CIS Insurance Cup v Falkirk
DUNFERMLINE 2 FALKIRK 0 Date: 22/10/02
Fixture: CIS Insurance Cup
Attendance: 6933, Kick Off: 19:45
On any other day, talk of the Pars looking to sign a regular of the Nigerian national team might have made more of a splash. However, while talk of Mr West peppered the stands at East End Park before tonight`s match there was only one talking point afterwards - as is customary for a victory over beloved rivals Falkirk.
Almost seven thousand people were brave enough, lucky enough or dedicated enough (or perhaps a combination thereof) to overcome the horrific weather in order to see Dunfermline claim another derby victory as they progressed in the CIS Insurance Cup.
Falkirk contributed admirably by filling the east stand but they were silenced quickly as the Pars made a dream start.
By his own high standards, Scotland`s top striker had been quiet against Kilmarnock - but that was all forgotten about as, with one magical swing of his boot, CRAWFORD drilled the ball past Ferguson and sent the home support wild.
With the goal giving them a lift from the start, Dunfermline always proved difficult for the visitors to break down and it was not until the eleventh minute that Falkirk looked capable of threatening Ruitenbeek`s goalmouth. A neat pass from Colin Samuel found Tosh waiting but he sent his shot skidding across the goalmouth and a yard wide.
Gary Mason was next to test Ferguson`s ability with a well-struck long-range effort but the keeper coped well. Owen Coyle responded by piercing the Pars defence and only the weakness of his attempted lob saved the blushes of the home defence and the stranded Ruitenbeek.
Pre match the Pars manager had worried about the condition of the pitch being a leveller and one would think that the villainy of the weather would put an end to good football but in between the occasional hopeful punts Dunfermline continued to play good football. They remained calm and in control and continued to threaten the Falkirk goal.
With twenty minutes on the clock, Barry Nicholson latched onto a low Crawford cross but was denied superbly by a brave diving save from Ferguson. The Falkirk keeper didn`t need to exert such an effort minutes later when Crawford found himself in a similar position courtesy of Brewster`s assist but couldn`t get a clean enough connection on the ball.
Dunfermline looked a certainty to add to their lead midway through the half when a Nicholson cross from the right was headed back across goal by Brewster but as the ball dropped to the far post Crawford found himself leaning too far back and blasted the ball over the bar from close range.
With the continued pressure from the Pars, everyone wanted a piece of the action and Gary Dempsey was next in line. His first effort from the edge of the box came back at him from a tangled mass of Falkirk legs but he showed quick thinking to rifle the rebound back in. This time he was denied by an excellent save as Ferguson stretched across
For all the Pars` domination, Falkirk were not completely devoid of chances. Ex-Par Owen Coyle might have nodded home an equaliser when the ball was scooped across the Pars goal, had he not found himself crowded out by Mason and Thomson.
Crawford continued to run the visitors ragged in the closing stages of the first half and Ferguson was again called into action when he had to produce an important block from the Scotland internationalist who had collected a dangerous Lee Bullen cross at the keeper`s near post.
It wasn`t just about getting on the end of them though, and Crawford almost turned provider when his neat chip into the box was somehow missed by McGroarty. Crawford rounded off an excellent first half for himself and his team when he let rip with a fearsome drive from the corner of the box but again Ferguson came to Falkirk`s rescue and ensured that there were no rebounds for Brewster to tidy up.
Dunfermline almost enjoyed another wonderful start when, inside a minute from kick-off, a Craig Brewster header sent Lee Bullen off down the wing, and a timely block by the towering Kevin James was all that stood between his dangerous low cross and a second Crawford goal.
Losing Gus McPherson early in the second half (carrying a knock since the dying stages of the first half) forced the Pars to reorganise and in doing so allowed Falkirk to regroup and begin applying pressure of their own. Steven Tosh`s effort from the edge of the box was driven in with venom but was smothered effectively by Ruitenbeek. The big Dutchman came to the rescue again shortly afterwards with a terrific near-post block to deny Jamie McQuilken at close range.
Colin Samuel thought he had a claim for a penalty when Lee Bullen nudged him out of possession in the Pars box but in a break from the pattern established prior to the incident, Willie Young just this once decided not to use his whistle.
As the angered shouts from the rowdy visiting support died down, so too did their team`s pressure and gradually the Pars regained the upper hand. Dempsey and McGroarty combined well on the left wing to allow the latter to send a looping cross into the box. Brewster and Nicholson did not communicate quite so well in the danger area though and in a moment of confusion the young midfielder headed wide of the target under pressure from no one but his team mate.
With twenty minutes to play, Crawford`s determination looked to have gifted him a second when he beat the offside trap and tapped the ball past the advancing Ferguson. With m ore time at his disposal than he seemed to think, Stevie attempted to quickly dispatch goal number two, but Scott McKenzie was on hand to block it. Dempsey might have capitalised when the ensuing corner kick broke to him at the edge of the box, but the young Irishman curled his shot just over the bar.
There is an unwritten rule in the world of football that states that any player returning to action against a former club is obliged to score against them - lucky the Pars were then that, following a free kick clumsily conceded by Thomson, Owen Coyle somehow managed to send his glancing header across Ruitenbeek`s goalmouth and inches wide.
While luck was not with the ex-Par, the current strike force continued to shine and while the gloomy weather may well have reflected the mood of the visiting support, all thoughts of biting wind and torrential flooding were forgotten in a moment of heated euphoria ten minutes from the end.
Craig Brewster picked up a loose ball inside his own half and picked out Barry Nicholson with pinpoint precision. The midfielder timed his run to perfection and was left with all the time in the world to make a beeline for Ferguson`s goal. As he began bearing down on goal, hearts were in mouths in the Norrie McCathie stand in front of him, but commendably he slid the ball unselfishly across goal and within a heartbeat Stevie CRAWFORD had lashed the ball into the net to repeat his international feat of one week previously.
There was a widespread sense that the game was now well and truly beyond Falkirk, and this sentiment was echoed by their increasingly desperate attempts at goal. Kerr and McPherson both sent shots sailing high over the bar from optimistic distances, and with a final roll of the dice the giant Kevin James was thrown up front. The Bairns supporters now sat peacefully accepting the reality of defeat.
It was to no avail for the visitors and in the dying stages Owen Coyle had one final attempt with a quickly taken free kick. That he sent the ball curling harmlessly into Ruitenbeek`s arms is probably a fair reflection on Falkirk`s contribution to the game.
The performance from the Pars was competent but far from memorable, but in derbies and cup games alike silky football takes second place to the result and in that respect Stevie`s double ensured a super Tuesday night for Pars fans. Quite what the intricacies of the footballing institution that is the rain-drenched Scottish derby match might mean to the Nigerian internationalist in the stand is probably open to interpretation.
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