Dunfermline Athletic

Dunfermline Athletic 1 Ross County 1

Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Wednesday, 9th Mar 2011

As the promotion race hots up, so the Pars seem to be going off the boil – another insipid performance, although not marred by as many defensive blunders, sees another two points dropped. A Smith mistake allowed Barrowman a goal midway through the second half but a late Kirk penalty squared the game.

There had been considerable internet debate over the security of the ‘keeper’s position, and so it was interesting to note that Macca did make a goalkeeping change, but only at squad level with Greg Paterson replacing Kyle Allison on the bench, Chris Smith retaining his place in the starting eleven. Chris Higgins wasn’t so lucky, being dropped in favour of the returning Kevin Rutkiewicz and Kirk and Cardle were reinstated to first choices at the expense of Clarke and McDougall, who had disappointed on Saturday. However, the predictable 4-4-2 formation was retained, and this structure was matched by the visitors, although it being a Jimmy Calderwood production, one expected several variations on a theme to ensue.

Ross County won the toss, and elected to attack the Cowdenbeath end, perhaps hoping to unsettle the Pars, although Dunfermline haven’t needed much assistance in that regard recently. The award of an early free-kick meant that the Pars survived the first minute with their goal intact – indeed, when Hardie got his head on Woods’ early free-kick there was some hope that the Pars might have discovered an aerial threat. However this brief flash of promise soon dissipated and the game struggled to ignite with two well-matched teams cancelling each other out.

The visitors had the best chance of the half in eleven minutes – defensive slackness from a free-kick allowed Gardyne space to shoot and Smith had to make a fine save to stop the visitors taking the lead. Two minutes later another free-kick from midfield caused more confusion and McCann had to head behind for another corner and when Rutkiewicz was booked shortly after it was clear that County had had the better start.

However without actually threatening much the Pars then enjoyed a better spell – winning a couple of free-kicks in dangerous positions. The first was taken quickly and squandered; the second (which earned Lawson a rather soft yellow card when Cardle took a tumble) saw Kirk line up the free-kick 23 yards out, but the Pars’ leading scorer blasted his shot off the defensive wall.

Kettlewell’s late surge into the box saw him get on the end of Gardyne’s cross on the half hour but he scooped his shot over the bar, and at the other end Kirk had a couple of half-chances to do some damage but on each time he was thwarted at the near-post. No score at the break, and not a lot to get excited about.

Half time: Pars 0 Staggies 0

The second half wasn’t much of an improvement to begin with. The Pars seemed to lack energy and confidence, whilst their opponents were well organised and presumably content with the score-line. It was Graham’s turn to get involved – in 54 minutes Woods was rather too careful to ensure his pass-back wouldn’t cause his keeper any bother, and played the ball too square, meaning Smith had to come well out of his area to clear, getting more distance, and Graham picked up Flynn’s header to hit a hasty shot off target. A more spectacular attempt soon followed after Cardle had hit a first time cross from Woods’ ambitious pass, but again McGovern was untroubled.

The match was now three-quarters over and desperate for something, anything, even a defensive howler to bring it to life. And sure it enough, it happened, with the unfortunate Smith being involved. A Brittain cross from the County left didn’t look particularly threatening, but Smith came to punch, and met the ball at the same time as Barrowman got there with his head. The ball went backwards though, and flopped into the unguarded net. 1-0 County.

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