One Point Is Better Than NoneDate: Friday, 6th Aug 2021
Saturday saw the opening SPFL Cinch Championship matches of the season take place. Like every side, Dunfermline Athletic were hoping to start off their new term in good form. A tough away trip was not the ideal opening for the Pars, with Greenock Morton`s Cappielow Park notoriously difficult for the West Fifers in recent campaigns.
The sun shone as the game kicked-off in front of less than 1,000 spectators. Coronavirus Pandemic restrictions meant a reduced capacity - with only Ton fans being able to attend. And it was a lively opening, with both sides missing good opportunities; none more so than Lewis McGregor, who smacked the post from close-range with a left-footed effort following a corner, that Alan Lithgow had nodded back across the 6-yard box.
And despite their depleted numbers and a disrupted pre-season, it was the hosts who were in full flow during the first-half. Lewis Strapp played a long ball from inside his own half on the left, towards ex-Par Gozie Ugwu - two errors proved costly for the visitors, as Ross Graham`s attempted clearance provided Ugwu with a header at goal, but he was taken out by goalkeeper Deniz Mehmet, with referee Willie Collum quickly pointing to the spot. Gary Oliver - a thorn in the side of the East End Park club in recent seasons - was the man to step up and slot home the opening goal of the term for Gus MacPherson`s men.
The best chance of the first-half for Dunfermline came following a good move down their left-hand side, with the ball finally landing at the feet of Kevin O`Hara; he lifted the ball to the back post, but his Bulgarian strike-partner, Nikolay Todorov, was unable to find the equaliser, as his header went over the bar.
Peter Grant was left exacerbated after the match, as he told the media that he felt his side`s intensity levels were not at the level he expects and demands. However, his side - despite not being at their best - showed their battling qualities during the second-half of the Match-Day 1 contest in Inverclyde. Todorov would make amends for his miss in the opening period, by slamming home the rebound, following a Josh Edwards volley which Jack Hamilton was unable to hold. The slightly fortuitous bounce of the ball fell to `Toddy` off of a Morton defender: sometimes, that is the luck you need when you are playing poorly.
And the title-hopefuls must have thought they had won the match with 15 mintues to go, as Kevin O`Hara bundled home the Pars` second goal, following a Reece Cole corner. Somehow, the hosts found themselves behind having controlled and dominated so much of the match. But, with just under 10 minutes remaining, the luck of the Gods would change hands: it was the Ton`s turn to get the rub of the green and the bounce of the ball, as substitute Lewis McGrattan made the score-line two apiece.
The youngster had not long come on for the injured Darren Hynes, but he was not fazed as he got himself forward and into the penalty-area. He was picked out on the right-hand side and as he whipped his cross in, the ball took the slightest of deflections off of wing-back Josh Edwards, seeing the ball loop over the helpless Mehmet and into the net at the far post. It was arguably nothing less than Morton had deserved, but the Athletic supporters would be feeling frustrated at letting their lead slip.
Overall, the score-line may just about have been correct: the hosts certainly deserved something out of the match, with the youngsters in which Gus MacPherson has shown faith in repaying his belief with a strong performance and encouraging score-line for the Cappielow club. From a Dunfermline perspective, one point is certainly better than none: as Raymie The Legend points out on the DAFC.Net Fans Forum, the management team of the away side will have learnt a lot about their players during those 90 minutes on the park - their were questions about whether the formation (5-2-3) was appropriate for such a tough away journey, as well as the fitness and team selection of certain players.
With the addition this week of Leon Jones, and with Ryan Dow reportedly now back in full training - as well as Lewis McCann and Iain Wilson making good progress in their own rehabilitation - there will certainly be the option of tactical and personnel changes for this weekend`s opening home league match of the season, against Partick Thistle.