Greenock Morton 0 Dunfermline Athletic 1Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Sunday, 14th Apr 2013
This may have been the game when the young Pars, some barely older than the pre-match mascots, came of age. Leading from an early Ryan Thomson goal, they were forced further and further back as the game wore on, but John Potter proved a calming influence on his young troops and they held out to win a valuable three points.
It can be a pleasant trip down to the Tail of the Bank, providing you’re not running late. A Rangers home match might have caused problems, but either the M74 Extension or the goings-on at Murray Park took some of the volume, or maybe the crowd at Ibrox just wasn’t that big, as traffic through Glasgow was busy but free-flowing. As for Greenock itself, the new quay-side development looks to be coming along nicely, but little appears to have changed at Cappielow, which is in some ways good, as I like the rarity of a slice + tottie and a coffee in a polystyrene cup, although the cramped seating is less fun.
Beforehand, there were apprehensions that the inexperienced Pars could get a bit of a doing from the title chasing Greenock men. Yet more injuries and a suspension meant manager Jim Jefferies had to shuffle his depleted pack once again. Stephen Husband had picked up his sixth booking of the season so he had to sit this one out, Wallace and Dargo were still injured, Geggan hadn’t recovered from last week and Morris was also sitting in the stand after picking up a knock. John Potter was back, though, and he would be the lynch-pin of a back 5, with Grant Munro making his debut to JP’s left, and Kerr Young on his right. Ross Millen and Alex Whittle would be playing wingback as they had done at Airdrie, and which may suit their game better. That meant 3 in midfield – the combative Kane coming back into the team in the middle, the skipper Falkingham to his right and Shaun Byrne to his left. Alan Smith started up front again, alongside the birthday boy Ryan Thomson, at 22 virtually a veteran in this side. The Slovakian Hrivnak, not long turned 22, was between the sticks. On the bench we had Goodfellow, Henderson, Drummond, El Bakhtaoui and a first appearance for Lewis Martin who only turned 17 this week. These five had a total of 3 substitute appearances between them.
However, the home team were coming off the back of a dispiriting loss in the vital match at Firhill in midweek, and had one or two selection issues of their own – there was no Weatherson, no Hardie, and no Michael Tidser, arguably one of the best players in the division. Rutkiewicz and Graham were on the bench, but the starting eleven still contained a host of familiar names.
Morton kicked off defending the Wee Dublin end, but it was a quiet start, and the Pars were put under no pressure early on, which allowed them to settle. The visitors won the first corner, when Millen’s free-kick was defended, but they couldn’t create an opportunity despite the young right back being on all dead-balls this week.
However Thomson and Smith got some good early touches to help their confidence grow and they combined to score the first goal out of virtually nothing. Whittle stuck out a foot to block Taggart’s forward pass and the ball broke to Smith in space, with time for him to run at the defence. Thomson was screaming for it to his right, but Alan seemed to delay too long, but eventually found his partner, and although he was now under pressure Thomson poked the ball into the corner from 8 yards. 1-0 Pars.
The Pars needed a chance to settle on their lead, and were helped when a linesman’s flag soon after ruled out what had seemed like an equaliser, a shot being deflected in the corner of the net by a player in an offside position. Meanwhile at the other end, Smith showed he had ability in the air in getting his head to a Millen cross, but could cause Gaston no difficulty.
Hrivnak was looking less confident – he rather flapped at a cross from the left in 20 minutes, and when Taggart chipped the ball in, he had to stretch to touch over McMenamin’s header. However, he collected the subsequent corner comfortably enough.
There was more bad news for the home team in 29 minutes when Bachirou had to limp off to be replaced by David Graham, which prompted the usual mixture of jeering and cheering. This took away one of Morton’s big threats, however, and the Pars began to look more comfortable, although the home team were seeing more of the ball. Dunfermline used the option of sending long balls into space for Smith to chase with some success, but attempts on goal were at a minimum – Kerr Young couldn’t wait for the ball to drop and tried an awkward volley from a corner right on half-time, but that was about it and the Pars would be delighted to have the advantage at the break.
Half time: Ton 0 Pars 1
Whilst the tannoy played “Alive and Kicking” at the interval, that seemed to sum up more the Pars chances of avoiding the drop, rather than the home team’s promotion chances. However, Morton were out for the second period a good two minutes before the Pars and hence we expected some reaction. The game got underway eventually, with the referee being prominent early on, not whistling when Whittle appeared to be fouled, and the Pars were lucky that MacDonald miskicked Graham’s centre, Potter hacking the ball clear. Then with Graham lying injured having come off worst in a fifty-fifty with Byrne, Morton carried on playing, and Millen gave away a foul, Munro heading behind to concede a corner that Morton nearly scored from, MacDonald again the player to miss, this time from 3 yards under pressure from Kane.