Cowdenbeath 0 Dunfermline Athletic 4Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Saturday, 11th Aug 2012
An Andrew Barrowman goal just before half-time, a second-half Ryan Thomson double and a wonder-strike from Josh Falkingham secure the Pars an opening win, although the score-line was flattering. Nevertheless, Jim Jefferies will be pleased to see his team top the table, at least for now.
So much for all this sitting in boats, pedalling bikes or riding horses, and all that running round in circle is also beginning to pale – time for some proper sport, and my first football match of the season.
The last time these sides had met, the Pars were en route to a triumphant return to the SPL, and Cowdenbeath were slipping back down to Division 2. That was just over a season ago, and in that time, a lot of water has gone under the Forth Bridge. Now the Blue Brazil were returning as champions with Fife Provost Jim Leishman MBE assisting home chairman Donald Findlay in raising the Second Division Flag whereas the Pars had endured a traumatic season (and close season) and were returning to the division in a rather subdued fashion.
As expected, economic realities meant there were a few unfamiliar faces in the Pars line up. Paul Gallacher had made a welcome return from injury in goals, and in front of him were the experienced pairing of Dowie and Potter. Andy Geggan (from Ayr) and the former Man City defender Stephen Jordan were the full backs. New captain Jordan McMillan would sit in front of the back four, with Ryan Thomson and Josh Falkingham sharing central midfield duties, Willis and Whittle would provide width, and Andrew Barrowman occupied the lone striker’s role. There was plenty experience on the bench, with Kirk and Dargo as alternative strikers, Burns and ex-Cowden boy Stephen Husband change midfielders and keeper Michal Hrivňák.
Cowden also opted for a 4-5-1. Local favourite Joe Mbu partnered the experienced John Armstrong at centre-back, player manager Colin Cameron, 40 in a couple of months time, would try to pull the strings, the tall Coult led the line, and the likes of Jamie Stevenson, Scott Linton and Marc McKenzie would add speed and trickery.
After the slightly surreal sight of a cow (albeit in the form of the home mascot) roaring round the speedway track on a motor-bike, the Pars kicked off in their red change strips. It was a sterile start, both sides cancelling each other out, although Thomson was within a whisker of finding Barrowman’s head when he got to the bye-line after 7 minutes, and the Pars had a let-off when Coult’s header from the edge of the box a minute later looped over Gallacher and into the net. However the flag had gone for off-side and the whistle been blown, so the Pars defence could be forgiven for switching off.
One of the minor interests of having half a squad of new players is working out who will do what at dead-ball situations. This year the Pars will have a bit of a threat from throw-ins- Geggan’s long shy in 11 minutes lead to the Pars first corner, Falkingham’s shot being dropped. With no Cardle, Whittle was ahead of Willis in the pecking order with kicks from the quadrant, but his first effort was cleared without difficulty.
At 6 foot 4, Lewis Coult is a bit of a handful - Gallacher had to be off his line sharply to grab the ball a fraction ahead of the big number 10 after 12 minutes, before the striker showed the sort of nifty footwork that would have come in handy at Greenwich Park when he hurdled first the advertising hoarding then the crash barrier lurking behind.
In the meantime there had been a bit of a flashpoint after a late tackle, resulting in a yellow card for Mickey Cameron. Another foul gave the Pars a chance of a shot at goal – both Willis and Jordan stood over the ball, but it was the latter who shot – straight at Flynn in the home goal.
Barrowman couldn’t find the target with a weak header in 26 minutes before there was nearly a fiasco at the other end. Dowie was ever so slightly short with a pass-back, meaning Gallacher’s clearance was more of a tackle, the ball breaking to Coult 30 yards out, but with Gallacher scrambling to get back in position, Dowie was on hand to head the goal-bound shot clear.
Action on the park, such as it had been, fizzled out, with the Cowden fans finding the presence of a beach-ball in their ranks more entertaining. However, as the clock ticked round towards half-time the Pars roused themselves to exert a bit of pressure. As the Cowden defence failed to clear, the ball fell to Willis, but leaning back he put his effort over the top. No matter, a minute later the Pars took the lead. Geggan hit the ball deep to the back post where both Barrowman and Whittle tried to get on the end of it – Whittle got there but his header was weak, only for Flynn to spill under pressure from Thomson and Barrowman pounced to put the loose ball home from the angle.
Half-time: Cowden 0 Pars 1
Into the second half, and Stevenson got two early chances to shoot, the first blocked and the second fining the side-netting, but it was the Pars who extended their lead. We hadn’t seen much of Whittle, but he took on his man and sent in a cross that was back-heeled away by the home defence, the ball eventually running out for a corner on the far side. Whittle swung it in and Thomson was first to the ball, nodding home from 3 yards – a rare goal from a corner and now 2-0 Pars.