Arbroath 0 Dunfermline Athletic 3
Another away trip to a windy venue and another win, although this time the Pars never looked in too much trouble. Geggan took advantage of a loose ball to give the Pars an early lead which Thomson doubled with a header. A fine Falkingham strike made the points secure midway through the second half, and the Pars inexperienced defence kept a clean sheet to round off a good job well done.
Arbroath has not been on the Pars’ itinerary for many years. I’d been there a couple of times, but only seen the one game, the Challenge cup tie infamous for marking the debut of Jackie McNamara in a 3-0 loss, the first attempt to play the tie having been fogged off. It seems slightly strange now that for years Jackie was virtually the only player of any consequence the Pars’ youth system had produced. Changed days indeed.
Travel to Gayfield is relatively straightforward – up the M90 and A90 to Dundee, along the Kingsway to the end (don’t take the Forfar/Aberdeen road), then whizz up the dual carriageway past Carnoustie and you’re there in no time. The ground itself is notoriously for being right by the sea, with 3 partially covered terraces and a small stand fighting a losing battle to protect you from the elements. It is also one of those venues where you pay for entrance into the ground, then have to find access to the stand (up some stairs and through an unmarked door in this case). Bizarrely, whilst the stewards outside made every effort to ensure home and away fans went through separate turn-styles, once inside they were free to sit or stand wherever they chose, and even had the joy of being able to change ends at half-time.
As for the teams, Callum Morris had been an injury doubt beforehand, but even so, it was a surprise to see him in the stand on arrival. This meant Kerr Young was back in the line-up, as the senior partner of the centre back duo with Lewis Martin and with Ryan Williamson at right back and Alex Whittle on the other wing, there can seldom have been a younger back 4 in the Pars’ history. By contrast, the rest of the team were virtually veterans in comparison, with the Ryans Thomson and Wallace in attack, and a midfield four of Husband, Byrne, Geggan and Falkingham. Ryan Scully was between the sticks.
Off course, there were one or two changes on the bench as well, with Chris Kane joining Moore, Smith, Dargo, Ferguson, El Bakhtaoui and Goodfellow.
There was no Graham Bayne for the Red Lichties, as he was suspended, but Alex Keddie was wearing the captain’s arm-band. More danger to the Pars goal was expected to come from Alan Cook, who had impressed at East End Park, and the experienced play-maker Paul Sheerin.
Josh Falkingham won the toss, and decided that the Pars would defend the Harbour End in the first half, which meant like last week they would have the wind in the second period, although they would be hoping not to concede a two goal lead first.
If anything, the conditions seemed harder than last week, with Gayfield’s notoriously exposed terracing allowing the wind whistle to down the ground, and with Arbroath only going with the one up top, a congested midfield meant good play was at a premium.
In the right back slot, Ryan Williamson is rapidly developing a trademark move – the run outside the right back followed by cutting along the bye-line – and he showcased this in the 3rd minute, his run being brought to an end by what looked a trip by the full-back Hamilton, but referee Somers seemed to see nothing amiss.
Falkingham was playing on the right, perhaps to provide defensive cover for his inexperienced colleague, but he was also able to assist in offensive duties, his overlapping run winning the game’s first corner in 9 minutes. Whittle took that one, and the Pars soon won another on the other side of the pitch which Ryan Wallace took. He drilled the ball in low, Arbroath failed to deal with it and the ball broke to Geggan who pounced and lashed the ball in the roof of the net from close rangefor the game’s opener.
Arbroath 0 Dunfermline 1
It wasn’t long before the Pars had a second chance. Banjo was short with a pass-back and Thomson nipped in, took the ball past Morrison’s despairing dive but it wasn’t clear whether his ball across the goal from a narrow angle was an attempted pass or a shot. Williamson too could be accused of wasting a good opportunity midway through the half when he evaded a Linn tackle before haring down the line, only to cross straight to Morrison.
The Pars were having difficulty clearing the ball from the back. On more than one occasion Scully skewed his clearance into the stand, and whilst the short ball out to either Young or Martin was the preferred option, Stewart Petrie on the Arbroath bench could be heard exhorting his troops to press and put the pressure on. Despite this, Arbroath weren’t creating much, although Robertson nearly got on the end of a Linn flick, only for Martin to come across with a good tackle.
Meanwhile, the Pars were working hard and scored a second. Husband won the ball with a tackle deep in his own half, and kept possession with a neat flick to Falkingham. Josh’s ball through the middle was laid off by Thomson and Wallace was able to run at Keddie, turning left then right, before trying a shot. Keddie blocked but Wallace chipped the free-ball to the back post where Thomson had the simplest of chances to head home.
Arbroath 0 Dunfermline Athletic 2
The home team were stung into some belated life, winning a couple of corners, the second of which caused a lot of problems, Whittle clearing off the line before Scully was eventually able to get hold of the ball, but the Pars had a comfortable lead at the break.
Half time: Red Lichties 0 Pars 2
There was little to get excited about in the early stages of the second half, but eventually things got going and Scully had to make his first save of the match when Linn broke down the left, turned onto his right and stung the keeper’s hands with a fierce shot. The Pars hit back – a fine Whittle cross-field pass picked out Geggan’s run, but Morrison got enough on the shot to divert it for a corner, where Geggan was once more a danger, although his header missed the target.