Dunfermline Athletic 1 Dundee United 4Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Saturday, 29th Oct 2011
Once again the Pars managed to play a struggling team back into form, conceding two early goals then getting Gary Mason sent off in debatable circumstances. A bright start to the second half culminated in Kirk pulling one back, but any hopes of scraping a point were soon dashed as the visitors picked off the Pars on the break and added another couple of late goals.
In Two Ronnies sketch fashion, the Pars programme had listed most of the United team with the squad number of the next player in line which caused your correspondent no end of identification issues; however it was clear that the team all in tangerine were playing a 4-4-2 when they kicked off, with captain John Daly playing in an unaccustomed role at centre-back, along with Gavin Gunning. The blond front pairing of Russell and Dalla Valle would contribute further confusion with their similar looks playing as a front two and Rankin and Robertson would be chief playmakers in the middle of the park.
No such recognition problems for the Pars – the 5-4-1 was a shoe-in for the formation, the only questions were who would fill the roles. Cardle and Buchanan were nowhere to be seen (injured and ill respectively) so Kirk retained his starting position, and Craig Easton started against his old club as one of the midfield quartet, along with Mason, Graham and Burns. The back five had done OK at Inverness, so the recovered Andy Dowie had to be content with a bench place with Jason Thomson, Keddie, Potter, McCann and Boyle keeping their starting positions along with Gallacher. As for the subs, Paul Willis was back, as was Pat Clarke, joining Ryan Thomson and Steven McDougall as more likely to be called on with keeper Smith and young Young making up the numbers.
As might have been expected from two teams enjoying (if that is the right verb) a poor run, the game started quietly, and it was seven minutes before there was any action to speak off, and to set the tone, it involved a questionable refereeing decision. Potter thought he had been fouled by Dalla Valle and took a quick free kick, only to see the decision go the other way. Gunning’s shot from 25 yards out looked to be heading for the corner but Gallacher got the faintest of touches to divert the ball wide of his left hand post for a corner. A couple of minutes later the Pars equalised the corner count – Gallacher wasn’t happy with Dalla Valle’s challenge, and after letting the Finn know, he launched a long clearance into the far corner where Thomson played a one two with Burns, but after heading the ball on, Thomson didn’t get the chance to get the ball on goal. He got such a chance from Burns’ corner but his header was high.
Quite an even start then, until we got a goal out of nothing in 13 minutes. A seemingly innocuous challenge on the touchline was penalised and when Flood swung over the ball first Potter then Thomson got glancing clearances. The latter fell to Dixon 15 yards from goal and his first time flew into the far corner of the net. 1-0 United.
Not long after the Pars conceded another, and there was a touch of fortune about it. Rankin tried his luck from a long way out, his drive seemed to strike Dalla Valle who was being shadowed by Potter, and sat up to allow the Finn to score, rather mishitting the ball over Gallacher. 2-0 United.
The frustration from the stands soon found echoes on the pitch with Keddie clearly unhappy that Thomson was operating far too far forward to give the centre-back a sensible passing option, meaning Keddie and Potter seemed to spend too long playing the ball between themselves and the keeper. However the Pars were at least maintaining possession, and eventually Graham got the chance to get a shot away half way through the half but his left footed effort was well off target.
If the Pars could have got one back before half-time then pressure could have been applied and the visitors’ resolve tested but any chances of that were swept away by another calamitous incident in 26 minutes. Mason miscontrolled the ball in the middle of the park and challenged to regain it with a bit of a leap. It was only one footed, and he appeared to get the ball, but Russell collapsed in a heap, and Mr O’Reilly was clearly always going to reach into his back pocket for his red card. This was a very similar dismissal to that of his against Stirling in March, a game where the Pars ran out 4-1 winners. However that day they had already been two players to the good when Mason made the long walk to the changing room so there was no chance of that particular scoreline repeating itself.
Russell made a miraculous recovery, leading to a bout of booing whenever he touched the ball henceforth (a similar fate befalling Dalla Valle in error) but the Pars didn’t suffer any more damage before the break, although there were a couple of close things. Graham miscued a defensive header but this time he was able to block Dalla Valle and Robertson scooped over from close range when the ball was nodded back across goal following another soft free-kick.
Half Time: Pars 0 Arabs 2
The Pars started the second period playing at a faster tempo. Kirk was inspired to try a backheel to Boyle by the corner flag. It didn’t come off, but Andy had a second chance to do something with the ball but with a lack of support in the box, his cross hit off the face of the bar before Easton could get there. However, the bright start was rewarded in 55 minutes – an Easton tackle won the ball in hte middle of the park and with options Craig chose the central one playing straight through the middle to Graham who got the ball from under his heels and just about managed to squeeze it to Boyle on his left. A better ball would have given Paddy a decent chance himself but he got the ball to the unmarked Kirk who had an easy chance to roll under Pernis. 2-1.