No sooner did I opine that Jim Jefferies appeared to have settled on a favoured starting eleven than events conspired to force several changes. Jordan Moore was presumably suspended after his red card at Ibrox (although he didn’t appear on the official list), Andy Geggan was ill and Ryan Thomson appeared not to have recovered from his back injury, so Allan Smith was given his first start of the season, alongside Robert Thomson. With Ryan Wallace also appearing in an advanced role, there were just 3 who would be mostly in midfield – Husband, Byrne and the skipper Falkingham. The defence was settled though – Scully in goals, Millen and Whittle at full-back and the centre-back pairing of Young on the right and Morris on the left.
Obviously the absence of a couple of regulars meant promotion to the bench for the likes of Craig Dargo , Chris Kane and Ryan Williamson and they joined the more usual suspects of Ryan Ferguson, Lewis Martin, Luke Johnston and Ryan Goodfellow.
There weren’t too many players with Dunfermline connections in the visiting line-up – just keeper Chris Smith in fact – although there were some familiar names and faces, such as former Aberdeen and Partick player David Rowson
After a minute’s silence in respect of the fallen, impeccably observed, the game commenced and the Pars were soon on the attack without creating anything concrete. An early run from Whittle saw his cross land on the roof of the net, and after a trade-mark Husband cross-field pass to the same player, Allan Smith side-footed the resultant centre well wide of the post.
The big early incident was an injury to Chris Smith. Millen had been taken down by Ferguson, and looked in trouble, although made a speedy recovery to send in a free kick to the edge of the 6 yard box which Smith punched clear, only to be clattered a fraction of a second later by Morris. I think both players were entitled to go for the ball, but Smith landed awkwardly, and after the shenanigans involving the Spurs keeper last week, there were some concerns, but Smith was deemed fit to continue. Any doubts over his fitness were assuaged when he made a decent save from Wallace’s shot mid-way through the half and soon after, the visitors took a surprise lead.
Referee McKendrick wasn’t having the best of games, and he blew for a foul when Devlin appeared to run into Falkingham. The ball in to the front post was allowed to bounce, it found its way to the back post where McKinley dived to head the ball over the line.
Soon after the referee gave another mystery decision, penalising Morris when he appeared to win the ball cleanly, and he allowed Stenhousemuir to take a quick free-kick that caught most of the Pars defence napping, but Scully was alert and gathered ahead of the Ferguson.
The Pars soon hit back however. First, Wallace tested Smith again with a snap shot before they found the equaliser. Millen took a throw at the half-way line to Husband who half-volleyed his pass to Byrne. It was an awkward ball, but Byrne controlled it superbly between shoulder and neck, took it inside onto his left foot and although he didn’t hit it cleanly, the ball was right in the corner to Smith’s left and he couldn’t stop it.
Dunfermline Athletic 1 Stenhousemuir 1
It was now end to end stuff – the Pars doing most of the attacking with Stenny absorbing it before hitting on the break. However, neither side could create a chance until injury time when the Pars nearly took the lead. Allan Smith had gone down in the box, but with no whistle, carried on and gave the ball to Wallace, his cross was completely missed by Thomson, the ball breaking to Whittle who found Byrne, and his nice turn allowed him the space to lash in a left-footed shot from close range, but Chris Smith was equal to it.
Half time: Pars 1 Warriors 1
The Pars started the second period brightly. Young fed Smith down the right and he managed to get past his full-back to win a corner. In contrast to the Pars, who were bringing everyone back when defending a corner, Stenny would keep two men on the half-way line, meaning Falkingham, Byrne and Whittle would have to hang back. What effect this had was unclear, but most of Millen’s corners seemed to be aimed at Morris, and he wasn’t getting a lot of joy. The Pars passing round the edge of the box was equally ineffective on the whole, although Smith did accept a pass from Byrne only to curl his shot past the far post.
