Nine half-hours, Nine Goals*, Nine PointsAuthor: Stephen Meldrum Date: Sunday, 22nd Sep 2002
So, the winning streak – that is, the Pars’ on the pitch and not the red one sprawling across moaning James McFadden’s cranium – continues. And, in the process, Dunfermline showed that – ironically against Motherwell – they now have the steel to turn matches that may have ended goalless in previous seasons into three points.
For Saturday’s match at East End Park must have been, with the only exception being perhaps the Rangers match, the most frustrating to watch this season – simply because Motherwell came to Fife to defend.
The visitors, outnumbering their travelling support, stuck to their game plan which was to chase and close down and not give much away, and, for the vast majority of the match, did this excellently. They put lots of bodies behind the ball and, after switching ends so the Pars had to shoot towards the Town End first half, challenged their opposition – so used to attacking quickly and exploiting gaps at the back – to have the patience to break them down.
And so effective were the maroon-clad visitors at this that only two rising shots over the crossbar – the first by Gary Dempsey and the second by Craig Brewster after a neat set-up by Kilgannon – were what Dunfermline had to show for their first-half endeavour.
The second-half was fairly similar. The Pars tried to attack, but created very few good chances because their strikers were either outnumbered by defenders or charged down very quickly. Woods in the Motherwell goal, despite the constant action directly in front of him, was not kept particularly busy, but, to his credit, threw himself magnificently to the left to parry a powerfully hit Crawford volley round the post after a tidy lay-off by Brewster.
A heaviness over the subdued crowd began to settle as they almost resigned themselves to the fact that this tussle was going to end with the nets untouched, but, thankfully, with about twenty minutes remaining, it finally became clear to Calderwood – after what seemed like an age to the home fans – that things needed to be changed in order to score that elusive goal. Chris McGroarty, Jason Dair, and Scott Walker replaced Kilgannon, Brewster, and Dempsey, which allowed Bullen to push into a more central attacking role.
And the reward for this move was reaped soon after. With less than fifteen minutes left, Nicholson collected one of his own cleared corners on the left-hand side and floated over a delicate cross that was headed firmly into Woods’ right-hand corner by Bullen in a crowded penalty box.
Motherwell, who had previously been void up front, then decided that they must now attack, but were unable to muster anything more dangerous than a couple of dipping crosses which Ruitenbeek held comfortably.
A one-nil win – although a stark contrast to the five-two, three-one, and three-one stuffings given to the Lanarkshire men last season – must be extremely encouraging for Pars fans as this was a game that showed that perhaps their side has that little bit more fight in it when things are tough. It’s all very well playing Hibernain off the park at Easter Road and coming back from a goal down to beat Dundee four-two, but scrappy battles against Motherwell carry the same number of points and are just as important.
Of course, this won’t be applicable to the Cup match on Tuesday where it’ll be a feast of free-flowing football from both sides at Central Park.
(*If you count one each from both Hibernian and Dundee United.)