Dunfermline Athletic 1 Celtic 3Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Thursday, 2nd May 2013
The season ends in disappointment for the young Pars. At half-time there was everything still to play for, but Celtic took their chances and goals from Lindsay and Atajic had them 2-0 up. Smith pulled one back with a fine run and shot, but almost immediately Johnstone scored a third to put the match beyond doubt.
My trips to Hampden over the years have been varied – my first visit was the 1976 League Cup final when future Par Davie Robb won the cup for Aberdeen after a flame-haired Kenny Dalglish had given the Celts the lead. My first Pars game must have been in 1983, when my chief memory was the newly appointed interim manager, one Jim Leishman, showing a surprising turn of pace to race up the line to debate a decision with the linesman. There has also been the odd Scotland game, a few forgettable semi-finals (other than the occasion of Macca’s Panenka impression) and the anguish of a handful of final defeats. So Hampden has never been a particularly happy hunting ground, and whether it’s nerves or the slightly forbidding atmosphere, one never has the feeling of quite being at home as one approaches Mount Florida.
Inside the stadium is little better – the vast bowl like structure leaves you miles from the pitch and all-in-all the experience tends to be a little off-key. However, the stewards were friendly enough, suggesting I make use of the comfy seats (presumably normally reserved for “dignitaries”) and as well as a good number of the small proportion of the first team that were too old to play, several old favourites, such as Andrew Barrowman, Joe Cardle, Paul Gallacher, Gerry McCabe and Hamish French were out if force to support the boys.
It is a sign of the times that the Dunfermline team and positions would be largely familiar to most Pars fans. There were only two players in the starting eleven who had no first team experience, and one of those, goalkeeper Ryan Goodfellow had plenty of experience of the bench; the other was Scott Mercer who started wide on the right. Otherwise, it was a 4-4-2, with perhaps the only slight surprise being Grant Munro, whose first team appearances saw him as a centre-back, selected at left back ahead of Ross Drummond, who was on the bench. Ross Millen was at right back, with Lewis Martin and Kerr Young as centre-backs. Skipper Shaun Byrne was in the middle of the park with Chris Kane, Alex Whittle was back in left-midfield, and Allan Smith and Blair Henderson were the strikers. On the bench were Drummond, Declan O’Kane, Andy Ritchie, Scott Gray and goalkeeper Sean Robertson.
The Celtic side had largely failed to trouble the consciousness despite the column inches devoted by the press to football in Glasgow, although their squad collectively boasted a handful of first team appearances, and had more of an international flavour, with an Australian, an Italian, a Bosnian Swede and one of the Czech Twardzik twins.
As noted, Hampden Park is a different environment, the fans (and the coaching staff) being so far away, but there’s no launching the ball into an empty stand to take a breather as there are plenty ball-boys able and willing to return a spare ball quickly. The Pars kicked off, and made a positive start as it seemed to be Celtic who were more nervous. Within a minute Henderson had put the Celtic central defence under pressure and nearly forced his way through, but seemed to get the ball caught in his feet, and the chance was gone. The Pars continued to go forward and had a good chance in 9 minutes when Byrne won possession, fed Smith who switched it to Munro on the overlap. Celtic made a mess of the cross and the ball came to Mercer at the back, but there were too many bodies in the way, and his shot was blocked.
Celtic settled, though, and soon enjoyed a good spell, forcing a number of corners, all of which were dealt with. Both Atajic, the centre-forward, and George, the winger, were seeing a lot of the ball, with the former trying to dribble through the entire Pars defence, but they stood firm, and they never gave the Swede a chance to shoot.
The Glasgow side liked to build from the back, with right back Fisher looking pacy, nearly getting through on a dangerous looking 1-2 in 14 minutes, but he was thwarted by Martin’s well-timed tackle. The other centre-back, Young, drew applause midway through the half, looking to shepherd the ball out for a bye-kick, suddenly beating two Celtic player with a neat drag-back and turn, although he spoilt it rather with a misplaced pass.
Celtic continued to come forward, and nearly foxed the Pars with what looked like a rehearsed move from a corner, Atajic coming to the edge of the D to collect and laying off, with Jackson’s header from the subsequent chipped cross looking netbound only for Goodfellow to lean back and tip the ball over the bar. However, the Pars were soon struck a blow when Whittle couldn’t recover and limped off, his disappointment at having to leave the big occasion being obvious to all.
Before the game, a joke had been doing the rounds on Twitter, suggesting Chris Kane’s name was already in referee Lambie’s book, with the official only needing to add the time. In the event, 34 minutes was the magic number, by when Chris had already committed 4 fouls. The game had turned again, and was pretty even, Smith finding space for a shot (miles off target as it happened) and Henderson again making a nuisance of himself, audaciously trying to loft the ball over O’Connell, only to be foiled. At the other end, things got a bit heated, Munro suddenly taking a stray arm in the face, and Celtic refusing to return the ball after Mercer had launched it into the stand to allow treatment. However, the half-time whistle soon went, and it was still all to play for.
Half time: Celts 0 Pars 0
After a slightly extended break (perhaps the dressing rooms are further from the pitch at the National Stadium), we were back under way, and the yellow car count was levelled when Byrne skipped past Fisher on the left touchline and was obstructed. The Pars could make nothing from that, but did have a half chance in 52 minutes when Mercer’s cross was only half-cleared and the ball fell to Smith, but he leant back as he hit the ball from the edge of the box and was off-target.
You felt the Pars needed to make the most of such opportunities, and sure enough, Celtic soon took the lead. George had switched wings, and went outside Munro to send in a cross to the back-post, Atajic nodding back across goal where Herron’s header hit the post and came out, and Lindsay was first to react to knock home the loose ball. 1-0 Celtic.