SPL v Dundee United
DUNDEE UNITED 0 DUNFERMLINE 1 Date: 15/05/05
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League, Attendance: 10763
Kick Off: 15:00, Referee: Stuart Dougall
Weather: Sunny 18ºC
What a finish to a match that seemed to be slipping away from the Pars. Dundee United came storming out in the second half and but for the woodwork and keeper Derek Stillie Dunfermline would have been behind before Gary Mason forced a winner just two minutes from time. This result will be celebrated for years at East End Park and the legend that is Jim Leishman just got much bigger.
For this crucial SPL match the caretaker manager went with the same eleven that dismantled the other side of Tannadice Street the previous Saturday. Dundee United were unchanged as well as they went after the one point that would ensure them SPL football next season. Dunfermline had other thoughts with the Fifers seeking the one win they required from the last two away matches of the season to secure their SPL status. If successful it would be their first victory away from home since winning 2-1 at Tannadice in October.
The extremely large Pars travelling support were encouraging their team from the very minute that they came out for the warm up on the sun kissed park, drowning out the much quieter home version. The warm up led by Hamish French was serious stuff. Both Hamish and Craig Robertson along side him had been members of the Pars team that had famously won 1-0 here on 27th April 1996. That day in front of 12,384 fans sealed the Pars promotion to the top flight and on Sunday it was just as important a day in SPL preservation. Leishman had the guys fired up and that was to be taken into the ensuing match.
There were still large numbers of Pars fans trying to get into the ground as Stevie Crawford kicked off for Dundee United defending the goals at the east end. The ball spent much of the opening five minutes in the air and neither side created anything worthy of note. The Pars were first to threaten with Derek Young receiving a long Derek Stillie punt to feed Skerla on the right but although his cross was useful Andy Tod could not get enough control to shoot at Bullock.
An Iain Campbell free kick in the 8th minute was defended out only as far as Andrius Skerla and his drive was ended by a challenge that gave the Pars a free kick 25 yards out on the right of middle. Campbell and Makel stood over the ball as the defensive wall was formed before the former popped an effort on target that the grey shirted Tony Bullock held moving to his left.
The Pars had a ten minute period of supremacy and Gary Mason was unlucky in the 16th minute when Campbell`s ball in from the left was blocked by Kerr at the near post. Four minutes later Bullock saw little of Lee Makel`s 35 yard shot that slipped narrowly wide of the left post.
Stevie Crawford`s delivery from the left was turned out by Scott Wilson for a corner but Skerla easily dealt with that. Next Crawford fed Mark Kerr the ball wide on the right an his cross was headed over the crossbar from 8 yards by Jim McIntyre. After that it was back in Dunfermline`s control. The Young Brothers and the Mason played the ball out to Craig Wilson and when he swung the ball over Andy Tod and Derek Young could only touch the ball back for Darren Young to try a chip at goal that Bullock gathered without any difficulty.
A superb move ten minutes from the interval involving Derek Young, Craig Wilson and Lee Makel allowed Young to send in a dangerous ball from the right but just as Tod was about to head in the opener United managed to divert the ball behind for a corner. The Pars corner was taken by Campbell but, not for the first time in the match, to no effect.
Kerr and Wilson continued to cause the left side of the Pars defence some bother and United almost cashed in on the counterattack until Skerla`s intervention stopped McIntyre but conceded another corner on the left. Mark Wilson`s right footed in swinger was nicely held by Stillie. Before the half time whistle Dunfermline had yet one other attempt with Craig Wilson receiving a pass from Derek Young to shoot on target from 22 yards but straight into the arms of the United keeper.
Half time - the Pars Support
The dregs of the half time refreshments were hitting the deck as Crawford hit the side netting on the right of the Pars goal but then in the 51st minute the Pars thought they had grabbed the opener. Stuart Dougall had blown for a Tod tug on Ritchie before Derek Young slotted the ball passed Bullock from 8 yards.
