Dunfermline Athletic v Partick Thistle
Irn-Bru Scottish First Division
Tuesday 23rd March 22, 2010
East End Park Dunfermline
Referee: Crawford Allan
After the “will he, won’t he” saga over the weekend concerning the employment of manager Ian McCall, the Jags headed to East End Park with full focus on on-field matters and in particular, ending a run of 6 away league defeats in a row, the worst sequence since a similar 6-game run brought the end of Gerry Collins’ spell in charge at Firhill.
The view from the main stand of Dunfermline venue where the Thistle fans were housed looks out onto a graveyard, and many Jags’ fans hopes of an away win have been buried here over the years, with our victory last season due to a Gary Harkins penalty being our first in 26 years.
Thistle kicked off towards the “away” end (the small pocket of away fans being housed inside the main stand) showing 3 changes to the side that succumbed in injury time at Cappielow, with Ryan Conroy coming back in at left back allowing Alan Archibald to move into the centre, Bryan Hodge replacing Stephen McKeown, and the much maligned Steve Lovell coming in alongside Liam Buchanan, with Simon Donnelly dropping to the bench.
It was Lovell who was at the centre of the game’s first goalmouth incident with only 3 minutes on the clock. Liam Buchanan picked up the ball inside the box, wormed his way to the byline and cut the ball back. His strike partner couldn’t adjust his feet in time and the ball rebounded off both of his legs and to safety.
Joe Cardle scored a hat-trick the last time the sides met and was in the mood to show what he could do again. Firstly he cut inside Paton and swung in across which Tuffey came for and missed, but probably did just enough in doing so to ensure McDougall’s header went wide. The two former Airdrie men combined again in the 8th minute when Cardle was brought down at the edge of the box, the referee played a good advantage as the ball ran through to the Pars #9 but McDougall, with only Tuffey to beat, went for placement rather than power with his left foot from 16 yards and rolled the ball straight at the Ulsterman.
The next chance game through Cardle again, once again cutting inside onto his right foot (you think we’d have noticed by now), and firing in a low ball that was stabbed just wide of Tuffey’s right hand post by the outstretched leg of Bell.
Dunfermline were doing most of the pressing at this stage with Phinn also playing well, and he set up Cardle in 23 minutes with a slightly fortuitous pass intended for Graham. Cardle showed why he prefers to use his right foot as his swing with the left peg led to a huge slice wide of target from just inside the box.
After all that pressing, Thistle took the lead against the run of play after 26 minutes and with a huge slice (or two) of luck that hasn’t been present for most of the season. A Dunfermline player overran the ball in midfield and Alan Archibald “put his foot through it” as Andy Gray likes to say, with little regard for its direction other than in the opposite direction to the Thistle goal. The ball couldn’t have been more accurate if he tried as it hooked straight to the feet of Liam Buchanan, back to goal just inside the Dunfermline half and with no-one in close attendance due to the speed of the Archibald pass. He turned and headed for goal, and with the defence backing off and the only other option a pass to a wildly off-form Lovell, elected to shoot from 25 yards.
Only Greg Fleming, in goals for Dunfermline, can truly explain what happened next, but the end result was that Liam’s tame shot that was straight at him somehow slipped from his grasp and between his legs as he dived forward, and trundled slowly into the net. 1-0 Thistle.
With Dunfermline a bit at sea after that howler, Corcoran- who turned in an anonymous performance otherwise- volleyed over a Paton cross at the back post, but then it was back to the home side doing the attacking, and with their first real chance since going behind, they equalised 10 minutes before half time. McDougall was played in behind Conroy through the inside right channel and with the on-loan Celtic man sensibly deciding not to concede a penalty and leave us playing 55 minutes with 10 men, McDougall kept his composure to side foot into Tuffey’s right hand corner from 12 yards.
The rest of the first half largely passed without incident, other than Paton picking up a yellow card for giving Joe Cardle an imprint of his studs on his ankle and a fairly ludicrous penalty shout after a swan dive from a Dunfermline player in the box that somehow escaped without a yellow card.
Thistle would have been much the happier to go in level at the break, but changes were needed and a double switch was made at half time with Donnelly and McKeown replacing the invisible Corcoran and the confidence-stricken Lovell.
The changes didn’t immediately halt the pattern of play, as Phinn headed wide just seconds into the half. Phinn was again in the thick of it as he burst into the right hand side of the box 5 minutes later but Tuffey made his best save of the night to deny him. With 60 seconds the same player fooled the Jags defence with a stepover dummy and when he received the return pass he was again given a clear sight of goal but his finish from more or less the same spot as previously was weak and easily held. The movement of Phinn, Graham, Mcdougall, and Cardle was pulling Thistle all over the place and we were given some respite when Graham tweaked a hamstring and had to be replaced.
The best chance of the half thus far fell to his replacement Ross Campbell, when Archibald failed to step up in time and played him onside, leaving him clear on goal from 40 yards. Tuffey came haring out his goal to reach the long through ball, realised he wasn’t going to get it, and stopped on the edge of his 18 yard area. All the striker had to do was lift it over the stranded goalie and into the net- but somehow his lob went well wide.
After another chance went awry for the Pars with a free header from a corner sailing over, Ian McCall made his final change with Chris Erskine coming on for Bryan Hodge in 63 minutes and shortly afterwards Thistle finally began to get a foothold in the game. Erskine and Buchanan linked well, setting Cairney down the right flank. After a couple of twists and turns, his cross took out the goalkeeper and was headed off the line by Woods, as far as Liam Buchanan who fired into the net. The fans’ celebrations were cut short as Cairney’s cross had drifted out of play, a decision that was accurate judging by the players’ reactions.
Less than a minute later, Thistle had their best chance of the half, a Paton cross from the right finding Buchanan 8 yards out, and in a re-run of his chance against Dundee United in this year’s cup, headed straight at the goalkeeper, who wasn’t going to be so generous again and turned the ball over the bar.
Ryan Conroy’s set-piece ability had been talked up when he arrived, but Jags fans have seen precious little of the hype in that respect thus far. However, twice in 2 minutes he fired in-swinging corners at high pace right across the face of goal with only a touch needed for a goal but no takers.
Thistle were rewarded for their spell of pressure in the 81st minute and it started with the tireless David Rowson chasing back 30 yards to win a tackle then Thistle winning 2 or 3 50/50 challenges, Conroy in particular doing well. Conroy laid it forward to Erskine just inside the Dunfermline half, and he ran forward and drew his man before slipping the ball to Donnelly, moving forward 30 yards out. With the left centre-half coming across to cover, Sid knocked the ball out of his feet then lashed a shot from the edge of the D high past the right hand of the helpless Fleming and into the net.
Thistle were then able to wind down the clock with some success thanks to some tireless chasing by Liam Buchanan, who looked close to his best. He even had a half shout for a penalty when he won the ball in the air and then was flattened, however the referee deemed this to be accidental. More good work by Thistle’s number 9 led to him setting up Erskine on the edge of the box, but finishing doesn’t appear to be the lanky winger’s strong point and he tugged his shot well wide.
There was one last scare, when a 92nd minute corner skimmed off a Thistle head, and as a result Bell wasn’t able to get enough on his header to get it on target. The final whistle was welcome relief for the fans who had made the trip more in hope than in expectation.
Standout performers were Buchanan, who worked relentlessly and held the ball up well, Rowson, who covered every blade of grass as per usual, and Robertson, who was in the right place at the right time on a number of occasions. The subs all had a positive impact as well. A slightly lucky win yes, but how many times have we been on the wrong end of such a result this season?
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