After the exertions of a tough tie in midweek, manager Jim Jefferies had indicated that he might freshen things up a little, but he only made the one change, with Ryan Williamson filling the right back slot instead of Millen as part of a back four with Young, Morris and Whittle. So there were no changes to the midfield, where Geggan, Byrne, Wallace and Falkingham kept their places, or to the forward duo of Smith and Ryan Thomson, and of course Ryan Scully was between the sticks.
There were one or two changes on the bench however. Millen had dropped down and there was a return for El Bakhtaoui to join the more usual suspects of Husband, Dargo Martin and Moore. There was no sign of Ferguson, Johnston, Kane or Robert Thomson.
As for Forfar, there were a couple of changes from the team that had thrashed the Pars at Station Park – Gavin Swankie was back partnering Templeman in attack, and the veritably ancient Rab Douglas was in goals. Iain Campbell was still at left back, but Marvin Andrews had to be content with a place on the bench, with Darren Dods retaining his place.
After a minute’s applause to commemorate the passing of Nelson Mandela, the Pars took the kick-off but Forfar were in their faces immediately and the home team were unable to settle. They weren’t helped by overrunning the ball on more than one occasion and conceding possession easily, although they did create a half chance in 5 minutes when Williamson, Byrne and Wallace combined to send in a cross which Thomson did well to turn on, but the forward was off-balance and his shot was weak.
At the other end Templeman was proving the predictable handful and some hesitation in the Pars rearguard nearly caused a problem, but Scully came out of his box, and although he shanked his clearance, he did clear the danger. That was more than could be said of the defence in 19 minutes when Forfar took the lead. An innocuous looking free-kick was played into the box, Templeman nodded back and when the ball fell for Darren Dods the veteran centre-half had all the time in the world to turn and rifle the ball into the corner of the net.
Dunfermline Athletic 0 Forfar Athletic 1
The Pars hadn’t created much at all, but they did at least force Douglas into a good save shortly after. For once the Pars’ close passing created some room and although Geggan couldn’t gather the cross from the right the ball fell to Whittle whose drive tested the Forfar keeper. The ball broke to Smith on the angle, but his drilled shot was off-target, and seemed to hit Geggan, only for the ball to deflect narrowly past the post.
Referee Northcroft kept up the recent tradition of referees getting the small decisions wrong when midway through the half, with the 22 other men on the pitch expecting a goal-kick, he unaccountably awarded a corner. Predictably, he then saw some pushing as the ball came in, so no long-term harm was done.
With Williamson’s early bursts down the right being easily foiled, the Pars were attempting to play through the middle, but time after time were losing the ball at the edge of the area as the Forfar defence stood firm. However they varied it a little in the 34th minute with a Williamson ball down the line for Wallace to chase, with the other Ryan doing well with a back-heel to set up space for the cross, before spoiling things with a poor ball to nobody.
The Pars continued to press forward without any conviction, and should have been two down in 37 minutes. Whittle’s cross from the left was hacked clear, the ball went long and Morris decided to let it bounce. This was a mistake as he was robbed by Swankie, and with Scully in no-man’s land the Forfar forward tried the lob, only to see the ball come off the upright; Morris was back to chest back to his keeper.
A late couple of Pars corners predictably came to nothing, with Wallace taking from the left, and Whittle making rather a hash of one from the right, and that was that for the half.
Half time: Pars 0 Loons 1
The Pars were out early for the second period, but were made to wait for their opponents. When play did restart, it looked as if the plan was to get Williamson forward more, and he soon reached the bye-line and did well to cut the ball back. However, he had stretched to reach the ball and it was easily cleared to the half-way line where Morris made a complete hash of the header, allowing Swankie free. Young forced him a little wide and Scully made a good save from the resultant shot.
Geggan and Young both had headers off-target, but things weren’t working for the Pars, and Smith, who had looked out of sorts, soon gave way to Moore. However, with the Pars pressing further and further forward, spaces began to open up and Forfar twice came close to exploiting them in near identical fashion. Each time Swankie was free, each time he was put under pressure by Young, with the first time Scully coming out to dive at the forward’s feet, the second time the keeper beating the shot away.
Wallace was switching from wing to wing, and Williamson was seeing a lot of the ball, his push and run style proving partially successful in terms of getting the ball in the box, if the quality wasn’t there, although in 77 minutes Geggan connect well with a volley, but hit it too high.
A misplaced Wallace pass presented Swankie with another chance to run at the Pars defence, but the Forfar player was getting a little tired by now, and Morris dispossessed him. Both sides were looking a little weary, and with less than 10 minutes left Jefferies made a double substitution, bringing on Dargo for Thomson, and Husband for Byrne. This didn’t seem to give the replacements a lot of time to make a mark, but Husband soon found Falkingham on the right and the Pars seemed certain to score from his back post ball, but Whittle put it into the side netting.
There are two things that can be said about this Pars team, that couldn’t necessarily be said about all their predecessors : one is that they keep going to the final whistle, the second is that they pose a scoring threat from free-kicks. We were now into stoppage time, and with there being few injuries, and two substitutions taking place simultaneously, there wouldn’t be a lot of that. Geggan swung the ball left to Whittle, he played it inside to Husband, who side-stepped Storie before falling as he fed the ball to Falkingham. This gave the Pars a late chance from 30 yards. With Wallace standing on the post before running out as the kick was taken, Husband hit the ball low, it appeared to hit Moore, and with 92 minutes and 48 seconds on the clock, he was first onto the loose ball to blast home.
Final Score: Dunfermline Athletic 1 Forfar Athletic 1
Coming after a tough midweek match, this was never likely to be a classic, and so it proved. I had expected to see a couple more players, such as Byrne and Smith rested, and it may be no coincidence that the performance was a bit flat. For once the Pars didn’t create too many chances to squander, and although they got a number of crosses into the box, particularly in the second half, they never looked like coming to anything. Forfar got their tactics right, and could easily have been well clear had Scully not produced a couple of key saves. However, a point is better than nothing.
Dunfermline Athletic: Ryan Scully, Ryan Williamson, Alex Whittle, Kerr Young, Callum Morris, Andy Geggan, Shaun Byrne (Stephen Husband, 81) , Allan Smith (Jordan Moore, 53)) Ryan Wallace, Josh Falkingham, Ryan Thomson (Craig Dargo, 81)
Substitutes (not used): Lewis Martin, Faissal El Bakhtaoui, Ross Millen, Ryan Goodfellow
Forfar Athletic Rab Douglas, Mark Baxter, Iain Campbell (Neil McCabe, 79), Odmar Faero, Darren Dods, Gary Fusco, Omar Kader (Martyn Fotheringham, 64), James Dale , Chris Templeman, Gavin Swankie (Paul McManus, 84), Craig Storie
Substitutes (not used): Ross Campbell, Marvin Andrews, Gavin Malin, Darren Hill
Shots On Target
Shots Off Target
Man of the Match: Ryan Scully