Pars Breeze To VictoryDate: Thursday, 24th Nov 2022
Despite the adverse weather conditions which met Peterhead and Dunfermline Athletic at Balmoor Stadium on Saturday, Match-Day 16 was a breeze for the Pars as they blew away the Blue Toon with some scintillating soccer which kept the away supporters warm throughout the 90 minutes.
Coming into the match, it was bottom vs top – and for a second weekend in a row, Athletic would face the potential of the `new managers bounce`, with former Par Davie Nicholls taking the hot seat in Aberdeenshire following the resignation of Jim McInally after 11 years of service up North. Nicholls was McInally`s Assistant Manager so he knew the players, he knew Dunfermline, he knew a windy Balmoor could be a major advantage for the hosts.
But the Pars weren`t going up there just to make up the numbers, James McPake`s men had a lead to preserve at the top of the table and were looking to get back to winning ways in the league following the frustrating and disappointing 2-2 draw with Clyde seven days prior. It was an attackingl line-up by the visitors as they set their stall out in the early stages with two quick-fire goals.
Peterhead had the opening chance of the match as Andy McDonald headed wide a Julien Carre corner, before Dunfermline made it one-nil through a set-piece of their own. Chris Mochrie done fantastically on the left to win his side a free-kick.
Considering the weather conditions, Joe Chalmers showed his nous by playing the free-kick low, passing inside to the centre of the pitch for Matty Todd to collect; in acres of space, the central midfielder lined-up a long-range effort which seemed to take the slightest of deflections as it flew through the air, deceiving Tom Ritchie in goals as the ball seemed to swirl in the wind and loop into the back of the net to the surprise of the on-loan Aberdeen youngster Ritchie in the Blue Toon goal.
Shortly afterwards, Sam Fisher raced clear down the right as he broke out of the back 3 to set-up fellow loanee Mochrie, who took one touch inside of his marker before rifling a left-footed shot past Ritchie from 20-yards to have DAFC two goals to the good within 19 minutes.
Highlights Peterhead 0-2 Dunfermline
McPake and his men had been in this position earlier in the campaign – 2-0 up against Peterhead and just needing to manage the game to victory: the late KDM Group East End Park drama that afternoon remains firmly etched within the minds of all connected to the West Fife Club, so it was pleasing to see the group learn from their mistake sand show signs of improvement by rarely giving the hosts a chance to even attempt to test Deniz Mehmet.
The goalkeeper did have one save in the first-half, diving to his right to save a curling effort towards the near post which he tipped behind for a corner, but that was as close as the Blue Toon came within the match.
If anything, it was the Pars who continued to push and kill the game off with a third. Mochrie had a great chance to make it three-nil before the break: in what would`ve been Team Goal of the Season, after a fast, free-flowing move, Mochrie was just unable to place the ball on-target.
In the second-half, Nikolay Todorov kept Ritchie alert with a shot from the edge of the area, which the keeper had to tip over for a corner, but in reality, the result was never in doubt due to the quality shown both defensively and offensively last weekend.
However, there was always that nagging doubt that one chance lets the Blue Toon back into the match and they had a half-chance late on when they worked a good move which saw Captain Kyle Benedictus throw himself at the ball to block the shot in the centre of the penalty box, before the ball was bundled behind for a corner-kick to the hosts.
Nicholls` side found a delivery which tested the Pars defence, before picking up the spare ball on the right and delivering another teasing ball; the header, however, was tame and Mehmet “could`ve thrown his hat on to it”, in the words of James McPake.
But in the end, it was a 2-0 victory, in tough conditions on Match-Day 16 of the SPFL cinch League One campaign, and it was a very pleasing afternoon`s work by the Pars.
James McPake Post Match Peterhead
Rhys Breen Post Match Peterhead
Focus now turns to the Scottish Cup Third Round this weekend as Dunfermline Athletic face League Two side Forfar Athletic.
It will be another challenging game for the Pars against a side who have also changed managers this term: Gary Irvine has left and has been replaced by the experienced Ray McKinnon, who won Scotland`s fourth-tier with Queen`s Park the last time he managed at this level.
A group of Loons that were expected to be doing so much better, the revitalised Angus side will travel to the City of Dunfermline with a sense of anticipation that a fairytale Cup classic is on the cards.
There is plenty Scottish Cup nous currently within the DAFC set-up though, particularly when you look at the careers of Manager James McPake, Assistant Manager Dave Mackay and Greg Shields. They will be emphasising the importance of Saturday`s match to the Athletic players.