East Fife 1 Dunfermline Athletic 3
The Pars got back on track with what eventually proved to be a comfortable win at New Bayview, in a match played in windy and wet conditions. Ross Forbes missed an early penalty before touching home just before the interval to give the Pars a deserved lead. After long periods struggling into the wind, they scored a quick fire double through Wallace and Grainger, and although Paul Willis soon netted a consolation, the Pars held on to the three points.
I wasn’t at all sure that I would make this one - one of the features of modern day football (and the Royal Mail) is the amount of advance planning required to order tickets, which often rules out the casual fan making a late decision to attend a match. As it happened, news that there would be a cash gate meant I could turn up after all, and although I was given a ticket for possibly the worst seat in the house - front row, far left – I managed a slight upgrade, and didn’t get too wet.
Another change to modern football is the advent of the transfer window. This has certainly had quite an impact on the way football is conducted, although whether this is beneficial or not may only become clear with the benefit of hindsight. However, the chance to make (or equally not) wholesale changes to your team midseason certain adds an interest that sustains long after the overhyped media frenzy has ceased.
It wasn’t so long ago that signing the likes of Rutkiewicz, Buchanan and Hardie made a critical difference to the Pars’ push for promotion. Whether the arrival of Page, Grainger and Forbes will be equally pivotal is another question that will only be answered in the fullness of time, but they all made their debuts in a much changed line-up.
Jim Jefferies not only changed the personnel, but the formation, going with a back 3 of Page, flanked by Martin and Millen, making a surprise recall. That meant Williamson and Grainger could be pushed up as wing backs, to supplement the midfield trio of Byrne, Forbes and Thomson, and Ryan Wallace and Lawrence Shankland started in attack. Of course, that meant no starting place for Falkingham, presumably dropped to the bench either directly or indirectly over his contract indecision (certainly his form has dipped), Whittle, Husband or Young, and they were joined as substitutes by Moore and Goodfellow, as well as the recalled El Bakhtaoui. Andy Geggan was of course suspended.
Ironically Kevin Rutkiewicz and Liam Buchanan both featured in the home line-up, along with former par Greg Paterson in goals, and ex-Scottish internationalist Gary Naysmith at left back.
Ryan Wallace was captain for the day (whether that will be the case longer term is another unknown at this time) and having won the toss he chose to play with the gusting wind in the first half.
Certainly the conditions were the main talking point of the first half as the Pars sought to take full advantage, and after early pressure they were given a golden opportunity to take the lead when Shankland controlled Thomson’s flick-on and tried an overhead shot that struck the hand of Naysmith. Referee Somers awarded a penalty, and with Wallace having missed his last attempt from the spot, new boy Ross Forbes took responsibility. He looked relaxed, possibly too much so, as his drive down the middle hit Paterson and ended up in the car-park.
Dunfermline looked like they would rue this miss as they proceeded to spurn a number of chances to take the lead, with only a Liam Buchanan run, where he overran the ball and caught Scully, causing their defence any significant problems.
The visitors won a number of corners, mostly on their right, and almost every time, Ross Forbes swung in a dangerous looking ball. In 13 minutes one such was cleared off the line before Paterson tipped Page’s header over; three minutes later another effort was half cleared to Williamson who hit the bye-line but Rutkiewicz stuck out a foot to stick the ball behind for another corner, and midway through the half, Page popped up again, but this time headed narrowly over the bar.
The Pars were also trying their luck from distance, with first Martin then Forbes having a dig from 30 odd yards, without troubling Paterson unduly, but it was from Forbes’ through-balls that they should really have scored. In 26 minutes a ball-winning tackle by Byrne allowed Forbes to play Wallace through but although he guided the ball past Paterson, it slipped past the far post as well.
Another Williamson cutback led to another penalty box stramash which was ended by Paterson flopping on the ball, but just as it looked as if the half would end goal-less, the Pars took the lead – Williamson was again involved, cutting back onto his left to send in a low ball which was helped on for Forbes to stick out a toe and divert it past Paterson from close range.
East Fife 0 Dunfermline Athletic 1
One goal was certainly better than nothing but you felt that the Pars should really have had at least one more.
Half time: Fife 0 Pars 1
After a half chance early in the second period, when Forbes hit a free-kick beyond the back post for Shankland to head on target, the Pars began to experience the same difficulty that their hosts had struggled with earlier. Scully adopted one of two methods to deal with goal-kicks – either short right to Millen to pass forward, or aim for Grainger by the left touch-line on the half way line, and hope he could knock it on. Time and time again the Pars could only half clear, blootering the ball high in the air, just for it soon to come straight back again. Only a Williamson run, diagonally across the pitch and almost ending up in the outside left position, gave the Pars fans some cheer.