Stenhousemuir 1-2 DunfermlineAuthor: Alistair Campbell Date: Tuesday, 26th Jan 2010
There was only ever going to be one winner (due to the SFA mandate to treat this as a replay) – it just wasn’t always clear that it was going to be the Pars. However, the full-time team eventually prevailed in a scrappy game largely devoid of quality or thrills.
Let’s get the team news out of the way first – Calum Woods was safely ensconced in the stand, alongside the injured players McDougall, Muirhead, Glass and Bayne (and Scott Y Thomson) and there were the requisite 2 under 21 players in the squad. So far so good. Cardle got a start, and the team was the usual 4-4-2 with Cardle in for McDougall on the left and Graham playing up front alongside Kirk. Macca didn’t name himself as a substitute, preferring Holmes and Higgins, with defensive cover needed due to Calum’s absence.
It’s a long time since the Pars played at Ochilview – the last game I remember there was a 5-0 win over Stirling Albion which included a Paul Chalmers double – and I imagine many Pars fans were making their first visit, as kick-off was delayed by 10 minutes due to crowd congestion. Being a night game, it’s difficult to get the full effect of the ground’s charm (or indeed the view of the Ochils) but the amusing choice of music (“Let’s go round again”, “Substitute” and “Winner takes it all”) as well as tales of neighbours who phone up to complain when the floodlights are on after 10 p.m. all contribute to the genuine footballing experience. In the end, everyone was safely accommodated and the Pars kicked off towards their own support, housed on the terracing at the Larbert end.
After an early scare when Love outpaced McCann to a long ball, the match settled down into the pattern that was to last pretty much the entire 120 minutes. The Warriors flooded the mid-field, denying the Pars players time and space, being happy to allow McGregor and Dowie time to launch an endless succession of high balls forward to Kirk and Graham, which Gair, Smith and Thom gobbled up all night long. Any attempts to play quick passing on the deck were quickly snuffed out by a combination of poor execution and terrier like tackling, as Phinn found in 11 minutes when a neat-dragback saw him lose possession, and McGregor miscued his clearance due to the plastic-pitch bounce.
Kirk raised spirits in 13 minutes controlling a Fleming clearance to create room for a turn and shot, which was always drifting wide and a minute later Graham made a good run easing through the defence but fired past. However, those were rare highlights, and having survived the first quarter of an hour intact, the Warriors grew in confidence, Fleming being quickly out to dive at Dalziel’s feet in 26 minutes after a Gibson tackle had gone wrong.
A fierce and late tackle on Graham earned Molloy the tie’s first yellow card before the Pars took the lead. Stenny were attacking and got men up support, creating some space for the Pars to exploit when they gained possession through Kirk. Gibson switched the ball to Bell who played a delightful through ball to Graham. He cut it inside for Cardle in the box who predictably cut onto his right before neatly chipping the ball over the keeper as he rushed out and spread himself. A fine finish from a player full of confidence. 1-0 Pars.
That was pretty much it for the first half, other than Kirk nodding past the out-rushing McCluskey , the ball drifting wide of the goal, and then Phinn’s being unable to squeeze his volley on target from Graham’s cross right on half-time.
Half Time: Warriors 0 Pars 1
The second half was scrappy to say the least. Other than a series of fouls committed by both sides almost 20 minutes elapsed before the first incident of note, which was the awarding of a penalty to Stenhousemuir, an award which mystified many in the Pars team, other than presumably the party who was guilty of the shirt-tug on Gair. To the elation of the home support, Bradley tucked the ball away quite neatly, sending Fleming the wrong way. If the Pars didn’t know it before, they knew they were in a contest now.
The first sign that the homesters’ efforts were taking their toll appeared in 69 minutes when the debutant Gair cramped up under pressure from Kirk and soon gave way to Motion. Shortly after the Pars had their first effort on goal of the half; Cardle engineered a bit of room, and was unhappy to be upended at the edge of the box by Currie (but not as unhappy as the latter was with the decision). Gibson seems to be on the free-kicks these days and his driven effort looked to have deceived McCluskey, only for the keeper’s trailing leg to divert the ball for a corner.