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| Dunfermline Athletic 2 Brechin City 1|
By Alistair Campbell - Mon, 31st Mar 2014
Photos by Neil Farrell
Dunfermline finally clinched the play-off spot that had looked theirs for long enough, although it was another unconvincing performance. After a goal-less first half Shankland fired the Pars ahead early in the second period, only for Robert Thomson to equalise. With time running out, Allan Smith’s run into the box prompted a rash challenge and Millen kept his nerve to score from the resultant spot-kick.
Millen (90, pen)
2 v 1
Ref: Nick Walsh
Crowd: 2241 Position: 2nd
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We expected some changes after last week’s dire performance, and changes we got, with Jim Jefferies making no fewer than 5 alterations to the side that had lost so tamely to East Fife. Ross Millen was in at right back, Lewis Martin in as a holding midfielder, Josh Falkingham had recovered from his tonsillitis to take his position in the middle of the park, and Faissal El Bakhtaoui and Ryan Thomson were recalled to attacking positions. Thus we lined up with Scully in goals, a back four of Millen, Morris, Page and Whittle; Martin, Falkingham and Geggan; El Bakhtaoui, Thomson and Shankland.
Four of those “rested” (Forbes, Husband, Williamson and Byrne) took their place on the bench of available replacements, along with Allan Smith, Lewis Spence and Ryan Goodfellow. Ryan Wallace was assume not to have fully recovered from his injury after all, so he wasn’t in the squad.
Brechin too had a somewhat indeterminate formation – with Ryan Ferguson and Darren Petrie operating as wing backs, and Robert Thomson initially coming in off the right wing to link up with the dangerous Bobby Barr.
Brechin kicked off but it was the Pars who nearly shot themselves in the foot when an early pass from Scully put Martin in trouble, but they home team got away with it. The Pars struggled to settle with the changes to personnel and tactics, but it could have been a different story had they taken the chance to score early. Ryan Thomson’s fourth minute flick sent Shankland free, but the ball refused to drop in time for him to get his shot away unchallenged. There was a much better chance in 8 minutes after Molloy conceded a free-kick for a meaty challenge on Thomson that left him limping. Millen’s cross didn’t look much, but as Hay tried to shepherd the ball back to Smith, it seemed to bounce off his keeper, presenting Shankland with an open goal, but he prodded wide.
However, these chances with the exception rather than the rule, with the visitors having more shots a goal. They won a couple of corners, with Morris have to flick away the first, before the second was driven and seemed to come off Page forcing Scully to make a good save.
Scully was soon in action again as Petrie was allowed to run all the way through, but spread himself Schmeichel-style, getting enough of the ball to slow it down and allow Page to hack away.
Play continued to be scrappy but the Pars put together a good move with Falkingham’s persistence winning the ball and Geggan’s switch allowing El Bakhtaoui to use his pace before playing in Falkingham but the defence was back in time to block.
Allan Smith was soon on for Thomson who had failed to recover from his early clattering, but this didn’t help the play to be more coherent. Petrie again came forward, for Millen to block well, and El Bakhtaoui again looked dangerous going down the right, leaving two on his wake, but his pull-back to Falkingham may not have been the right option.
The foul count began to rise, with 3 Dunfermline players having their names taken – Falkingham, Whittle and Martin, although the middle named seem to have made a clean tackle.
Amongst this mayhem Brechin had a couple more chance to profit, but Thomson turned and fired wide, and Scully took no risks in tipping a late shot over his cross-bar.
The referee seemed to blow up for the break early; perhaps he was going to add extra on in the second half, but the scoreline was a fair representation of the game to date.
Half-time: Pars 0 City 0
The Pars made a brighter start to the second period, perhaps due to some half-time words of encouragement from their management team. Whittle was forward early with a little nutmeg that soon brought retribution, (and the first yellow card for McLauchlan). However, Smith punched away Millen’s free-kick a fraction before getting flattened by Morris. The Pars did find the net soon after, though. Millen combined with Falkingham to send El Bakhtaoui away down the right and he sent an early ball to the near-post which was met by Shankland to open the scoring.
