St Mirren 2-1 DunfermlineAuthor: Stuart Holland Date: Saturday, 19th Nov 2011
It was Albert Einstein who apparently once said that the definitaion of insanity was doing the same thing again and again while expecting different results. While his theory of special relativity is in doubt at the moment after recent experimental results in Italy, a more pressing concern for Pars fans is the insanity of their team not starting to show their class until they are already behind in the game.
It may well have been a new venue for Dunfermline, but there will have been a major sense of deja vu after St Mirren raced into a two goal lead before the Pars almost snatched a draw at the death.
Despite a raft of injuries causing Jim McIntyre a serious selection headache, it was a familiar looking line-up that took to the pristene New St Mirren Park grass. Ex-Buddie Paul Gallacher was behind a back three of Austin McCann, another former Saint John Potter and Alex Keddie, while Paul Willis continued as a right wing-back and Patrick Boyle came into the team as left wing-back in place of the injured Andy Dowie.
Paul Burns, Ryan Thomson and David Graham (Movember facial har and all) made up the midfield trio while Andy Kirk and Liam Buchannan continued in attack. The main evidence for the current injury problems in Fife was with the inclusion of three youngsters on the bench in Kerr Young, Ross Drummond and Shaun Byrne joining the more experienced Joe Cardle, Andy Barrowman, Steven McDougall and former St Mirren goalie Chris Smith in the matchday squad.
If the players were buoyed by the news that Inverness had lost at home to Celtic, it didn`t show as St Mirren came out of the blocks very quickly. Their fluid 4-3-3 formation matched up nicely to the Pars own 3-5-2 and despite both teams flooding the midfield at times the Buddies seemed to have an extra man in the engine room at times.
Even Jim Goodwin, the bald-headed anchorman more often seen in front of the back four, was getting in on the act and his shot on goal was the first meaningful action of the first half. McGowan was floating in a dangerous area between the midfield and attack and his shot on goal had the Saints fans in the crowd shouting for a penalty.
With the ball having been hit from only a few yards away and a crowd of players between the ball and the referee, Crawford Allan couldn`t give the spot kick, although this was about the only time the Pars fans were impressed with the referee`s actions in the first half. Some bizarre incidents followed in the next five minutes, with the referee seemingly not sure what was going on, firstly penalising Paul Burns`s excellently timed block tackle while indicating a raised boot, then missing a foul throw on the Athletic left and then shrugging his shoulders at the suggestion that Paul Gallacher had been blocked off at a St Mirren corner.
Steven Thomson also seemed to be getting away with leading with his arms on several occasions while Andy Kirk in particular wasn`t getting much protection as he battled with Lee Mair.
Just after the quarter hour, St Mirren made their first change, Danny Lennon helping out commentators and match reporters by withdrawing the midfielder Steven Thompson with Graham Carey taking his place. The change didn`t seem to interrupt the flow of the game though and Gallacher had to look smart to save from McGowan, the winger`s shot looking in all the way until the Pars `keeper stretched down to his right to tip the bal round the post.
McGowan was having an influence on proceedings and he came close again after 20 minutes, just missing the ball in from wide when any sort of connection with his head would have given Gallacher serious problems. Athletic were getting some ball though, with David Graham making his usual slalom runs from an old "playmaker" position.
A typical run ended up with a corner, which was dealt with a little uncertainly by Craig Samson. Ryan Thomson was also trying to get forward and he must surely feel he could have done better with a header that drifted harmlessly wide.
Just when the Pars thought they had a foothold in the game, St Mirren took a deserved lead. Some neat interplay found Hasselbaink at the edge of the box, and he easily beat off a tame challenge from Alex Keddie before squaring for Kenny McLEAN to tap in from inches out.
To be fair to the Saints it was a reflection on the way the first period had panned out but the Pars bench must have been as frustrated as the fans behind Paul Gallacher`s goal at the simple way they had cut through the Pars rearguard.
Both teams then tried to get the all important second goal, with Steven Thomson`s header being clutched by Gallacher as the home team pressed. Dunfermline did have a spell of good play, with Graham and Buchanan starting to cause the Saints defence a few problems. With the Pars looking good going forward, Andy Kirk was very unlucky not to bring the away side back on terms, his attempt on goal from only 10 yards somehow being saved by Samson despite at one point looking as though it was already through the Scotland squad man`s legs. It was just the sort of luck that seems to desert teams near the bottom of the league.
Just to underline the fact, just before half time St Mirren doubled their advantage. Despite the clock ticking ever closer to the 45 minute mark, Gallacher elected to play a short ball out of defence to McCann. It was a poor ball, to Austin`s wrong foot and his indecision was then further punnished as Thomson stole in to power towards the byeline before squaring for the onrushing HASSLEBAINK to fire home into the roof of the net. A terrible end to a half that had began to look a little brighter as it wore on.
Half time: St Mirren 2, Dunferline 0.
At the start of the second half, many Pars fans were perhaps expecting a change or two but Jim McIntyre kept faith with the 11 players who had finished the first. For a while it seemed to work, with the Athletic seeing more of the ball and McGowan a little quieter than he had been in the first half. After an hour the change did come though, with Cardle replacing the largely ineffectual Boyle and Barrowman replacing Buchannan, who had again been industrious without too much reward.
Within a few minutes, the changes had an effect with Barrowman winning more balls in the air and Cardle beginning to see a bit of joy on the left wing. From one such run the Pars got back into the game. A good piece of play saw Cardle getting into a good position, and his excellent cross was aimed towards Thomson.
The Pars midfielder missed the flick-on but the cross was of such good quality that it swung in and hit the post, with SAMSON ending up in the net with the ball as he tried to save his own blushed. Joe Cardle will no doubt claim the goal but to be honest it will probably end up going down as an own goal.