Dunfermline 2 - 1 MortonAuthor: Alistair Campbell Date: Tuesday, 5th May 2009
It had to happen sooner or later - the Pars created a number of half-chances before Loy turned in a loose ball and despite conceding the regulation cracker, Kirk won it late on, the unlikely central pairing holding firm.
Kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes, not to let in unfeasibly large crowd squeeze into the ground, but because one of the officials had injured himself. By that stage Man Utd were 2-0 up at the Emirates and with that tie as good as over there was still time for latecomers to get themselves along but few if any availed themselves of that opportunity as the attendance was a paltry 1,348 - the lowest home crowd of the season for a league fixture.
There was no Jamie Mole in the squad, and more worryingly, no Calum Woods, so Austin McCann got the gig at centre-back alongside Scott Wilson. Scott Muirhead dropped back to left back, Stephen Glass took over at left midfield, with Gallacher, Ross, Phinn, Burke, David Graham, Kirk and Bayne all retaining their places and positions from the team that won at Dumfries. Scott McBride made a rare appearance on the bench alongside Willis, Lee Graham, the massively experienced (relatively) Loy and Greg Paterson
Morton went with the 3-5-2 formation that had caused the Pars all sorts of problems earlier in the season, but the home team started brightly in what was a battle for 3rd place. Bayne’s second minute snapshot after the defence failed to deal with a long Ross punt forced a fine save from Cuthbert, with the target man mistiming a free header when Burke swung in the ball from the corner after playing a quick 1-2 with Glass. At the other end Ryan McGuffie twice came close to capitalising on unfamiliarity in the Pars’ central defence, arriving late but not finding the target with headers.
The Pars midfield were not getting nearly as much time on the ball as against the Doonhamers, as would be expected with a more congested midfield and David Graham twice took matters into his own hands, shooting well past from distance before a long, mazy run ended with his diagonal ball being just too firm for Bayne. Morton had a couple of efforts from distance, albeit not on target, but Kirk at least made the keeper work in 23 minutes when he was short of options 30 yards out.
In 25 minutes Scott Wilson limped off, with Rory Loy coming on to play wide left, Glass dropping to left back, and Muirhead, wearing the number 5 shirt, moving to the middle. You would have got long odds on seeing a centre-back pairing of McCann and Muirhead at East End Park this season, and Ross looked to use his relative height at right back to help out. Nevertheless, you feared for the damage that McAlister might do to Ross down the Morton left and Finlayson might to do Glass, who appears not so much to have lost a yard of pace as several fathoms, on the right.
However, the best form of defence is attack, and the Pars were doing plenty of it, without carving out the one clear cut chance they craved. Loy had a shot from distance, then one from much closer after Glass had made a good forward run into space, but Cuthbert palmed the latter effort away. Loy was alert enough to take a quick throw, noteworthy in itself, but Glass’s cross was blocked for a corner, from which Phinn shot wide, before the same player couldn’t control his effort from a Kirk cross.
As the half drew to a close Loy was off target with a header, Phinn’s spectacular hitch-kick was headed clear and Bayne couldn’t divert a loose ball past Cuthbert. To prove it wasn’t one way traffic Gallacher had to stretch backwards to prevent a 45th minute corner from dipping in at his back post. A good half for the Pars, without getting the crucial goal - but we’ve become used to that…
Half time: Pars 0 Ton 0
The second half started quietly, with McAlister’s 50th minute effort over the top after being set up by a neat back-heel being the first incident of note before Greacen should have done better after getting the run on Bayne, but his diving header was also high.
Other than Bayne, the Pars carried no aerial threat, and were trying, occasionally successfully, to keep the ball on the deck. Even so, it was a surprise when they took a 56th minute lead with their first chance of the second half. Burke got the ball in the middle, and picked out Graham right-footed, in a lot of space on the right. David wasted no time in heading forward - as he did so Loy made a swift diagonal run from the left to the near-post. Graham’s powerful cross was low and early, but too close to Cuthbert - however the Morton keeper spilled it and Loy lashed it into the net over the prone keeper. 1-0 Pars. Seconds later it was nearly 2 as Bayne flicked on Loy’s cross into the path of Kirk, but Walker nicked it away as the Pars’ leading scorer was about to pull the trigger.