Dumbarton 0 Dunfermline Athletic 1Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Saturday, 5th Jan 2013
The closeness of this year’s first division was exemplified when the Pars leapt two places to first after this narrow win at Dumbarton. Andrew Barrowman converted Whittle’s cross within 60 seconds in what proved to be the only goal of the game, amidst horrible overhead conditions.
For the second time in a week the Pars travelled west – unlike Greenock, there are options when travelling to Dumbarton – either through west Glasgow via Great Western Road or the Clydeside Expressway, through Stirlingshire skirting the foot of Loch Lomond, or the more natural way, along the M8 and over the Erskine Bridge. The last method seemed most straightforward, although it meant another early departure to avoid the hordes of Elgin fans heading for Ibrox, but there were no delays and so I missed none of the early action, which was just as well as it turned out.
Press reports of an injury to Barrowman turned out, on closer inspection, to refer to the Scots-American pantomime star, and Andrew of that ilk was not only fit but back in the first eleven in place of Kirk. Jordan McMillan had served his suspension so he too was in the side, which meant Ryan Thomson, who had genuinely featured in the media, was dropped to the bench to accommodate the return of his skipper, young Shaun Byrne keeping his place. The other surprise was the promotion to a starting berth of Alex Whittle, who would start wide on the left. This meant the team was Gallacher in goals, a back four of McMillan, Dowie, Morris and Jordan; Geggan, Falkingham, Byrne and Whittle in the midfield and Wallace and Barrowman in attack. Cardle and Husband were out completely, with Kirk, Dargo, Potter and Hrivnak making up the numbers.
Ian Murray named an unchanged side, which given the Sons’ recent upturn in form, was no surprise. McDougall was on the left wing, Gilhaney on the right, and with two big strong strikers in Lister and ex Irvine Meadow man Fleming, they weren’t to be taken lightly.
The Pars kicked off defending the car park end, and amazingly, scored in the first minute. Morris passed to McMillan on the right, he played it to Falkingham in the middle and he switched play by finding Whittle on the left. Alex’s left-foot cross was miskicked at the near post, the ball going all the way through to Barrowman at the back post and he knocked home. 1-0 to the Pars.
A terrific start, but Dumbarton had two good chances to equalise quickly. Virtually straight from the kick off they went down the park, with Fleming holding the ball up, then turning Morris, but he shot straight at Gallacher. Two minutes later and it was Fleming again causing difficulties for Morris, this time down the right, and his deep cross went all the way through to McDougall. Gallacher had to come to narrow the angle but it was McMillan who blocked the shot, Gallacher mopping up when McDougall chased and returned the loose ball.
The home team kept up their strong start, a long ball down the middle causing Morris more problems in the swirling wind and this time it was Lister who got a shot away, but Morris and Gallacher between them kept it out.
The Pars survived these threats though, and set about trying to double their lead. Falkingham’s early ball down the line in 12 minutes sent Wallace away, but his equally early cutback was too early, as support hadn’t arrived. Nevertheless, the Pars won a couple of corners. Whittle’s near-post effort from the left came back to him; he passed to Byrne and Ewings made a fine save, clawing away the youngster’s shot away just as it seemed to be heading into the postage stamp corner. Whittle trotted across to take the corner from the other side, but hit it too deep, Falkingham retrieving the ball for Dowie to head over.
Morris’s shaky start continued when again he let Fleming find space in the area, but the forward slipped before he could shoot. Callum was better coming forward, a nice exchange with Geggan saw Wallace set free, but he seemed in two minds whether to shoot or centre and in the end did neither particularly well.
Former player McDougall fooled everyone when he got the ball on the Sons’ left in 26 minutes, when he didn’t try any stepovers, instead whipping in an early cross to the back post which Geggan and Jordan left for each other, Gilhaney nearly sneaking in between the pair of them.
With the conditions proving difficult, and the fouls racking up, McMillan and Wallace seemed similarly on different wavelengths just before half-time. Jordan’s charging run down the right was brought to a halt when Ryan hit the ball behind him, and after Byrne retrieved the ball the players tried the same trick only for Ryan to misplace the pass behind his skipper again.
Not a great game then, and on the basis of the latter 44 minutes, Dumbarton looked the most likely to score, but the Pars had the lead at the interval.
Half time Sons 0 Pars 1
Ryan Thomson was summoned from the half-time kickabout, so an injury amongst the starting eleven was suspected, and sure enough, Jordan McMillan didn’t appear for the second half, meaning Thomson slotted into the midfield with Geggan going back to right-back. The teams were out quickly, which caught Gerry McCabe on the hop, the assistant manager being a little late and having to walk all the way round the pitch with the dugouts being at the far side.
The Pars had some early opportunities to extend their lead, Barrowman shooting early in 48 minutes but otherwise, there seemed a reluctance to have a go, with the preference being to retain possession until a better chance was created. This led to attack being turned into defence in 55 minutes when Wallace broke free down the left but elected to turn back rather than try and find Thomson who was screaming for the ball in the middle, Back went the Pars, then further back, then back to Morris, who promptly lost the ball to Lister before winning it back.