Falkirk 0 -1 Dunfermline AthleticAuthor: Alistair Campbell Date: Saturday, 7th Aug 2010
Dunfermline nearly had cause to regret trying to sit on a one-goal lead and had to be grateful to keeper Chris Smith who made a stunning save at the death to deny the Bairns a barely deserved equaliser. After Pat Clarke scored in the 17th minute the visitors passed up several chances to increase the lead, none more so than when Andy Kirk missed a penalty, but in the end the three points made their way back across the Kincardine Bridge to Fife to cap a fine start for the Pars.
A large crowd squeezed into the Bairnabeu stadium for the season’s opener, some fans even having to sit on the steps, such was the congestion. Despite some pre-match anxiety, there was a good atmosphere, although the combination of a warm summer’s day and a three-sided stadium still seems a little at odds with the blood and thunder of a local derby.
But to the teams. The Pars had Keddie and Bell out suspended, and so Phinn kept his place, and Higgins got the nod in central defence. There were fitness doubts over Graham and Gibson and although they made it as far as the bench, alongside McDougall, McGregor and Allison, Paul Willis kept his place too. So no real surprises, and the Pars lined up Smith; Woods, Dowie, Higgins and
McCann; Willis, Phinn, Mason and Cardle; Kirk and Clarke. Falkirk had made a few changes pre-season, so their line-up was a little unfamiliar, although Kallum Higginbotham would catch the eye for his trickery as well as his moniker, and Mark Millar, a man with a good Pars sounding name would be keen to show how much he had benefitted from his sojourn at Ujpest.
It was a scrappy and slightly nervous start – Higgins had to head behind for an early corner after Woods lost possession to Higginbotham – but gradually both teams began to settle. In eleven minutes Woods’ deep cross found Cardle on the left and there was half a chance from the return before the ball was scrambled clear. Meanwhile at the other end Smith had to tip over a dipping effort from Millar with Scobbie’s header from the corner flashing wide.
Cardle was beginning to see more of the ball, feeding McCann on the overlap to win a corner in 14 minute before delivering the ball to the back post where Kirk’s effort was turned over the bar. The first league goal of the season wasn’t long in coming. Cardle went outside the right back and his left-footed cross to the near post was met by Pat Clarke whose header crept in at the far post. 1-0 Pars, and exactly the start the 2,000 strong travelling support craved.
Two minutes later the Pars spurned the first decent chance to increase their lead when Clarke held the ball up well for Willis but the youngster blasted over from the angle. A good chance, but not as golden as that offered the Pars in 28 minutes. Again Cardle had the better of Jason Marr whose despairing tackle brought down the winger. Penalty! And a yellow card for the full back, but Kirk’s effort was weak and Olejnik saved easily to his right.
There was more disappointment for Willis on the half-hour when he limped off to be replaced by Graham, but most of the action was on the other wing, as Cardle continued to torment Marr. After drawing another foul his free-kick led to some head-tennis in the Falkirk box, climaxing in a Dowie drive that struck flesh, but referee Murray wasn’t in the mood to award a second spot kick. Instead, Falkirk produced a brief flurry in the final stages of the half. The lively Stewart had efforts with both feet, but couldn’t find the target, and neither could Marr when the Pars defensive wall had stood firm to block a Millar free-kick.
Half-time: Bairns 0 Pars 1
Steven Pressley made a double switch at half-time, Duffie coming on at right-back in place of the unfortunate Marr and Finnegan replacing Compton. Some early pressure from the Bairns was soon dealt with by a cool header back to his own keeper by Dowie and instead the Pars began to pick on a new victim in Khalis. Hassling from Clarke led the tall centre-back to clear the ball straight to Graham, who took advantage of space created by Kirk’s run to advance but he lashed his shot wide. A good chance, and there was a better one in 52 minutes: Woods’ chip over the top was run down by Graham, catching the ball just on the bye-line and his cutback was met by Phinn, but from 10 yards he hit straight at the keeper.