Dunfermline Athletic 1 Brechin City 0
There was more effort on display from the Pars this week- El Bakhtaoui tracked his man to the right-back position before winning the ball, and Shankland too was soon seen haring back to his own box after losing the ball at the other end of the park. However, the officiating was contentious to say the least, which is why one of the biggest cheers was reserved for the linesman getting sconed on the head with the ball almost immediately after giving a throw-in the wrong way.
There still wasn’t much in this however, and it was no big surprise when the visitors equalised – a neat flick by Barr confounded the home defence, leaving Thomson unmarked at the back post and he turned before drilling the ball beneath Scully.
Dunfermline Athletic 1 Brechin City 1
It was nearly 1-2 soon after, when Thomson had a near identical chance, but this time Scully saved well; that might have been an injustice, as the visitors seemed to have largely settled for a point, even though there was still a quarter of the game left to play, as they slowed things down every chance they got.
The had made another switch, with Forbes replacing Martin as they looked to take the game more to their guests, and almost immediately a searching ball found Allan Smith who slipped it to El Bakhtaoui. He seemed certain to score, but Graeme Smith made a great save, before the follow up was blocked.
This game could still have gone either way – another dangerous Petrie cross was left by Page, but Scully dived to grab. However, with Forbes now on, there was an obvious candidate for taking dead balls, with Millen and Whittle having been entrusted with them previously. A free-kick was won with 4 minutes left, and although Allan Smith took up early position on the post before running out, his namesake kept his concentration to save Forbes’ effort low to his left.
Then, with the match entering its 90th minute, the Pars sealed victory. El Bakhtaoui won the ball in his own half and passed to Smith, who set off on a run from his own half. He outpaced Jackson, but was tackled. Or was he? The linesman indicated a penalty and the referee agreed. Graeme Smith was furious, and refused to release the ball. El Bakhtaoui and Forbes wanted it too, but Millen took responsibility and sent the keeper the wrong way.
Four minutes stoppage time were played, but with Brechin launching it long, Morris and Page won the key headers and the game was won.
Final Score Dunfermline Athletic 2 Brechin City 1
This was better, but by no means great – the game could have gone either way, and the Pars were a bit lucky to have shaded it, although scoring late goals has been a feature of the season, and must be correlated to full-time status. The team selection looked more like a consequence of teaching certain players a lesson, and the experiment of playing Lewis Martin, talented player though he is, just in front of the back four must be deemed a failure. On the positive side, playing Faissal on the right was a success, Smith looks to have recovered some sharpness and another goal for Shankland (although he did miss a sitter). Still, stage 1 of the mission has been accomplished. Stage 2 must be to secure second place, and then we can all cross our fingers for the play-offs.
DAFC.net Man Of The Match: Faissal El Bakhtaoui
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| Dunfermline_Athletic: Ryan Scully, Ross Millen, Lewis Martin (Ross Forbes 74), Jonathan Page, Callum Morris, Andy Geggan, Faissal El Bakhtaoui, Alex Whittle, Lawrence Shankland, Josh Falkingham (Stephen Husband, 91), Ryan Thomson (Allan Smith, 20)|
| Subs (not used): Shaun Byrne, Lewis Spence, Ryan Williamson, Ryan Goodfellow|
| Brechin_City: Graeme Smith, Steven Jackson, Darren Petrie, Gary Hay, Gerry McLauchlan, Greg Cameron, Alan Trouten, Craig
Molloy, Robert Thomson, Bobby Barr (Carcary, 79)
| Subs (not used): Craig Nelson, Allan Walker, Euan Moyes|
| Shots on||6 ||4 |
| Shots off||3 ||5 |
| Corners||9 ||6 |
| Offside|| || |
| Fouls conceded||19 ||9 |
| Possession||53% ||47% |