Stenhousemuir 1 Dunfermline Athletic 2
Stenhousemuir must be getting sick of the sight of the Pars and their last minute winners. On this occasion especially the home team must feel they had done more than enough to earn at least a point after Lynch has scored a late equaliser to cancel out Faissal El Bakhtauoi’s early strike in his first Dunfermline start. However, as we have been saying all season, you write off this Pars’ side at your peril, and sure enough, Geggan scored a 91st minute winner from Drummond’s corner to get the New Year off to a good start.
It was the Pars’ 2nd game in a little under 3 days. Followers of Coach Raymond Verheijen will be well aware of his views on the correlation between fixture congestion and muscle injuries; throw in Stenny’s infamous plastic pitch and team selection was always going to be an interesting matter. Despite the evidence of Monday night’s team sheet Ross Millen is still a way off match fitness, but Williamson’s injury was not as bad as feared, and he was able to resume at right back. Morris was kept in the stand, so Young and Martin continued at centre-back and the ever present Whittle and Scully were at left back and goalkeeper respectively. Josh’s hand injury kept him out, so Geggan captained the side from midfield alongside Husband and Byrne. Ryan Wallace was in an attacking midfield role while Jordan Moore started upfront alongside Faissal El Bakhtaoui who got his reward for some promising displays in the under 20s by being given his first start.
The bench thus had a little bit of a makeshift look – as well as Goodfellow, Smith and Dargo, we had Kane, Spence, Drummond and Ryan Thomson, although whether the last named would feature on this surface given his recent history of back problems was open to conjecture.
The home team had ex-Par Chris Smith in goals, who would have to deal with the “banter” from the Pars fans in the first half as the Warriors defending the toffee factory end, and he was called into action within the first minute of the match when a lovely reverse ball from El Bakhtaoui sent Wallace through on the right, the keeper making a fine save after Wallace had turned back onto his left to shoot.
Smith is known for his long clearances and these soon proved testing for the Pars defence, with Young under pressure on a couple of occasions early on – the first time he was booked after holding off Higgins whilst attempting to shepherd the ball back to Scully, who then proceeded to spill the ball, before getting it at the second attempt; the second time he put in a clean tackle, when any mistiming could have landed him in serious bother with referee Andrew Dallas.
However, the Pars took the lead a little against the run of play. Martin had to tidy up at the back, before striding out of defence and playing a long ball down the left for Wallace to chase. Ryan did well to keep the ball in, but his cross to the near-post didn’t look up to much initially, only for El Bakhtaoui to nip in and flick the ball past Smith for his first senior goal.
Stenhousemuir 0 Dunfermline Athletic 1
The Pars settled down, started to take the game to their opponents, and could have scored again soon after, when first Byrne didn’t quite connect with Wallace’s cutback after he had skinned the left back, before Wallace himself tested Smith again with a shot from the edge of the area that took a slight deflection.
Then, having survived a scare when Young headed off his own bar after Scully came for a corner and missed it, the Pars should definitely have doubled their advantage. El Bakhtaoui had won a corner when his deep cross looking for Whittle was turned behind. Wallace sent in an inswinger and somehow Geggan ended up in the net with the ball going beyond the far post, rather than the other way about.
Rather ominously, Whittle had gone down with cramp with still 10 minutes to the interval, and although he was soon back on the pitch, Stenny surged through the hole in the defence only for Lynch to fire over from 20 yards.
Overall though, the Pars would be more than happy to have the lead at the break.
Half time: Warriors 0 Pars 1
The Pars made a change during the interval, bringing on Ross Drummond to the left back slot, further weakening the experience of the defence, and his first touch looked a slightly nervous one, depositing the ball out of play, when knocking back to the keeper might have been the better option, but better safe than sorry.
The variable bounce was causing some anxiety to the Pars rearguard, but the home defence weren’t immune with Malone misjudging a Young punt, allowing Moore a sniff at goal, but after a nice turn the Pars man couldn’t keep his shot down.