Cowdenbeath 0 - 1 Dunfermline AthleticAuthor: Alistair Campbell Date: Saturday, 2nd Apr 2011
At this stage of the season only one thing matters – points. This wasn’t a pretty performance, but with the home team never troubling goalkeeper Smith the question was whether the Pars could score. After missing a sitter in the first half Buchanan slotted home on the hour and that was enough for the three points.
Mason was serving his other suspension after going over the points threshold so he made way, but Woods was back and reclaimed the right back position in what is now appears to be the Pars first choice defence – Smith with the gloves, Woods and McCann as full-backs and Rutkiewicz and Keddie as centre-backs. Dowie took over as holding midfielder, although Burke would help him out in the middle of the park. Cardle started on the left, with Hardie shuttling between right mid-field and further forward where Buchanan and Hyde with his first start would be expected to do a lot of work, if not score some goals.
The bench offered Macca some options, where were seated Clarke, Higgins, Graham, McDougall and Paterson. McGregor and Phinn appeared pitch side and Kirk, Bayne, Thomson Willis and Allison were all in the stand.
As for the blue Brazil, they opted for a more traditional 4-4-2 with Stevie Crawford partnering Archie Campbell in attack, ex-Par David Hay in goals and experience captain Craig Winter in the heart of defence. In fact, no fewer than 6 of their starting line-up were listed as being born in Dunfermline, but it was unlikely that these players would be willing to do their home-town team any favours.
Stevie Crawford took kick-off as the Pars opted to play with the stiff south-westerly breeze in the first half and Hardie forced Hay to make an early save when getting his head on McCann’s cross from the left. Adamson meanwhile had the home team’s first effort of the game but his long-range shot was well wide.
The Pars struggled to come to terms with the bumpy pitch, reputed to be the smallest in Scottish Senior football, and they seemed to have two basic plans – early balls into the channel for Buchanan to run on to, and crosses from either McCann or Cardle aimed for Hardie.
Cowden on the other hand were well organised and although they forced a series of corners, they didn’t threaten. Winters tried an acrobatic volley from Ramsey’s corner but again was well off-target. In fact, Smith was struggling to get his hands on the ball as first Woods and then Rutkiewicz cleared balls from virtually underneath his nose, although when he was called upon to claim corners he did so with confidence.
Midway through the half Buchanan was quick enough to win a race to the ball with Hay but just as in the first game at Central Park, the ex-Cowden striker was too firm with his touch and the ball was out of play before he could do any damage. As Burke held his head in his hands you sensed that even at this stage the Pars were beginning to wonder where and how the breakthrough would come. Hyde was struggling to impose himself, and although the Pars nudged ahead in the corner count, all Hay had to do was make sure a looping header was clearing the bar, although Burke had a later chance, but his attempt to curl one in at the far post was foiled by the number of bodies in the way.
Then, just on half time, the Pars should have broken the deadlock. Again the danger came from the left – Cardle passed back to McCann, he swung the ball to the back post and Hardie’s header looked like it might sneak in at the far post. When it rebounded off the wood-work Buchanan knocked over from 3 yards when it looked easier to score.
Half-time: Blue Brazil 0 Pars 0
Within 8 seconds of the restart, the ball was out for a shy, which pretty much summed up the first 45 minutes. However, things did improve slightly – the Pars played more short passes and Hardie found room to put over a couple of crosses from the right, but with the big man unable to get on the end of them himself (despite his recent elevation to hero status) it was asking too much of Cardle.
As expected, Clarke soon came on for Hyde, but made little difference initially. However, on the hour, the Pars got the breakthrough. A Dowie blocking tackle saw the ball rebound fully 30 yards forward where Buchanan and O’Brien competed for it. Liam put his head in where it hurts, got the break of the ball, outpaced the defender and with only the keeper to beat slotted it way no bother at all. 1-0 Pars.