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| Dunfermline Athletic 1 Rangers 1|
By Alistair Campbell - Sun, 4th May 2014
Photos by Neil Farrell
A Lewis Martin header, which cancelled out an early goal from Dean Shiels, saw a second-string Pars side draw with the runaway division winners Rangers. In an effort to rest his mainstays for the forthcoming play-offs, Jim Jefferies had changed his entire starting eleven, but has now given himself some selection headaches as his understudies performed superbly.
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I remember a pre-season friendly against Wigan Athletic (I think) where the manager made eleven substitutions at half-time. However, I can’t recall a serious match where the manager has rested his entire starting eleven from the previous week, but that is what happened here, as the Pars started with Goodfellow in goals, a back 5 of Williamson, Young, Potter, Martin and Whittle, a midfield trio of Byrne, Spence and Graham, and a striking partnership of Dargo and Smith. On the bench there was a little bit more experience, where Page, Husband and Millen retained their squad places, but we also saw some new faces in goalkeeper Jamie Wilson, forward James Thomas who has scored a double for the young Pars at Newtongrange, and fringe first teamers O’Kane and Mercer.
Rangers, with an under-20s league decider coming up, named, in contrast, pretty much their best available team: Bell in goals; a back four of Faure, Mohsni. McCulloch and Smith; Peralta, Law, Black and Aird in midfield, and Daly and Shiels up front.
Given the number of hidings the Pars have had off Ibrox sides in the past, there were some reservations about this match-up; the fact it was a meaningless end of the season match did little to quell the concerns.
After a brief interruption allowing ground staff to apply sand to a flare that was thrown on the pitch by the visiting support, Lee McCulloch won the toss, and decided to play "the wrong way" by defending the Norrie McCathie end in the first half. If this was a ruse to put the Pars off, it certainly worked initially, as the Pars took a few minutes to settle. Spence conceded an early free-kick and soon after Byrne the first corner on his left-hand side. Aird took this and drove in a low ball that McCulloch turned on target but Goodfellow saved well low to his left.
It took the Pars a few minutes to get into the opposition half, but Dargo sprung the offside trap, but didn’t have the sharpness to get away from Faure who tackled to give the Pars their first corner, but Whittle’s delivery was deep and caused no issue. The Pars had a second half chance when a free-kick was knocked into the box, but although Allan Smith did well to get the ball onto his right foot, he didn’t connect properly with his follow-up.
Rangers were looking to get the ball forward to Shiels and Daly, but the quality of pass was wanting, and all Goodfellow had to do was decide from which side to take the subsequent bye-kick. There was more danger in 14 minutes, when a Spence foul conceded a free-kick 25 yards from goal in a central position. Steven Smith had already scored from a similar position against the Pars at Ibrox, but this time the wall was well positioned, and although Mohsni got his head to the subsequent corner, he couldn’t find the target.
Rangers were now enjoying the bulk of possession, with Law and Black coming deep for the ball, but for all that they weren’t creating much – the Pars were getting men behind the ball, and making things difficult for their more experienced opponents. A cross from Aird looked dangerous, but Martin headed skywards, and Goodfellow plucked the ball from the air, before another deep cross found its way to Black at the edge of the box but Goodfellow saved comfortably.
The Pars enjoyed a decent spell as well – Graham did well to keep his nerve under pressure from Aird as the visitors sought to break, and although he was rather harshly booked not long after, he continued to look for the ball, and after he found Willamson on the overlap, Cammy Bell had to be alert to grab the cross almost off the toe of Allan Smith.
Another Aird cross caused difficulties – Martin headed away from under his own crossbar – and when the corner came in McCulloch nodded back for Mohsni to head off the bar. However, that was the closest Rangers came to scoring and although the visitors were ahead on points, the game was scoreless.
Half time: Pars 0 Gers 0
The Pars needed to keep equality for 10 or so minutes in the second half if they were to ramp up pressure on the visitors but managed to concede a goal within 30 seconds of the restart. Rangers came forward, a slip by Young allowed Law to turn on to his right to fire in a shot and although Goodfellow blocked that one he could do nothing about the follow- up as Shiels netted from close range.
