deemed enough punishment, and this time Wallace tucked the ball low to the keeper’s right 1-0 Pars
The Pars had another penalty shout within 10 minutes when Thomson robbed Dutot before going down in a heap under pressure from Thom, but referee Brines never looked like he was going to give a second spot-kick. In fact, in a scrappy opening period, the Pars were more sinners than sinned against, if the referee is to be believed, but it was the ball which suffered most – as well as ending up out of the ground on several occasions, it again had to be replaced for being flat.
The surface looked good, but good play was at a premium. In 38 minutes Thomson’s strength allowed him to make space for a shot, but he sclaffed it wide. Meanwhile Scully hadn’t had a save to make, but looked to command his area, coming deep to claim on one occasion, and on another being sharp enough to head clear ahead of Buchanan as East Fife had broken quickly when Wallace had done well to get the cross in, only to over hit it. That was the last action of a poor half, but again one which the Pars would be grateful for the early lead.
Half Time: East Fifers 0 West Fifers 1
The Pars made a forced change at the break, with Falkingham replacing Byrne who had taken a knock, and he made a good early impression, winning a couple of corners, but the Pars never looked like scoring from either of them. Instead, the match descended into the dour midfield battle that had characterised most of the first half’s play. Neither side could bring the ball down and make passes, and with both central defences looking dominant, neither keeper had yet made a save.
That statistic should have changed just after the hour, when first Wallace made progress down the right and found Falkingham bursting through the channel, but there were no takers for his cut-back, then a minute later the roles were reversed as Falkingham sent Wallace clear. However, with only the keeper to beat, Ryan rifled his shot from the angle past the far post.