| Dunfermline Athletic 0 Forfar Athletic 0|
By Alistair Campbell - Sun, 13th Apr 2014
Photos by Neil Farrell
Dunfermline finally guaranteed their second place finish and hence a home-tie in the second leg of the play-off semi-final after a goalless game of few chances. Forfar had played 110 games without a 0-0, but this match never really looked like extending that record.
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Once again Jim Jefferies rang the changes, making five alterations to the team that had lost at Airdrie, but his search for that elusive form seems destined to be frustrated, at least in the short-term. Into the starting line-up came Williamson at right back, Martin at centre-back, Whittle wide left, and Smith and Thomson up front, as the Pars lined up with Scully in goal, a back four of Williamson, Martin, Page and Grainger; a midfield of Falkingham, Geggan, Husband and Whittle; and Smith and Thomson in attack. That meant demotions to the bench for Morris, whose form had perhaps dipped a little, Millen, Forbes, El Bakhtaoui and Shankland, who had taken a knock in midweek. Byrne and Goodfellow made-up the bench.
Unusually there were no Campbells in the Forfar starting line up (although there were plenty on the bench, including the management team). Forfar too started with a 4-4-2, with Darren Dods at the heart of their defence, Swankie in midfield and Chris Templeman promising to be his usual handful up front.
Forfar won the toss, and decided to kick “the wrong way” – attacking the Cowdenbeath end. That left the Pars to kick off, and after an early blip when Whittle let the ball run under his foot for a shy, the Pars started promisingly, knocking the ball about well on a bumpy pitch.
Husband was prominent early on, although, in a precursor of what was to follow, his shot after 4 minutes failed to trouble Hill. A good Williamson run up the right was followed by a dangerous cross that Dods turned behind for a corner, and Martin’s subsequent header flashed across the goal, rather than at it.
Midway through half Grainger seemed to seek Jim Jefferies’ permission to go forward to take a long throw, a decent tactic that saw the ball go all the way through to Allan Smith’s surprise and he could only stick the ball into the side-netting from an acute angle.
Williamson then tried a diagonal run for a change, although that was more to regain control of the ball – he got to the edge of the area but once more the attempted give and go failed to come off.
Meanwhile Swankie had shown a touch of class to make space for a shot, but was well off the target. Grainger got away with knocking Duggan over in the box, although it looked like shoulder to shoulder, and was alert enough to block the follow-up shot as the visitors enjoyed a bit of pressure.
The Pars still hadn’t forced a save, although Martin came close from a corner, before another effort was headed off the line.
The Pars seemed to have a bit more balance and movement about them this week, but things weren’t falling from them, their little one-twos around the edge of the box were being read by the Forfar defence, and when they did get the chance to knock a ball across goal as Smith did in 42 minutes after peeling off his man to get on the end of a deep Falkingham cross., there were no takers.
Still, they were in reasonable shape at the break.
Half time: Pars 0 Loons 0
As well as the blustery wind to contend with, there was also the sun. At least that was Ryan Thomson’s excuse when he jumped optimistically for a clearance, and the ball came off his shin. He was in better shape a couple of minutes later when he skipped down the left-wing, threw in a step-over before playing the ball to the back-post where Williamson should have done better than find the side net.
The Pars were now playing a 3-5-2 with Grainger as the third back. With Williamson pushing forward this gave Hilson the space to exploit down the left and in 52 minutes he ran past Martin but blasted well wide. Five minutes later, Hilson again beat Martin and chipped to the back post but Kader mistimed his header and it went over the top from 2 yards.
It was Hilson again causing bother when he took advantage of a mix-up between Martin and Falkingham, but Geggan tripped him. That wasn’t the end of the difficulty as the free-kick led to a stramash in the Pars box, the ball first hitting the bar before, with Scully on the deck, being deflected over from close range.
With Forfar continuing to press, a Pars break was ended by Dods obstructing Husband to earn a booking. Geggan’s diving header was cleared as far as Grainger but his shot was well of target. That was his last involvement as Morris came on, initially in the left side of defence.
Whittle seemed to be under instructions to get in the early ball, rather than cut inside. Several times he got the chance to cross, and that’s what he did. This was very nearly successful just after the hour mark when again the ball found its way through to Williamson but this time he pulled his shot across the face of goal.
Hilson again got past Martin, but this time the young defender managed to time his tackle as his opponent bore down on goal. However, that was the cue for a rejig, with the Pars moving to a flat back four, moving Martin over to left-back, and bringing Williamson back to defend.
Byrne was given some game time instead of Husband, and Forbes got a run instead of Smith, although it wasn’t entirely clear if he was playing as a forward, or an advanced midfielder. He did get a chance to have a pop from a free-kick, but although his shot was well struck, it hit the roof of the net.
With time running out, Forfar sensed the opportunity to win all three points - Templeman tried several times to turn Page late on, but the Pars man kept his eye on the ball, and Duggan nearly curled one off target. At the other end Thomson somehow failed to connect with another Whittle cross, and then, with the match seemingly meandering to a conclusion, Scully was quick off his line to close down the substitute Ross Campbell – the players collided and the ball was loose, but no foul was given, and Page was able to sweep up. In the end both sides seemed satisfied with a share of the spoils,
Final Score: Dunfermline Athletic 0 Forfar Athletic 0
This wasn’t great fare. Conditions weren’t the best either underfoot or overhead, but to fail to work the opposition keeper in 90 minutes of football does not impress. However, as I’ve been saying for weeks, these games are pretty meaningless. Jim Jefferies seems to be experimenting with different players in different positions; whether that is an attempt to find form, or some psychological ploy to keep players from their comfort zone until the critical time is not clear. The lack of form is a concern, but all our rivals for the spare place in the championship seem to be in a worse state. We still lack quality at the sharp end of the pitch , but defensively we seem to be doing OK.
DAFC.net Man Of The Match: Jonathan Page
|Choose your Man Of The Match
| Dunfermline_Athletic: Scully
Grainger (Morris 62)
Smith (Forbes 77)
| Subs (not used): Millen
| Forfar_Athletic: Hill
McCluskey (Kader 44)
Duggan (Campbell 82)
Hilson (Malin 89)|
| Subs (not used): Salmon
| Shots on||0 ||5 |
| Shots off||13 ||1 |
| Corners||6 ||5 |
| Offside|| || |
| Fouls conceded||11 ||12 |
| Possession||52% ||48% |