Dunfermline Athletic 0 Forfar Athletic 0Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Sunday, 13th Apr 2014
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.
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.