Dunfermline Athletic

Dunfermline Athletic 4-1 Stirling Albion

Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Saturday, 19th Mar 2011

At this stage of the season the mantra “winning ugly” is often trotted out as an excuse to explain a poor performance, although the Pars took this a little to extremes in a game both invigorated and damaged by some odd refereeing. Fortunately Martin Hardie’s third strike in the 92 minute allowed him to steal the headlines from Mr Nicholls.

I was on holiday last week so missed game one of the Binos double header. No bar in Lisbon would provide coverage of our game so whilst I awaited the score I had to make do with Champions League, fado (the Portuguese songs of longing both for things lost and things that will never be attained) and the odd glass of port. However, I was hopeful that the Pars would be back refreshed and ready to give us all something to drink to.

Dunfermline reverted to a 4-4-2 (to begin with) although it wasn’t clear where the goals were going to come from, as personnel had changed with the last two ever-presents (Woods and Kirk) being injured and the whereabouts of Graham Bayne being unknown. Kevin Rutkiewicz was back in central defence, Martin Hardie returned in central mid-field and Andy Dowie had recovered from his injury to take the right back slot. Buchanan and McDougall started as an enforced strike partnership, Graham and Cardle were on the wings, Mason the holding midfielder and Keddie, McCann and Smith completed the eleven. Higgins dropped to the bench where he sat alongside Burke, Clarke, Thomson and Paterson.

Jocky Scott’s Stirling side could be expected to be functional rather than expansive, and they looked to keep things tight by putting a line of 4 in midfield in front of the holding Allison, and playing Tom Brighton as the sole striker.

Stirling kicked off defending the Cowdenbeath end, and after conceding possession the Pars showed their intent with patient passing along the back-line but very little going forward. Instead the nearest things were at the home end. The good work of Dowie’s neat turn in 7 minutes was undone when Mason got caught in possession deep in his own half, but fortunately Brighton’s subsequent goal attempt from the angle was so scuffed that Smith was already on the ground waiting for it. Then, after Smith had dealt with an awkward “Mortonian” pass-back by dumping it in the North-west stand, Stephen Stirling was allowed to run unchallenged and have a dip from 25 yards, although Smith had less bother with this.

The Pars finally had an effort on goal, or more accurately across the face thereof when Buchanan collected Hardie’s ball after making a run into the inside-right channel in 13 minutes. In the 20th minute Keddie was reduced to firing in a low, speculative drive from 30 yards, perhaps more in hope of creating a lucky deflection than any real hope of scoring and indeed the ball eventually found its way to McCann on the byeline and from his cross Hardie headed against the post. Five minutes later and the Pars put together their first decent move of the game when Rutkiewicz stuck out a foot to stop an Albion break, Mason curved the ball to Cardle who slipped inside to Hardie but his shot from 25 yards was always too high, unlike Borris’s shot from Cardle’s mistake a minute later which Keddie had to block.

The game was crying out for a goal, or even a cohesive passage of football but it was a surprise when it came and the game was turned on its head on the half-hour. Dowie had conceded a free-kick in front of the main-stand which gave the visitors the chance to put the Pars defence under pressure. However, the tables were turned when Smith claimed the ball, launched a quick clearance which McDougall and Corrigan chased. The latter half got the ball towards his keeper but when McDougall seemed to go beyond the defender the merest of touches was enough to floor the striker. The referee was 35 yards away but his linesman had a better view – penalty, and as it was a clear goal-scoring opportunity, a red card to boot (as well as a yellow for McHale for dissent). With the absence of Kirk, Hardie took responsibility, and calmly waited for Christie to dive left before rolling the ball right. 1-0 Pars.

However, before the game could restart, it became clear that Paul McHale had continued his “discussion” with the assistant, and the combination of the linesman’s flag and Borris’ reaction meant worse was coming. Sure enough, a second yellow was flashed followed by a red and Stirling were down to 9. This two-man discrepancy only lasted for 6 minutes. Not for the first time Mason lunged in, and with Brighton cute enough to make the most of it, the referee couldn’t wait to bring his red card out for a third time and Gary was making the long walk back to the tunnel.

Still we hadn’t finished with the controversy – as the game neared the interval Brighton (now roundly booed every time he touched the ball) lost possession and Rutkiewicz chipped forward to Cardle in the centre-forward position, Joe chested down and appeared to be beyond Welsh when he too took a tumble. Another penalty, but only a yellow for the miscreant. This time Hardie waited until Christie had dived the other way and “Glad all over” was soon booming out, although Bing Crosby’s classic “it went straight down the middle” would have been more appropriate.

Half time: Pars 2 Binos 0



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