Falkirk 1 Dunfermline Athletic 0Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Sunday, 17th Feb 2013
When things aren’t going your way, they really don’t go your way. The Pars played well, and although Falkirk had missed a couple of decent chances, for long periods it looked as if there could only be one winner. However, a late goal from substitute Weatherston combined with yet another injury, this time to Falkingham, completed a bad week for the Pars.
Unlike Cowdenbeath, Falkirk has a new stadium, albeit completely open down one side. This glaring gap with its views of waste ground in the near distance and the Grangemouth refineries beyond perhaps epitomises the uncertain state of the game in Scotland. That and the overpriced excuse for a hot-dog, and the lengthy queues to free yourself from the car-parking. Of course, games against Falkirk are never entirely meaningless, but with the Pars slipping out of the promotion race, and the Bairns never quite there, this was never going to be as fiery an occasion as some previous encounters.
With Byrne having picked up a bad injury and Kane also not being fit, Jim Jefferies choices were a bit limited for the visit to the Bairnabeu. Barrowman, Geggan and Jordan were still on the injured list and so the team pretty much selected itself: Gallacher in goals, Millen at right back, McMillan at left back, Dowie and Morris at centre-backs, with this time Dowie to the right; a midfield four of Falkingham on the right, Husband, Thomson and Wallace, with Kirk and Dargo in attack. Dargo had escaped criticism for his part in the midweek loss to Cowdenbeath, and he was rewarded with a starting berth, as was Thomson; Husband came straight in as well. Cardle was dropped to the bench, where he took his place alongside Whittle, Hrivnak, and Allan Smith, a 19 year old forward.
The Bairns were along usual lines and included Michael McGovern in goal, the experienced Darren Dods at the back, Inverkeithing laddie Blair Alston in midfield, and the prolific Lyle Taylor up front.
The Pars kicked off, but both teams took time to settle. A fourth minute free-kick from Wallace was easily dealt with and Morris chased, briefly finding himself in the out-side left position, but he soon lost possession and had to hurry back to defend. A minute later Falkirk came forward again with Grant being upended 22 yards from goal by McMillan. Having seen the Pars concede 4 goals from that sort of range on Tuesday there was some apprehension in the ranks of the 600 or so Pars fans, but this was lifted when Grant fired well over.
There had been pre-match concerns about the state of the pitch, and although it was dry, it was bumpy and heavily sanded. The good ground was in the corners and down the far side, and rather like jockeys trying to take advantage of underfoot conditions in a horse-race, Dunfermline were keen to get the ball to Wallace who had started on the left.
The referee also tried to keep play flowing, playing advantage a couple of times. First Kirk was fouled, but Falkingham was allowed to carry on, the ball being worked left to McMillan and back to Husband, who had a dig from a long way out, but he couldn’t find the target. A better chance fell to Dargo after Dowie had been the victim of a late tackle, but his volley also missed the goal.
To be consistent advantage was played the other way, although this time Morris was a little unlucky to pick up a yellow card for a challenge in the middle of the park.
Gallacher hadn’t been tested yet, but that was to change on the half hour. Dowie and Millen seemed overly happy to let ball roll out when a corner was given. The kick couldn’t be taken right away as the Pars wanted to swap Whittle for Falkingham who had gone down injured after getting his foot caught in a hole in the turf. For some reason Alex didn’t have his shirt on, so that meant another delay, and when the kick came across someone somewhere didn’t do their job properly as McGrandles had a completely free header, which Gallacher did well to reach to his top right. The next corner wasn’t defended much better as this time Murdoch lost his man, but he didn’t get enough on the ball and his header scraped past the left-hand post.
At the other end good work from Dargo, Whittle and McMillan saw the Pars win their first corner which Wallace took, but Thomson’s header was into the ground and it bounced agonisingly over the bar.
Just before the break Thomson outmuscled his man to reach the bye-line but Dargo couldn’t quite connect with the cut-back, then right on half-time we saw another example of eccentric refereeing when Lyle Taylor was a bit unfortunate to be cautioned for over-zealously contesting Dowie as he shepherded the ball out for a goal-kick.
Half-time: Bairns 0 Pars 0
Although the Bairns were the first to show, when a free-kick on their right was played short, pulling Millen out of position, the ball then being played to the weakened back post, Grant nearly nipping in ahead of Dowie as he let Gallacher collect, the Pars soon began to dominate.
An early series of chances wouldn’t quite go their way – a Wallace cross was only half cleared, McMIllan’s volley was blocked, Whittle`s instant follow up trundled against the post with the defence static, then McGovern pulled off a fine save at his near post to deny the same player.
Next Dargo won a corner on the right, Wallace’s low first effort came back to him, and Morris nearly slid in to connect with his second and when the ball came back in a third time Dowie’s drive took a slight touch that diverted it narrowly off target. Wallace put this corner slightly deeper and Morris’s header struck the bar.