Dundee Utd 3 - 0 Dunfermline AthleticAuthor: Alistair Campbell Date: Saturday, 31st Mar 2012
Dunfermline were well and truly beaten in Dundee by a United side that was superior in every area of the pitch. A scoreless first half raised hopes that the Pars’ recent history of decent results at the ground could continue, but Daly scored at the start of the second half and two late goals emphasised the gulf between the two sides.
So now that JJ had had more than a week to look at his new charges, would we see some radical changes, or would it be more a case of tinkering round the edges? More the latter, as it happened. Kevin Rutkiewicz was back in the team, as was Kirk, but in a surprise it was Graham who made way, along with Buchanan, as McMillan was moved to right midfield to accommodate Dowie at right-back. Keddie and McCann made up the back four, and Kerr and Mason were in the middle of the park with Cardle starting on the left. Hardie’s perceived aerial threat meant he would play closer to Kirk up front than the midfield quartet. With Bernardo Dominquez Fernandez presumably awaiting international clearance, Chris Smith kept his place between the sticks. On the bench, as well as Buchanan (who leads the SPL in goals scored as a substitute this season) and Graham, we had Willis, Thomson, Boyle, Hutton and Goodfellow.
The Arabs are in the middle of a fine run, and there is a good balance about their side. Both John Daly and Johnny Russell would provide a goal threat and Gary Mackay-Steven would be likely to demonstrate some of his array of tricks down the left flank. Rankin, Scott Robertson and Willo Flood completed the midfield four, and familiar face Robbie Nielson was back at right-back.
The Pars kicked off but the direction of play was very much the other way in the initial stages. There were the usual dodgy moments early on – Keddie slipped in the second minute as he tried to shepherd the ball out, although he managed to retain possession, and a Hardie back-pass from deep inside his own penalty-box put pressure on Smith but this time he hoofed clear. With Rutkiewicz very obviously providing on-field instructions as usual, the defence seemed to exude slightly more confidence, so maybe they were due the let off they received in 8 minutes when Neilson blasted over from 8 yards after Mackay-Steven’s double step-over gave him the space to cross from the left.
The pressure increased a notch when Rutkiewicz was yellow-carded for handball in 24 minutes and there was another scare in 26 minutes when McCann’s clearance was charged down but the ball was cleared.
We had seen little from the Pars in an attacking capacity, but they had a chance just after the half hour when Hardie was fouled. Three players stood over the ball before Cardle chipped the ball into the box where Keddie had timed his run, but the centre-back headed over.
Play soon reverted to its previous pattern – Russell had a fierce shot beaten away by Smith and McMillan had to double up with Dowie to stop the threat of GMS down the Pars’ right; nevertheless Dowie was booked for leaving his foot in on the winger.
The Pars finished with a brief flurry – Kerr’s dummy allowed him space to find Cardle who hurdled Neilson’s tackle but his cross was poor, and right at the death they won a couple of corners, but couldn’t find anything to trouble Pernis.
Half-time: Arabs 0 Pars 0
So a reasonable start to what looked like the Pars’ game plan – keep it tight and maybe snatch something late on. However, we were soon onto plan B as an early goal was conceded. Neilson’s long throw into the box appeared to break off Daly, only to rebound back to him, and as he fell backwards the Irishman volleyed into the corner of the net. 1-0 United.
There was little immediate reaction from the Pars; indeed United moved up a gear, Mackay-Steven and Daly both having chances to double the lead but each time Smith saved easily.
In 56 minutes there was a rare opportunity though; Kirk got away from Dixon only to be brought down 35 yards from goal. It looked a little too far even for Hardie, but he had a go, hit the wall and then body-checked the United player as he broke.