Way back in July of course it all began so well, a comprehensive 5-2 thrashing of Motherwell and Jack de Giers debut was an amazing start. This result was then followed by a good away win at St Johnstone. By the time Rangers came to East End Park the following week confidence was high.
This optimism was to prove misplaced however, as the Pars embarked on their first Old Firm mauling of the season, but what was to follow was even more dispiriting. A run of nothing but defeats, and following the departures of Billy Davies and Sandy Clark from Motherwell and St Johnstone respectively, Jimmy Calderwood seemed to be the next manager likely to depart the SPL. Opinion over this matter was mixed amongst the Pars support, with tension being evident. This was starkly shown in the quite disgraceful reception Justin Skinner received during a half time draw, following the only real error he made all season against Livingston.
The turning point of the season came over the next few games. The run of bad results finally ended with victory over Dundee at East End Park, the sense of relief after this result was immense. The next home game proved to be Jack de Giers last game for the club. He scored twice, as the Pars made heavy weather of beating a relegation bound St Johnstone He was never properly replaced for the rest of the season, and who knows what might have happened had he stayed with the club.
From the high of two good wins, away to Motherwell would prove to be the low point of the season. Dunfermline produced a thoroughly inept performance and deservedly lost 1-0. Lee Bullen – outstanding all season when played out wide – started up front and never looked comfortable. Again players were pushed forward in search of an equaliser but it never looked likely to arrive.
A bad result definitely, but the reaction to it was completely bewildering. Over the following days there were many calls for Calderwood to be sacked or to stand down. For once it was the board who provided a voice of reason by ignoring such dissenters and instead extended his contract. In hindsight this was an inspired move.
Gradually results began to improve and slowly the Pars managed to detach themselves from any worries about relegation. Like last year,the Christmas and New Year period proved to have a great impact on our points tally, with what should have been a victory at Tynecastle, and good wins against Hibs, Aberdeen, Motherwell and St Johnstone.
The next game in this sequence was at home to Rangers. Dunfermline will not have such a good chance to finally beat one of the Old Firm, and to say that the outcome of the game was disappointing is of course a huge disappointment. This match did show how far the Pars had come this season – having the confidence and skill to outplay Rangers for 45 minutes and go in 2-0 at the break.
Despite the Rangers capitulation, the run of good results continued and with a victory over Dundee in one of the best games of the season, a place in the top six was secured. This was an unlikely but fantastic achievement. Like last season the final games after the split proved to be of no great excitement or significance, as our faint hopes of European football were extinguished.
Overall however this season will go down as being one where a lot of positive things has happened. A large proportion of the credit must be directed at the management team. Working on limited resources and making no "big" signings throughout the season an entertaining and skilful team has been created.
Scott Thomson has been outstanding all season, Stevie Crawford has led the line well, Lee Bullen has proven to be a revelation played out wide, Gary Mason has continued to improve, and Andreas Skerla is back to his best. This however is just the tip of the iceberg in what has been a fantastic team effort.
A large amount of praise should also be directed at the board. In comparison to a large number of other clubs within Scottish Football the Pars are on a sound financial footing, the Old Firm have at last been denied complete control of the game but more importantly we have a chairman who appears to have a genuine affection for the club with its best interests at heart.
Already there is much to look forward to for next season, and if we can improve to the same degree, and bring a few more players into the squad, exciting times most definitely lie ahead.