Dunfermline Athletic 1 Alloa Athletic 0 (1-3 on aggregate)Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Monday, 20th May 2013
As feared, attempting to turn this tie around proved a bridge too far for the Pars’ patchwork side. A late goal from Allan Smith provided a brief ray of hope, but after Stephen Husband’s red card any remaining hopes were extinguished. To be fair, Alloa were easily the better side over the two legs and had they won this leg as well, few would have quibbled.
Whilst these play-offs provide plenty of drama, they still seem to me to be a little bit unsatisfactory when it comes to settling relegation and promotion. As well as the obvious anomaly that a side that finished well adrift during the season can get an ill-deserved second chance, late season injuries and suspensions can have an excessive impact, and it can be a little unfortunate that teams are not at full strength for such a critical match. Of course, without getting into the harshness of the 15 point penalty, the Pars had finished second bottom and in other seasons may have already been relegated. Turning to team matters top Andy Geggan had recovered sufficiently after breaking down during Wednesday’s warm up, and Chris Kane also started as Jim Jefferies shuffled his limited pack. However, there were no surprises – Michal “Jim” Hrivnak was in goals, Millen and Whittle the full backs and Potter and Young the centre backs in a back four. Falkingham and Husband retained their positions in the midfield, and were joined by Geggan and Kane; Smith and Thomson were in attack. There was a touch more experience on the bench compared to the first leg, as Dargo and Byrne were there alongside El Bakhtaoui, Martin and Goodfellow.
Alloa had made one change to the eleven that had won comfortably in midweek, with Marr replacing Tiffoney. They also lined up with a 4-4-2, Stephen Simmons sitting just in front of the back four, Graeme Holmes on the left of midfield, and former Jambo Calum Elliot in attack with the impressive Cawley.
With maybe 700 having made the short trip along the A907 from Alloa, it was a good-sized and loud crowd which greeted the Pars kicking off defending the goal in front of the Norrie McCathie stand. That end saw most of the early action despite the Pars’ search for an early goal to get them back in the tie. A quick break from the visitors in the 2nd minute saw Potter struggle for pace against Cawley, but he managed to stretch to poke the ball behind for a corner. Alloa used a preworked move to give Ben Gordon a chance but his effort was wide. A couple more corners followed and in 10 minutes Doyle overlapped and put in a deep cross that found Millen off-balance, but Holmes drilled a shot past the post.
The Pars settled though, and started to come forward, but they were up against a well organised Alloa defence. They won a couple of corners of their own, after Millen’s devilish cross was headed over his own bar by Gordon, but Potter’s attempt to tee up Husband was foiled by a mass of bodies. With Falkingham having picked up an early booking for a late tackle on Simmons, it was Alloa who had won the early rounds, although their only shot on goal came in 23 minutes when McCord’s cross found Cawley, but his effort was so mishit that Hrivnak was virtually down waiting for it.
Alloa continued to look the likelier team, knocking the ball around well, and created another couple of chances, one which resulted in Hrivnak saving comfortably from Elliot, and the other again resulting in a Hrivnak save, this time with the legs after Cawley looked odds-on to score after brushing off Young’s attempted challenge to run in on goal. However, the Pars roused themselves and enjoyed a decent spell – Husband had a chance from his free-kick, although hit his own man in the wall, and then Kane burst forward in 36 minutes to feed the ever-willing Millen who found Smith with his back to goal, and he in turn did well to swivel but delayed a little with his shot, allowing it to be blocked.
However, just to remind us who had been the better team, Alloa again broke through Moon, found McCord, and he tried to bamboozle Potter with a couple of step-overs before shooting over the bar.
So it was still nil-nil at the break, and given the balance of play, Alloa would be a bit disappointed not to have put the tie beyond reach.
Half time: Pars 0 Wasps 0
The Pars needed to gamble, although with Potter having pulled a muscle, Jim Jefferies didn’t have much choice in making the swap of Dargo for Potter. This meant Kane dropping back to centre-back, a position he had previously played for all of 5 minutes at Livi earlier in the season. The half started quietly, the Pars rejgged defence coming under pressure before Cawley stretched Hrivnak with an early turn and shot. At the other end Dargo produced a turn of his own, but, in a way that rather summed up the post-season, chose not to shoot and instead to slip in Smith, but the ball didn’t sit and the youngster skewed his shot past the post.