SPL v Dundee United
DUNDEE UNITED 3 DUNFERMLINE 0 Date: 31/03/12
Attendance: 6654, Kick Off: 3:00pm.
Referee: John Beaton
Dunfermline took the road to the City of Discovery in search of survival points. After a crazy week of petrol pump panic it remained to be seen if they would be adequately fueled up to face Dundee United. A win would take the Pars level on points with Hibs who don`t play Inverness Caley Thistle until the following afternoon.
Jim Jefferies brought in Andy Kirk for Liam Buchanan up front and David Graham dropped on to the bench to allow for the return of Kevin Rutkiewicz. United brought back Robbie Neilson in place of Keith Watson.
The visitors kicked off but it was United who created the early danger. First Jon Daly threatened to dispossess Alex Keddie down on the left byeline but the defender recovered to coolly send the ball back upfield. Quickly however Paul Dixon crossed a great ball into the Pars box that Daly could only head wide.
A free kick and then a corner kept up the pressure on the Fifers but they cleared both without much of a problem. Gavin Gunning`s speculative shot from 40 yards out failed to trouble Chris Smith as it thundered wide right.
It took ten minutes before the Pars could push up into United`s half with MacMillan trying to penetrate the opposition defence and Martin Hardie displaying all his skills to control a pass from Rutkiewicz.
On 14 minutes Smith fisted away a cross to the back post and only managed to set up Dixon for a shot. Luck was on the Pars side as the well struck low effort failed to be turned into the Pars goal. Two minutes later Neilson raced in to get a shot on a good Mackay-Steven cross in from the left but the right back crashed his shot over the bar from 8 yards out.
The second of two corners in 19 minutes saw Gunning head the back of Rutkiewicz head, a sore one but thankfully the ball was cleared. Having recovered, Rutkiewicz was then rather harshly yellow carded five minutes later for hand ball when it was more likely that the ball played the hand.
The Pars first real chance came In 32 minutes when a good delivery from Joe Cardle was met by Keddie but his free header was directed over the crossbar.Then within the minute Gary Mackay-Steven released a stinging shot from 30 yards that Smith dived to turn around his right hand post.
A free kick after Hardie was taken down by Dillon was swung over by Cardle. Kirk got his head to it as a posse of players ran in on goal but the ball was deflected behind for a corner. Things looked better for the Pars as they stopped United stringing passes together.
Cardle broke down the left but four defenders were waiting to head away his pass. Dixon floated a free kick through the Pars box after Gary Mason was penalised for a challenge on Mackay-Steven. A Pars corner in the added minute at the end of the half was overhit but another was forced by Rutkiewicz but Kirk was fouling the keeper and the teams went in all square.
The Pars had sustained the impressive early pressure from United, they did come into the game in spells but the home side always looked the more confident. Nevertheless there was all to play for in the second half in which the Pars attacked the goal at the Dens end.
Half time: Dundee United 0 Dunfermline 0
A misunderstanding between Dowie and Rutkiewicz gave United a corner after just 70 seconds of the restart and there was danger as the ball dropped in space on the penalty spot but Dowie redeemed himself with an excellent interception.
Then in 49 minutes a long throw in from Neilson on the right was aimed at the spot again and this time DALY latched on to the chance to lace a wonderful strike past Smith.
Next Mackay-Steven tried a low shot from 25 yards but Smith held. Johnny Russell got the ball to Daly in front of goal and the Tangerines` captain might have done better but again Smith held, this time with ease.
There were then two bookings in 57 minutes. Dixon was cautioned after leaving his leg in a tackle on Kirk but Hardies attempt from the 37 yard free kick was hit against the two man wall. The big man was then also shown yellow as he chopped down an opponent.
Cardle pumped a free kick into the box four minutes later but Dusan Pernis came out to punch the ball up in the air and then gather under pressure from Keddie. First tactical substitution by Jefferies was in 64 minutes when David Graham replaced Jordan MacMillan.
A really good opportunity came in 70 minutes as Kirk swept a pass in from the right on to Cardle but his effort from the edge of the box was rushed and curled well wide of the right goalpost. Dowie then failed to take on the defence when clearly on, chose to send it back to Keddie and after he struck the ball through the penalty box the travelling support booed loudly.
Dunfermline were not working Pernis nearly enough so Liam Buchanan replaced Andy Kirk with less than 15 minutes to go but it was then a Keddie header on a Russell cross that nearly gave United a two goal lead. Fortunately the ball flashed wide left.
Then in 80 minutes brilliance from Mackay-Steven ripped the right side of the Pars defence apart as he raced through challenges to get the ball to the byeline and cut an inviting ball into the area directly in front of goal where Scott ROBERTSON arrived to smash the ball home.
2-0 became 3-0 within three minutes. Russell held the ball up in the Pars box before turning to tee up DALY for another United goal. Buchanan had tough luck at the other end but the game was well and truly over by then. Peter Houston made a triple substitution with just three minutes to go and one of the subs Stuart Armstrong was very unlucky but Smith got enough on the shot to keep it out.
Not the result the Pars were needing as United marched on to their sixth successive SPL win. Their manager Peter Houston felt that his side faced opposition that showed spirit but with six games remaining, Jim Jefferies inceasingly requires to find the spirit with a magic wand.
DUNDEE UNITED: Dusan Pernis; Robbie Neilson, Gavin Gunning, Sean Dillon, Paul Dixon,; Willo Flood (Stuart Armstrong 87), Scott Robertson (Danny Swanson 87), John Rankin, Gary Mackay-Steven (Richie Ryan 87); Johnny Russell, Jon Daly (c).
SUBS NOT USED: Steve Banks (GK), Ryan Dow, Garry Kenneth, Barry Douglas.
SCORER: Daly (49, 83), Robertson (80)
YELLOW CARD: Dixon (57)
DUNFERMLINE: Chris Smith; Andy Dowie, Kevin Rutkiewicz, Alex Keddie, Austin McCann (c); Jordan MacMillan (David Graham 64), Gary Mason (Paul Willis 83), Mark Kerr, Joe Cardle; Martin Hardie, Andy Kirk (Liam Buchanan 76),
SUBS NOT USED: Paddy Boyle, Kyle Hutton, Ryan Thomson, Ryan Goodfellow (GK).
YELLOW CARD: Rutkiewicz (24), Dowie (42), Hardie (57)
WEATHER: Fine 14C
NEXT MATCH (home) SPL v Hearts
Saturday 7th April 2012, kick off 3.00pm
Ladbrokes Championship: Saturday 18th March, Dunfermline v Ayr United kick off 3.00pm