Dunfermline Athletic 1 Rangers 1
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.
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