Dunfermline Athletic 2-1 CowdenbeathAuthor: Alistair Campbell Date: Saturday, 18th Sep 2010
Patience is a virtue – after waiting 17 long years for the chance to erase the memory of that game, it also took an age for the Pars to get back into the game after conceding an early goal. However, they kept their nerve, adopted a more direct approach and goals from Bell and Cardle garnered 3 points that were ultimately deserved.
The Pars kept exactly the same side that had beaten Dundee – even down to the bench. If, like me, you had missed that game by being on a plane somewhere in the skies of Europe, then a reminder would do no harm –Smith was in goals, there was a back four of Woods, Dowie, Higgins and McCann, a mid-field quartet of Gibson (on the right), Bell, Mason and Cardle, with McDougall again partnering Kirk up front. Regular replacements Clarke and Phinn were on the bench alongside Burke, Keddie and Allison, so there was no sign of new signing Jack Ross.
Cowden, who had surprised many people with their start to the season, not least after Danny Lennon had raided them for three of their better players, made one change, Mbu coming in at the back.
The Blue Brazil kicked off in green and gold, and also with a 4-4-2, which promised, at least to begin with, that they would have a go. However, it was soon obvious that they would defend deep without the ball, and that the Pars would have to be patient. An early goal would have helped, but Cardle saw his second minute shot blocked after Kirk had laid back Bell’s pass, and it was back to probing.
The Pars won their first free-kick in the sixth minute, but a minute later they were picking the ball out of their own net as Cowden broke in style. The ball broke to McKenzie on the stand-side, and with Woods helping the attack Dowie was skinned – the ball going one way and the man the other. McKenzie hared down the wing as his team-mates flooded forward. When Higgins came across he played in Cameron, he in turn slipped it to the unmarked Dempster who had a simple job from 10 yards. 1-0 Cowden, and ecstasy in the North-East stand.
The Pars tried to hit back and soon forced a couple of corners, Armstrong stopping McCann’s overlap and then Kirk was blocked in the act of shooting from Higgins’ volleyed centre. Gibson was on corner duty and he picked out Bell with his third effort, but the mid-fielder’s header looped over the bar.
McKenzie was proving to be a handful when he had the ball, and nearly caught out Smith with a spin and shot from the edge of the box, which the keeper was relieved to tip over the bar. The Pars struggled to clear the corner, but when they did McDougall spread the play to the breaking Cardle, but he dragged his shot wide.
The visitors seemed more than happy with their lead, and were content to sit back and defend. Time after time Dowie was allowed to advance over the half-way line with the ball at his feet, but the Pars could find neither the killer pass nor the inspiration to break down the 10 man defence.
They did have a couple of chances – 10 minutes from the break Gibson played a free-kick square to McCann, whose diagonal drive ended up at McDougall’s feet, but the latter’s attempts to dribble through the serried ranks of the Cowden defence was doomed to failure, although Mason might have done better with his follow up shot – then Gibson himself switched feet to create a shooting opportunity, but hit the ball rather tamely into Hay’s hands.
Half time: Pars 0 Blue Brazil 1
After the slightly surreal sight of several school-boys attempting to recreate the famous 6-2 win over Valencia, the match reconvened with Clarke in place of McDougall, and a more direct approach, with Smith hitting long, rather than passing short. Some early pressure got the Pars fans on their feet but another disappointing corner squandered the momentum. Cowden were still pinned back though, with Higgins and Dowie seemingly being allowed to advance even further up the park unchallenged. However, it just wasn’t happening for Dunfermline – passes were just too firm or a fraction short, runs a little early or a smidgeon late. In short, rather like the half-time entertainment, the timing was slightly out. The Pars kept plugging away though. Woods tried to curl an effort with his left foot from the edge of the area in 51 minutes, but was wide, and then McCann, after losing the ball recovered well, skipped past the full-back to cross to Bell who headed straight at Hay.