United had all eleven players inside their own penalty box to defend a Lee Makel corner but were back in their opponent`s box in the 56th minute when Archibald`s shot was belted away by skipper Scott Thomson. Next minute Barry Robson thumped a ball through the Pars box to Mark Wilson and his return was struck against the outside of Stillie`s left hand goalpost.
In the 62nd minute Derek Stillie made a remarkable double save. Crawford swung the ball across the face of the Pars goalmouth from the left, Duff touched it back for Wilson and he sent in the ball for Robson to head goal wards. Stillie did well to get down to stop the header and then recovered to deny Jim McIntyre at the left post. Two corners kept the pressure on the visitors and the 2800 Pars supporters began to fear the worst.
Darren Young took the heat off his defence with a shot that went to the outside of Bullock`s right post. United`s seventh corner of the afternoon was fed by Wilson to Robson who sent a rocketing shot wide from the right corner of the penalty box. There were a couple of nervous moments when Stillie twice came for balls that Wilson and then Skerla turned behind.
United had been in control for most of the second half as the sun sunk behind heavy clouds and McIntyre won a free kick for Wilson`s challenge. Mark Wilson and Barry Robson lined up to take it before the latter fired over the five man wall to test Stillie with a stinger. The keeper sent the ball into the air before clutching it to his chest.
In the 76th minute Scott Wilson made a fantastic timely tackle on Crawford on the edge of the box as the former Pars favourite looked like sending in a killer blow. It was getting even more nervy as United really got stuck in to get a winner; they had the better of the chances in the second 45 and the Pars rarely got near enough Bullock to keep the United keeper employed.
Substitute Derek McInnes sent in a dipping shot that landed on the roof of the net, thankfully the outside and then with two minutes left on the clock Gary MASON got the goal that rocked the South Stand with a tremor that would have been felt at Dens.
Alan Archibald lost out to Simon Donnelly on the right and it was he who centred the ball before it ended up in the net. There were thoughts that Mark Kerr might well have helped the ball into his own net but there will be no stopping the Pars fans` acclamation of the former Man City star whose Dunfermline future is still uncertain.
United stormed back and McIntyre forced yet another great save out of Stillie. Three added minutes passed quicker than you would ever have imagined in the circumstances helped by Simon Donnelly`s possession and then Makel feeding Donnelly with the last chance of the game that trickled wide of the right post.
Stuart Dougall`s final whistle brought euphoria on and off the park. The members of the away dug out ran on to the park, Skerla jumped on Leishman`s back and everyone embraced as they shared relief. SPL status is assured barring a 6-0 drubbing at Rugby Park next Saturday.
Leishman saluted the fans and the players too showed their gratitude before the `Messiah` unveiled his wings and led the team off arms outstretched never to touch down.
Earlier in the week Leishman had spelt out to his squad what Performance was all about. P was not for Performance, Passion or Pride but for Personality. O was for Optimal Productivity. Well as long as it comes in the last two minutes who cares?. As the United choir sang before the kick off it was a "beautiful Sunday".
Dunfermline Squad: Stillie; Skerla, S Wilson, Thomson, Campbell; C Wilson (Labonte 89), Darren Young, Mason, Makel; Tod, Derek Young (Donnelly 67)
Dunfermline Subs: Langfield, Dunn, Mehmet, Hunt, Ross.
Dunfermline Strip: Home White and Black
Dunfermline Goal Scorers: Mason (89)
Dunfermline Yellow Cards: Mason (43), Campbell (54), Stillie (89)
Dundee United Squad: Bullock; Wilson, Kenneth, Ritchie (McCracken 86), Archibald; Duff (McInnes 75), Kerr, Brebner, Robson; McIntyre, Crawford
Dundee United Subs: Colgan, Samuel, Scotland, Grady, Robertson.
Dundee United Yellow Card: Archibald (83)
Ladbrokes Championship: Saturday 18th March, Dunfermline v Ayr United kick off 3.00pm