SPL v Aberdeen
DUNFERMLINE 0 ABERDEEN 1 Date: 21/08/04
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 8533 Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Ian Fyfe, Weather: Sunny 17C
A Noel Whelan goal midway through the first half sent Dunfermline to the bottom of the SPL table, their worst league position since 1999. Irony prevailed as Jimmy Calderwood and Jimmy Nicholl registered their first victory in their new employment on their first return to East End Park. Dunfermline started and finished strongly but could not find their way through the Dons defence which at times pulled off some remarkable stops.
The Two Jimmies got their predictable `warm` welcome but there were as many home supporters applauding as whistling and booing. Dunfermline made two changes from the team that lost to Inverness last Sunday; Barry Nicholson dropping out with a groin strain to be replaced by Simon Donnelly and with Richie Byrne being relegated to the bench, Scott Thomson dropped back from midfield to allow Darren Young to start.
The Pars kicked off towards the litter strewn goals in front of the 3325 strong travelling support in the East Stand and the Pars were by far the livelier team for the first twenty minutes. Noel Hunt in particular pestered the Dons defence. The Irishman beat off the challenge of Philip McGuire and got in a quick shot that had David Preece in early involvement.
In the 4th minute Simon Donnelly laid back a pass to birthday `boy` Greg Shields. His cross found Brewster but the looping header found only the hands of Preece. Hunt had another run down the right but his delivery across the goalmouth went straight through. Then he had the ball in the net but was victim of a doubtful offside decision.
The Pars kept up the pressure with Andrius Skerla being on the end of a Darren Young ball and Brewster setting up Hunt for another cross that Donnelly left for Mason but Craig stepped in to guide the ball back to his goalkeeper. Next minute, it was the 17th, Hunt played a ball off his striking partner to race down the right and fire a shot that went wide to the left of target.
At this stage the Dons only threat was coming from long throws from the right side. Gary Mason had another shot blocked before Aberdeen went into a shock lead. From just inside the Dunfermline half McGuire sent a high ball towards the right side of the Pars penalty box. Derek Stillie came out to narrow the angle but Noel WHELAN dispatched the ball into the net from the edge of the box. Aberdeen celebrations were restrained until they made sure the North Stand side linesman hadn`t raised his flag for offside. No flag, possibly because someone on the Main Stand side played him on and the Pars were one down with 23 minutes gone.
Skerla was forward again six minutes later and got a touch to a Gary Dempsey free kick that dropped in from the left but the ball took the Lithuanian by surprise so the effort went wide right. At the other end Scott Severin came close with a 20 yard shot and then at another Pars attack a Darren Young header to Donnelly was broken down by McGuire to put Severin through on the break. Fortunately Scott Wilson got swiftly back to block.
Brewster and Hunt kept testing the Dons defence and they were unlucky four minutes from the break when Brewster`s final touch was played against the body of the advancing Preece. Next minute Greg Shields should have celebrated his 28th birthday with a goal but having done the hard bit and got himself into the edge of the Dons six yard box he opted to square instead of shooting and the defence got the chance to clear. Having missed that one he then was unlucky when McGuire nipped in to collect Dempsey`s ball from the left as it was directed to reach him in yet another good position. The half finished with Brewster heading Wilson`s long ball wide.
Calderwood was forced to substitute his goal scorer at half time but Dunfermline continued with the same eleven. Aberdeen were first to react to the half time team talk with Wilson being pushed into conceding a corner to substitute John Stewart. It was the Pars who benefited however with Hunt racing away on the counterattack and only a very good tackle by McNaughton stopped the Irishman`s progress towards goal.
Brewster and Mason both needed the physios` attention in the 52nd minute as they were injured in setting up Hunt with yet another chance that failed to trouble the scoreline. Derek Stillie required to gather Adams header at a Tosh corner and then Craig sent a tempting ball along the Pars six yard area. Another close escape followed when Craig robbed Donnelly in midfield. A slick interchange with Heikkinen then let Craig set up Adams but somehow the Pars survived.
In the 59th minute Stillie went away out to the right side of his box and when he lost out to Stewart, Craig was presented with a shot at goal that skipper Scott Thomson hoofed away from the goalmouth. Craig and Adams worked the ball out right for Tosh but Stillie took the cross-cum shot fairly comfortably before the Dunfermline management introduced Derek Young for Simon Donnelly.
The Pars sub was obviously under instruction to get shots at target for his first involvement was to fire a 25 yards shot well wide of Preece`s left hand post. Then two minutes later in the 69th minute Gary Mason had a great chance when Thomson`s long ball to Brewster was flicked on to the midfielder but after running on to the ball smashed it wide left from just inside the penalty area.
Hunt came close five minutes later when good work by Dempsey and Shields on the Pars right set up Brewster with a delicate tee up for Noel but again he was just to the right of goal. Aberdeen sunk back as Dunfermline tried desperately for the face-saving equaliser. Wilson and Skerla made their way forward for free kicks and corners but nothing really bothered Preece.
After Andy Tod was thrown on in the 85th minute Preece was forced into a couple of more dangerous fist outs one of which Derek Young hammered narrowly wide of the left post. The Aberdeen fans and management did not welcome the 5 added minutes signalled by fourth official John Rowbotham and they have Russell Anderson to thank for keeping the Pars out. A Derek Young ball through to Tod looked likely to work the miracle and the big fella was ready to hit the net from close in when the Aberdeen captain somehow managed to get back with a telling tackle.
So it ended 1-0 to Aberdeen and it was almost as though the script had been written for the two Jimmies return. Dunfermline raised their game from last Sunday, played some better football, created many more chances but just did not get the breaks. Hunt in particular showed good form although most of his tricks came in wide positions. Andrius Skerla showed no signs of restraint after sitting on the bench through his country`s 4-3 defeat in Russia. Having tasted the pleasure of goalscoring in the Cup Final and then in the UEFA Cup Andrei is certainly looking for more. Davie Hay has still to record a competitive victory and there is no doubt he will not be worried who gets the goals as long as they start to go in.
Aberdeen: Preece; McGuire, Anderson, Diamond, McNaughton; Tosh, Heikkinen, Adams (Hart 79), Severin (Foster 84); Whelan (Stewart HT), Craig
Aberdeen Subs: Esson (GK), Morrison, Tiernan.
Aberdeen Goal Scorers: Whelan (23)
Aberdeen Yellow Cards: Anderson (26), Tosh (73), McNaughton (77), Craig (89)
Ladbrokes Championship: Saturday 18th March, Dunfermline v Ayr United kick off 3.00pm