Then out of nothing, the visitors took the lead. An early ball from defence saw Darren Smith pick up the ball and as Young came across he shot early and hard just inside the far post – an excellent finish.
Dunfermline Athletic 1 Stenhousemuir 2
Although this team is well used to conceding goals, the Pars did take a few minutes to recover from this body-blow, before again taking the game to their guests. Byrne’s neat feet allowed him to take out 2 players while finding Whittle on the overlap, but his cross from the bye-line seemed to bounce off Smith and although Thomson picked up the loose ball close-in, he was flagged off-side. That was pretty much Thomson’s last action as Ferguson came on wide on the right, with Jefferies trying to tweak things.
That switch wasn’t immediately successful, but the Pars kept the pressure up, and Wallace won a softish penalty, when he sensed Dickson’s imminent challenge and knocked the ball away before succumbing to the tackle. This week there was no argument with Moore over who was taking the penalty, and although he normally puts his pens right, Wallace stuck this one left, sending Smith the wrong way.
Dunfermline Athletic 2 Stenhousemuir 2
Dargo replaced Husband and played in the middle up front as Wallace switched to the left wing where he began to enjoy a bit of success. One side-effect of this switch was there was no Hubby to take free-kicks and sure enough the Pars soon won a couple in shooting positions. The first Millen took from 28 yards, and although he bent it around the wall, Smith saved easily enough. The second was from further out, and Wallace took this, skimming a shot in that was deflected just past the post.
Stenhousemuir were far from done, though. They won a couple of corners and adopted the simple but effective tactic of putting players in front of Scully to obstruct his movement, then trying to land the ball just in front of him. This nearly proved fruitful when from one such corner Scully could only punch half clear to Darren Smith and the latter’s shot could have gone anywhere, ultimately being deflected off Scully’s leg for another corner, although this time Young got the ball away.
We were soon into stoppage time. Gemmell was down injured, but Stenny kept the ball in play, so the Pars did too, before a bad foul on Millen stopped the action. The resultant free-kick was only half-cleared, the ball was swung in again, Young laid off to Smith and he got half a yard of space before drilling in a shot to the far post that couldn’t be kept out.
Dunfermline Athletic 3 Stenhousemuir 2
Back came the Warriors for one last effort with another corner in the 94th minute, but this was kept out and the Pars had the 3 points.
Final Score: Dunfermline Athletic 3 Stenhousemuir 2
This was a bit harsh on Stenny, given the Pars had the lead for about 30 seconds in total, but over the piece they just about deserved it, with Chris Smith showing his good side in making a number of decent saves. With league positions clarifying It was certainly good to bounce back from the result at Ibrox; the never-say-die spirit is helpful, and Byrne will benefit from getting another goal. However, it would be nice to win comfortably again – the defence continues to gift goals, and we lack a bit up front.
Dunfermline Athletic Ryan Scully, Ross Millen, Alex Whittle, Kerr Young, Callum Morris, Shaun Byrne , Allan Smith, Stephen Husband (Craig Dargo, 69), Ryan Wallace , Josh Falkingham, Robert Thomson (Ryan Ferguson, 58)
Substitutes (not used): Luke Johnston, Lewis Martin, Chris Kane, Ryan Williamson, Ryan Goodfellow
Scorers: Byrne (37), Wallace (67, pen), Smith (92)
Stenhousemuir Chris Smith, Nicky Devlin, Kevin McKinley, Eddie Malone, Ross McMillan, Brown Ferguson (Ross Brash, 59), Sean Dickson, David Rowson, John Gemmell (Errol Douglas, 90), Sean Lynch, Darren Smith
Substitutes (not used): Ross McNeil, Ryan Coleman, Josh Watt, Dean Shaw
Scorers: McKinley (23), Darren Smith (49)
Yellow Cards: Gemmell (18), Lynch (45) Malone (61), Devlin (69)
Shots On Target
Shots Off Target
Man of the Match: Shaun Byrne