Stirling Albion 2-3 Dunfermline AthleticAuthor: Alistair Campbell Date: Tuesday, 25th Mar 2008
A Kevin Harper hat-trick gave Dunfermline victory in a remarkable match at Forthbank, a result which virtually condemns Stirling to Division 2 football next season. However, for most of the second half it looked as if it the Pars would go home empty-handed after another discouraging performance, until Jim McIntyre’s late entry as substitute changed the game as the home side tired.
Three changes were made from the side that lost in disappointing fashion to Dundee. The omission of the suspended Glass and the badly cut Woods had been anticipated, but Greg Shields’ absence was a surprise. This meant unexpected recalls for Darren Young (at right back) and Scott Muirhead, with Harper getting a start on the right side of midfield. Thus the blue-shirted Pars lined up in their customary 4-4-2 with Gallacher in goal and a back four of Young, Wilson, Thomson and Morrison.
Phinn moved to join Simmons in his preferred central midfield berth and were flanked by Harper and Muirhead. Burchill and Crawford were to provide the firepower up front. Steven Bell, who will move across the Forth in the summer, started in right midfield for Albion, who matched their visitors’ formation.
The Pars started brightly, but early shots from Muirhead (twice) and Simmons failed to force a save from Myles Hogarth in the Stirling goal and it was disappointing when the home side took the lead from the spot after their first meaningful attack in 11 minutes. Phinn gave the ball away and Young’s slightly mis-timed tackle earned the makeshift full-back a booking.
The free kick was delivered into the box whereupon referee Somers ruled that Scott Thomson had used an arm to control the ball and awarded the penalty. Aitken made no mistake from 12 yards.
The Pars aimed to hit back immediately and as Crawford made a nuisance of himself preventing Hogarth from gathering the ball cleanly Burchill managed a toe-poke which was cleared off the line by the back-tracking Nugent.
Two minutes later Crawford unbelievably missed from 2 yards, having seemingly had all the time in the world to pick his spot - the ball eventually being scrambled away via the post for a corner. Would he ever have an easier chance to score? Yes, as it happened…
In 24 minutes the Pars had shouts for a penalty waved away - Burchill kept playing and cut the ball back to the edge of the box where Phinn’s well struck volley was blocked. The equaliser was delayed for only a minute - as Scott Morrison had a go at the crowd, the ball was swung to the back post where Harper turned inside McCay and finished inside the far post. Devine replaced the on-loan left back shortly after.
The Pars continued to look the more likely and Stephen Simmons might have done better than shoot straight at the keeper when he worked his way into the box in 36 minutes. However, the Binos fans were celebrating 5 minutes later when Bell played a neat 1-2 that left Morrison for dead and thrusting into the box in the inside-right channel finished powerfully.
This lad has appears to have youth, pace and a willingness to shoot. At least for now. Albion were transformed and created more chances in the 4 minutes before half-time than they had in the whole game previously. The visitors must have felt they had been mugged as they trooped off at the interval.
Half Time Stirling Albion 2 Dunfermline Athletic 1
No changes were made at half time and the match restarted in scrappy fashion. The fussy referee booked Harper for dissent in 52 minutes and Molloy for a firm tackle on Phinn 4 minutes later which could have led to some serious hand-bags and certainly generated more passion and animation from several players that had been seen hitherto.
Strangely, after receiving treatment Phinn was not asked to leave the field for the restart. Bizarre.