Ross County 2 Dunfermline Athletic 2Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Saturday, 13th Feb 2010
This was the classic game of two halves – the Pars were superb in the first half and justly led at the break. County changed things, soon got one back and eventually a late equaliser. After Holmes was red-carded the Pars were left clinging on for a point in a match they should have closed out.
It promised to be an interesting contest after each side had suffered varying fortunes in the cup - the home team had routed Stirling Albion to the tune of nine; the Pars had impressed but ultimately lost against Celtic. Andy Kirk and Calum Woods hadn’t recovered from knocks and so there were enforced changes to the cup team; County’s only change was due to a suspension. Greg Ross was the obvious replacement at right back, having been a little unlucky to lose his position in the first place, and David Graham was tasked with leading the line on his own in a 4-5-1 formation – Fleming between the sticks, Ross, McGregor, Dowie and McCann in defence, a midfield trio of Burke, Phinn and Bell, with Cardle and Gibson providing width. There were welcome returns for both Gary Mason and Scott Muirhead, the latter from injury, and they were joined on the bench by Holmes, Greg Paterson, and the manager. Paul Willis and Chris Higgins had also travelled but that seemed to be about it as far as fit players went.
The first 10 minutes were pretty level; County were first to show in 2 minutes, and after the Pars failed to clear their lines Wood had a half chance from an acute angle, but his shot flashed across the face of the goal in front of the bulk of the 150 or so travelling support. Two minutes later neat play set up Bell, but he chose to play another pass rather than have a shot, a choice which his manager thought was less than optimal, Macca’s loud opinion on the matter being heard by most people in the ground. However, with County pressing, the Pars took the lead in 10 minutes. The ball was cleared as far as Cardle, sitting in a deep, central position. Joe hid a long ball just over Boyd to the breaking Graham on the left who took the ball to the byeline before sending in a deep cross just beyond the back post where the late arriving Phinn got there in the Nick of time to blast the ball into the roof of the net. 1-0 Pars.
It was very nearly two a minute later. From the restart the Pars regained possession, Bell beat a couple down the right, found Graham and David made the most of a break of the ball in the box to curl a left foot shot just past the far post. Another minute later and Phinn was trying to waltz through half of the County defence but tried to evade one tackle too many and lost out. The home team weren’t completely out of it, Di Giacomo and the impressive Gardyne combined to get past the McGregor/Dowie pairing midway through the half, but McCann was alert to sweep up the danger.
However, the Pars were well on top – the luxury of having 3 players in central midfield allowed the man in possession an option, and with Burke dictating play and both full backs looking to get forward, the Pars were seeing a lot of the ball. Cardle was booked as he left a trailing leg when Miller went past him at pace, but kept his chin up to send Graham through on goal in 31 minutes, but McGovern saved well with his legs. A great chance spurned, but the second goal was not long delayed – Phinn got the ball in the middle and found Gibson on the right. Willie looked to cut inside, allowing Greg Ross the space to overlap, and having received the ball he sent in a cross to the back post. Under pressure from Bell, Watt couldn’t get distance with his clearing header and the ball dropped to Phinn who swivelled and shot on the half-volley across the keeper into the far
corner. 2-0 Pars, and deserved on the balance of play.
A measure of the Pars’ dominance was the free-kick count – running at 6-1 against County - and this was made 7 and 8 with bookings for Miller for a two-footed tackle on Phinn, and for Morrison when Bell was too quick for him. From the latter free-kick the ball was played first right, then centrally to Burke, who threaded a delicate ball through to Graham whose chip into the middle was met by Bell, but his header was straight at McGovern.
Half time: Staggies 0 Pars 2
Something had to change, and Derek Adams was decisive in making 2 substitutions at half-time – on came Vigurs for Scott and Kettlewell for Di Giacomo, with County seeking to match the Pars’ dominance in midfield. It was immediately clear that the second half was going to be much more of a battle, with the Staggies enjoyed the bulk of early possession, and they soon pulled a goal back.
McCann conceded a free kick about 30 yards out and 10 yards in from the touch-line. Scott Morrison had scored from a similar position in the drubbing of the Binos and he swung in a dangerous ball which McGregor headed over his own bar. From the corner the ball was only cleared as far as the edge of the box where Lawson drove the ball through a ruck of players and into the back of the net. 2-1.