CIS Insurance Cup v Cowdenbeath: Date: 24/09/02
COWDENBEATH 1 DUNFERMLINE 2
Fixture: CIS Insurance Cup
Attendance: 2988, Kick Off: 19:30
Referee: K Clark, Weather: Dry but cold
Recent seasons have seen cup defeats from a variety of lower teams - Inverness, Ayr, St Mirren, Celtic - so it was no surprise to see currently high-flying Cowdenbeath raise their game for the visit of their Fife neighbours. Anyone expecting a swift and merciless killing
off of the Blue Brazil were to be disappointed, not just by the lack of goals, but also by the general quality of Dunfermline`s play.
Despite their faults however, Dunfermline retained possession during the opening stages of play, passed the ball about to their hearts content and although it took until the 8th minute for Stevie Crawford to notch the first attempt at goal Dunfermline looked totally on top and never seemed to be in any danger.
Then Cowdenbeath scored.
The aging terraces of Central Park bring back memories of how Scottish football used to look; accordingly the score was opened after a good old-fashioned long ball. Leaving Thomson and Skerla looking for an offside decision that never materialised, Graeme Brown roamed free
down the left hand side before chipping the ball into the centre of the box. Though headed clear, the ball broke only as far as John ELLIOTT, who let rip with a quite stunning strike from 20 yards that gave stand-in keeper Derek Stillie no chance.
With only 11 minutes gone, memories of recent upsets began to bubble to the surface and the previously vociferous Pars support dropped a few decibels. The tempo shifted accordingly as the Pars desperately tried to claw their way back into the game.
Barry Nicholson sent an ambitious shot wide of the target and Gary Dempsey came a little closer, forcing Gary O`Connor into conceding a corner but the Pars would struggle to get a better chance to equalise than a penalty awarded just under 20 minutes into the game after a
careless handball by Craig Winter.
Nicholson stepped up to do the honours but his effort was saved well by O`Connor. The Pars returned to panic mode and the desperation reached a peak when optimistic fans found themselves trying to claim another penalty for handball shortly afterwards.
The Pars were relying on Lee Bullen`s attacking qualities more than usual against a resolute Cowdenbeath defence and his threat in the air almost brought the Pars back into the game on more than one occasion. First sending a header over the bar, he did better with his second
effort five minutes before half time, sending the ball crashing back down off the bar. Stevie Crawford grabbed the rebound but will not want to relive the moment as he sent his shot across the face of the goal.
Despite Pars desperately requiring his presence in the box in the absence of Craig Brewster, Bullen had plenty to contribute when the Pars finally began to use the width of the pitch. Lee first set up Kilgannon to flash a dangerous ball across the face of goal; he then
followed it up with an outswinging low cross that allowed Gary Mason`s final contribution to the game in the form of an acrobatic volley that sailed wide of the target.
The one-goal lead had already ensured that the first half belonged to the Cowdenbeath support but it could have been emphasised even further following some poor Dunfermline defending on the stroke of half time. Luckily for the Pars, Elliott`s ball across the box didn`t sit quite right for Craig Winter, who blasted the ball over the bar.
The Pars opened the second half dominant again but only in terms of possession. Again they struggled to carve out chances, the first of which was a weak effort by Scott Thomson, and their desperation was perhaps typified by Crawford`s decision to shoot from all of 40 yards.
The ball did not miss by much, but it was a sign of things to come as the Pars began shooting from anywhere, in the vain hope that something went in.
Just before the hour mark Dunfermline finally created something resembling a real chance as Kilgannon left substitute Munro for dead and whipped an excellent cross in from the left. The finish to match failed to materialise though as Gary Dempsey headed wide.
The woodwork then came back to haunt the Pars when a terrific 30-yard drive by Thomson rifled back off the post but the ball agonisingly looped back high over Crawford`s head. Thomson came close again from a Jason Dair cross, but it was beginning to look like the gods were smiling on the Blue Brazil. Further agony for the visitors followed as Thomson continued his forward surging runs and crossed for Dempsey to have a second attempt at goal. This time the net-bound header was blocked on the line by a well-positioned David White.
With so many chances gone a begging, the Pars almost paid dearly midway through the second half. Referee Kenny Clark, the butt of many obvious jokes following the announcement of Scotland`s referees being sponsored by an optician, decided that Scott Wilson`s tackle on Brown 20 yards out had been an illegal one. Wilson picked up a booking but it very nearly got worse as the ensuing free kick struck the wall and spun onto the top of Stillie`s net.
At the opposite end Dempsey found himself foraging for more scraps of goalmouth activity but this time directed the ball straight at O`Connor from ten yards out. Graeme Brown almost showed him how it`s done when he struck a shot from a similar distance, albeit at a much
tighter angle, at the other end seconds later. Stillie did well to parry but it could have been curtains for the Pars had there been another predatory Cowden player accompanying him.
Finally, with only ten minutes left, the Pars skipper threw his team a lifeline. The ball did not look to be travelling too dangerously through the Cowdenbeath box but Scott THOMSON was on hand to nod home the equaliser. His header lacked power but was just far enough away
from O`Connor that the keeper could only palm it into the side of the goal. The ball seemed to take an age to land in the net but at last the Pars were level; it would be of little consolation to O`Connor that he was awarded man of the match just a few minutes later.
Thomson could have rescued the game completely for the Pars with virtually the last kick of the ball, but his well-hit effort travelled straight into the arms of O`Connor.
And so the match entered extra time. It was a chance for Cowdenbeath to grab a glorious winner or for Dunfermline fans to rue the missed chances that would subject them to another half hour of agony.
However, this first half fared better for Dunfermline than the first half of regulation time had. Lee Bullen had several chances himself to grab the glory - first a poor connection saw him hit two shots straight at O`Connor; he then followed these with a pair of headers,
one wide of the mark and one at the keeper. Hurt during the first attempt, he`ll be glad he stayed on as finally, in the 100th minute of play he managed to convert one.
The ball had been bobbling about in the Cowdenbeath box like a game of violent pinball, each team desperately struggling to get the ball in the direction they were shooting. It was Lee BULLEN who came out victorious, eventually managing to find enough space to turn on the
ball and fire a shot into the roof of the net with more power than his previous efforts combined.
Dempsey and Kilgannon both had chances to bury the tie in the second half of extra time but in both instances O`Connor again denied them from close range. It was undoubtedly a bitter blow for O`Connor and his battling teammates but for Dunfermline the final whistle brought
more relief than joy.
Cowdenbeath: O`Connor, Miller (Munro 33), White, Wilson, Campbell, Dair (Gilfillan 69), Winter, Renwick, Elliott (Gibb 105), Brown, Gordon
Cowdenbeath Subs: McDonald, Graham
Cowdenbeath Goal Scorers: Elliott (10)
Cowdenbeath Cards: None
Ladbrokes Championship: Saturday 18th March, Dunfermline v Ayr United kick off 3.00pm