Dunfermline Athletic 1 - 0 Queen of the SouthAuthor: Alistair Campbell Date: Saturday, 11th Dec 2010
The massive effort to get the game played was justified when Cardle tapped home a Graham centre in the 86th minute to give the Pars 3 points that they just about deserved. Gibson had been sent off for a perceived stamp on McKenna, a decision which prompted the fans to suggest it would beneficial if the officials were to go back on strike.
Considering the efforts to clear the pitch, it seemed only reasonable that I didn’t let some minor difficulties such as a car that wouldn’t start, a bus that wouldn’t come and a train that wouldn’t leave from its normal station stand in my way, so after a few changes of plan, and a slither down the hill from the Queen Margaret Station, I was just about in time to take someone else’s seat in the Norrie and see my first action for nearly a month. Given the lay-off it’s probably worth a reminder of the line-up and formation. Chris Smith was in goals, Woods at right back, McCann at left back and the central defensive pairing was Dowie (right) and Keddie (left). Nick Phinn was back in the middle of the park, along with the ever- present Mason. Wullie Gibson was on the right wing, David Graham on the left with Pat Clarke partnering another ever-present Andy Kirk in attack. The bench had a balanced look about it comprising keeper Allison, defender Higgins, midfielder Thomson, winger Cardle and forward McDougall. McGregor was suspended, Bell on crutches, Burke not quite ready yet, Ross still injured and Willis waiting his chance.
Queens had raided Dundee to add Colin McMenamin to their squad since the two sides had last met at the start of October, and he lined up alongside Derek Holmes, with Willie McLaren playing a more withdrawn role. Whilst they would start with 3 at the back, this would be supplemented with Ryan McGuffie switching to right back when the occasion demanded.
With piles of cleared snow obscuring the advertising holdings, and after a quick reminder of the rules, we were off. Disappointingly for the traditionalists, we didn’t have an orange ball, but the white ball that we did have caused an early problem for Keddie, as his overly firm pass-back went beyond Smith, but also the left-hand post. At least one lesson had been learned from the Dumfries debacle. Both teams were unsurprisingly a little hesitant to begin with, although Queens may have expected to profit more from Gibson’s gift of possession in the 8th minute when Conroy had time on the left to pick out Holmes, but the latter’s scissor-kick slewed wide.
Long balls and passes seemed the order of the day, McLaren punting another one forward in 12 minutes. Woods was alert to the fact that it could come back off the corner flag and tracked back to collect when it did so, prompting a slightly unfair comparison of the relative ball-skills of the full back and the flag-stick.
The acting physio saw his first action when Nick Phinn fell awkwardly, but his magic sponge seemed just as efficacious as Gerry Docherty’s and Nick was soon back on his feet. The Pars began to shade things in terms of possession, and created a couple of half-chances. Gibson sprayed the ball to the other wing where Graham moved inside to tee up Woods for a 25-yarder which went wide and Mason had a shot blocked after the ball had pinged around the box from a Graham centre. Dowie came closest, a flick from a near-post corner being headed clear at the back post.
It was still anyone’s game though and Burns should have done better after being set up by Holmes when Mason’s poor clearance had been deflected his way, before McLaren missed what seemed a sitter in 36 minutes from suspiciously close in, nudging past the post as Smith dived. We hadn’t seen much of Graham, but 6 minutes from the break he latched on to Clarke’s flick, took advantage of the ball being held up in the sand in the North-East corner , but couldn’t find the killer pass. He then played a bizarre 1-2 with Harris - a 30 yard misplaced pass being returned seconds later, but the first half closed with the game deservedly goal-less.
Half time: Pars 0 Doonhamers 0
Queens kicked off and soon had a chance when a ricochet fell for McKenna but he shot well wide. However the Pars seemed to have perked up after the break – they looked sharper and their passing was quicker and more confident. Phinn’s quick feet allowed him space to get the ball to Gibson via Woods and Harris took down the winger as he went past him to earn the game’s first yellow card.
In 57 minutes the Pars won a corner when Lilley headed out by the corner flag, and having drilled earlier corners to the near post, Gibson varied things by hitting to the back post where Kirk headed across the face of goal. His header beat Hutton, but the ball was cleared off the line and Graham’s follow-up from the edge of the box was charged down by about 4 players. Still, this was encouraging, and soon after Phinn sent an off-balance header from Woods’ cross onto the roof of the net, but not before McMenamin had got clear but fired inches wide from a good position.
That was a narrow escape, but the Pars had an even better chance in 62 minutes – a long diagonal ball over the top from Gibson was chased down by Kirk, Graham and Lilley. Graham won the chase at pace and cut the ball back to Kirk who had re-routed himself in front of goal. Hutton dived at his feet and Kirk’s shot deflected off the keeper’s foot and spun over the bar. A fantastic save.
Quinn came on for McMenamin and McDougall replaced Clarke as the match moved into its final third, but still the Pars looked the likelier. McKenna fouled Gibson about 35 yards out, and in what looked like a move rehearsed during the long weeks without a game, Gibson chipped the ball in and Dowie headed square when an effort on target looked a better option. A minute later and McKenna again fouled Gibson to get a card and this time Gibson tried the shot, but the wall did its job.