Dunfermline Athletic 0 Rangers 1
Young was having a rough patch as another slip, when he had plenty of time to clear the ball, allowed Daly in, but although the Irishman hit the bye-line he couldn’t take full advantage. Soon after Potter was on hand to mop-up when Young appeared to leave an Aird cross with Daly again lurking.
Just after the hour mark, there was an unsavoury incident when Mohsni appeared to punch Goodfellow while he was on the ground with the ball. The keeper was certainly a little bewildered and although the referee gestured to his linesman, it was the other assistant to whom he was looking, as the Pars were making a switch, bringing on Husband for Graham.
Suddenly there was a reaction in the stands at both ends. As well as the Pars fans booing Mohsni’s every touch, those at the Rangers end started waving red cards in 64th minute “sack the board” protest, with one, other, or both of the Easdale brothers attracting particular ire. Their mood wasn’t helped when Law got away from Potter to head home a Smith cross, but the linesman’s flag was raised indicating off-side.
Shiels was next to look dangerous, but a magnificent Martin tackle thwarted that danger, before a long ball sent Williamson up the right at the other end, and he won a corner. Whittle swung this in with his left foot, and lo and behold, Martin was there again to score with a firm header into the roof of the net, and how happy did he look!
Dunfermline Athletic 1 Rangers 1
The Pars began to look good. A long cross-field pass from Husband picked out Williamson, and his first touch wasn’t the best, forcing him into beating his man and going on a diagonal run, which was ended by a Black trip and an overdue booking.; however Young’s header from the free-kick flashed past the post. Williamson won another corner, which Whittle took short to Spence, took the return and Smith’s dummy nearly foxed Bell. Bell nearly foxed himself, looking to clear a nothing ball which he hit off Dargo, nearly picked up before he saw he was out of his box, and had to side-foot into touch instead.
Soon it was the Pars’ turn to be lucky, a Byrne slip this time saw the ball laid back to Black and his shot hit Potter only to come back off the post, with Goodfellow wrong-footed. JP’s race was run and he was replaced by another JP, as Page and Mercer came on, with Dargo being the other man to give way. Mercer has normally played wide on the right when I’ve seen him, but he was given a central role here.
Rangers had some late pressure, but couldn’t make it pay – Husband and Byrne showed confidence and skill to pass their way out of trouble in 84 minutes, and Whittle got a vital touch to an Aird cross in 89 minutes that was spearing its way to Law at the back-post. Then, in stoppage time Steven Smith went down in the box, but referee Robertson was uninterested, and having played the regulation three minutes stoppage time, he brought play to a conclusion.
Final Score: Dunfermline Athletic 1 Rangers 1
This was a superb battling performance by the young Pars, ably marshalled by Potter at the back. To be fair, a lot of the young laddies have plenty of experience, either through necessity or design, but the newbies played their part as well. I haven’t seen much of Spence or Graham, but they seem to be a bit of a double act, nothing particularly fancy, but the sort of battlers you’d want on your side in the trenches, and they didn’t seem overawed by their opposition. Martin was as delighted as anyone to score his first goal, and he and Spence were probably the two likeliest candidates for man of the match, but I’m going to be sentimental and give it to John Potter on what may be his last appearance.
DAFC.net Man Of The Match: John Potter
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| Dunfermline_Athletic: Ryan Goodfellow, Ryan Williamson, Alex Whittle, Lewis Martin, Kerr Young, John Potter (Jonathan Page, 81), Finn Graham (Steven Husband, 62), Shaun Byrne, Allan Smith, Craig Dargo (Scott Mercer, 81), Lewis Spence|
| Subs (not used): Ross Millen, Declan O`Kane,James Thomas, Jamie Wilson|
| Rangers: Cammy Bell, Lee McCulloch, Bilel Mohsni, Fraser Aird, Steven Smith, Sebastien Faure, Arnold Peralta (Andrew Little, 69), Ian Black, Jon Daly, Dean Shiels (Nicky Clark, 80), Nicky Law|
| Subs (not used): Steve Simonsen, Andrew Murdoch, Kyle Hutton, Ryan Sinnamon, Robbie Crawford|
| Shots on||1 ||4 |
| Shots off||2 ||9 |
| Corners||5 ||9 |
| Offside||0 ||2 |
| Fouls conceded||11 ||11 |
| Possession|| || |