SPFL League One; DUNFERMLINE 1 RANGERS 1: Date 03/05/14
East End Park welcomed the League One champions for the final fixture of the league campaign. With a play off place already secured there was hope that the teams would meet again next season in the Championship but for Jim Jefferies' side there were still two significant fences to jump. Given the significance of the play offs Jefferies chose to rest the entire team that started the previous Saturday at Arbroath.
This meant a debut for Lochore lad Finn Graham. The 18 year old had been at Dunfermline for ten years and is yet another of the young hopefuls to come through the youth system's ranks. There were also starting debut for Lewis Spence, also 18, while at the other end of the spectrum there were roles for the two under 20s coaches -34 year old John Potter and 36 year old Craig Dargo. The candles are barely out on Alex Whittle's birthday cake but along with the two veterans, that was all of the starting line that were over 21.
Rangers went with ten of the side that played Stranraer last time out; Ricky Foster's place taken by Sebastian Faure. The teams changed ends before Dargo and Byrne got the game underway with the Pars attacking the goal at the McCathie Stand end.
The visitors forced a corner within the first minute and Ryan Goodfellow pulled off a fine save to deny Lee McCulloch at the near post. There were great expectations in the fourth minute when Dargo broke through the middle but Bilel Mohsni squeezed him out and the shot was deflected behind for a corner on the right.
The Fifers had another good chance three minutes later when Allan Smith controlled a high ball into the Rangers box on the left side but his shot went wide left. A 13th minute free kick 25 yards out handed Steven Smith the opportunity to try and place one past Goodfellow but the six man Pars wall when it was delivered to the edge of the six yard box did its job and the shot was deflected for a corner on the right that Mohsni headed wide left.
There was no holding back on many of the challenges and at the midway stage in the first physio Kenny Murray had to treat Dargo after he was chopped down from behind. The Pars team were defending well as a unit and trying hard to hit on the break. Lewis Martin got his head on a dangerous cross in from the left but Goodfellow was able to grab the ball when it came down in the six yard box.
A crude tackle on Arnold Peralta by Whittle allowed Rangers to pump another dangerous ball to the far post from the right edge of the box but when Mohsni's header back was met by Ian Black, the shot went straight into Goodfellow's arms. There was luck going the Pars way when in 33 minutes Dean Shiels sent his shot narrowly outside the left upright.
Byrne drove a free kick to the far post from the left touchline but the Gers defence headed away allowing Fraser Aird to break down the left but Graham made a great challenge despite the large travelling support obviously thinking differently.
Wlliamson next got in a cross to the near post but Cammy Bell beat Smith to the ball. At the other end Aird got round the right side of the Pars defence but Martin made a spectacular clearance lifting the ball over his own crossbar. When the corner came in from the left McCulloch headed over the top of Mohsni but his header went over off the bar.
That was the closest either side came to scoring in the opening 45 but at the break the young Pars side could feel pleased with their performance with the scoreline all square. Rangers had enjoyed 59% possession and had five corners to the Pars one but it's goals that count.
Half time: Dunfermline 0 Rangers 0
There were no changes for the restart but within 35 seconds Dean SHIELS grabbed the opener. Nicky Law had two shots blocked and the goalscorer was suspiciously offside in the defence's opinion but the goal stood. 0-1
The Pars tried to respond with Byrne attempting to get a break on the left and then Whittle ran at the defence but Rangers were not to be penetrated. Next Allan Smith got the better of Mohsni on the right but as he raced into the box Steven Smith slid in to prevent the cross for Dargo in front of goal.
A Young slip on the edge of the box let Shiels round the left side but Daly's attempt at the near post was eased wide. The McCathie Stand was outraged when Goodfellow was taken out late when going up for a cross but the keeper was able to carry on. Stephen Husband replaced Finn Graham but Rangers continued to get troublesome balls into the Pars box. Potter headed behind as the defence held out.
Nicky Law headed a cross past Goodfellow in 68 minutes but the offside flag was up. A Pars corner from the right two minutes later brought a very welcome equaliser and the first professional goal for Lewis MARTIN. The centre back timed his run perfectly to powerfully head Whittle's cross into the Rangers net. 1-1
Several more corners followed as Dunfermline were presented with the opportunity to spoil Rangers unbeaten league record. Smith played a neat dummy but sub Andy Little deflected the ball behind. Williamson's run was then stopped by Smith and Bell had to be on his toes to collect in front of Dargo.
In front of the Norrie, Potter deflected a Black shot behind off his own post as the Pars defence continued to be tested. Whittle headed behind and Daly was penalised for pushing over sub Jonathan Page. The match which certainly meant more to Rangers who were playing to preserve their unbeaten league record, was to finish all square. A great result for the Pars young men, taking a point off the champions when only two had been dropped all season.
Home wins for Stranraer and Ayr United meant that Dunfermline were heading to Stranraer for the first leg of the semi final play off.
DUNFERMLINE: Ryan Goodfellow, Ryan Williamson, Kerr Young, John Potter (Jonathan Page 82), Lewis Martin, Alex Whittle; Finn Graham (Stephen Husband 62), Shaun Byrne (c), Lewis Spence; Allan Smith, Craig Dargo (Scott Mercer 82).
SUBS NOT USED: Jamie Wilson (GK), Declan O'Kane, James Thomas, Ross Millen.
YELLOW CARD: Graham (38)
SCORER: Martin (70)
RANGERS: Cammy Bell, Sebastien Faure, Lee McCulloch, Bilel Mohsni, Steven Smith; Arnold Peralta, Ian Black, Nicky Law, Fraser Aird; Jon Daly, Dean Shiels.
SUBS NOT USED: Robbie Crawford, Kyle Hutton, Andrew Little, Nicky Clark, Andrew Murdoch, Ryan Sinnamon, Steve Simonsen (GK).
SCORER: Shiels (46)
YELLOW CARD: Black (73)
REFEREE: Don Robertson
WEATHER: Dull 14C
NEXT MATCH: SPFL League One Play Off (away) v Stranraer
Wednesday 7th May, kick off 7.45pm
- www: WEB ALBUM
Ladbrokes Championship: Saturday 18th March, Dunfermline v Ayr United kick off 3.00pm