Aberdeen 1 - 0 Dunfermline Athletic SC5Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Sunday, 6th Feb 2011
So near and yet so far – there were just 17 seconds left of stoppage time when Allison’s attempted cleaance cannoned off Neil McGregor and into the net to give Aberdeen a barely deserved win, and passage to the 6th round at St Mirren. The Pars go home with nothing.
It was a pleasant dry day in the North East and it was no surprise when Macca rolled out his favoured cup-tie strategy of a 4-2-3-1 line-up, with 2 holding midfielders. The surprises were always going to be in the line-up in this post-Gibson era. First of all Allison was in goals, Paterson was on the bench, and the suspended Chris Smith was doing the Jim Leighton role of helping the warm-up (but without the spectacles). Kevin Rutkiewicz was given a start at right-centre back alongside Keddie; Woods and McCann offered some continuity at full-back. Mason was an obvious choice as one of the central mid-field duo; less obvious was the return from obscurity for Alex Burke, who hadn’t featured for weeks. There were other surprises when Clarke was given the role on the right, and Joe Cardle the role in the hole, operating just behind Andy Kirk. David Graham completed the line-up in the wide-left position. There were further surprises on the bench, where McGregor had leap-frogged Dowie and sat alongside Phinn, Thomson and Willis.
It was standing room only in the Pars end, but that was because the crowd was allowed to stand, forcing everyone else to stand likewise. Early glimpses of the action caused some anxiety however. The intention of the formation must surely be to keep things tight early doors, but straight from the kick-off the Pars conceded possession and Chris Maguire had hared down the right to send in a dangerous cross that fortunately eluded everyone.
The Pars soon settled however and we saw the first sign of Cardle in his new position in 6 minutes when he turned to feed Clarke who ran at the Dons defence before being fouled 25 yards out. Burke took the kick short to McCann who swung the ball in to the edge of the penalty area where first Clarke and then Mason challenged, the ball breaking to Kirk 8 yards out (and just on-side) but he dragged his shot across the face of goal. An encouraging start, though, and things improved a tick when the Dons were disrupted by Milsom having to be replaced by after an early knock.
On came Derek Young, possessor of 2 hat-tricks for the Pars (although not a great deal else) and he slotted into a midfield role alongside the playmaker Paul Hartley, Ryan Jack and former ‘Well player Nick Blackman (although the latter was quick to supplement Vernon and Maguire in attack as Aberdeen sought to put pressure on the Pars’ organisational skills with a fluid attacking formation). The Dons had a more traditional back line though – ex-Par Jamie Langfield between the sticks, McArdle and Smith as full backs, and Zander Diamond in the centre alongside the pony-tailed Vujadinovic.
Hartley was outclassing Burke in the early stages, and had way too much space in 15 minutes when he picked out Vernon with a lovely pass over the top. The big number 9 controlled with his left foot but his right foot prod was over the top.
The Pars hit back with a Graham snap-shot that Langfield comfortably dealt with and won a handful of corners which came to nothing. Clarke on the right was getting some joy in the air, proving a good out ball for Allison to find and several times his head-flicks found Cardle and Kirk, but the ball wouldn’t quite fall for either player. Kirk was a little lucky to get away with just a warning after going head to chest with Vujadinovic after the latter (think Andy Carroll, but much, much, cheaper) clattered him at the touchline, but overall, things were going according to plan. Burke may have been understandably a bit rusty after his lay-off, but big Kevin Rutkiewicz was hitting the ground running, winning almost everything that came his way and proving to be a formidable and vocal presence in the heart of the Pars defence. Allison was called into action in 34 minutes, palming down a Jack drive after the latter had send Clarke the wrong way, and Clarke himself tested Langfield with a late effort that was deflected on its way through to the keeper. However, with no goals at the break, Jim McIntyre would have been the happier of the two managers.
Half time: Dons 0 Pars 0