SPL v Hearts
DUNFERMLINE 1 HEARTS 0 Date: 30/11/00
An understrength Pars team took on Peter Houston`s Hearts. The conditions were not good for football. The rain they can cope with but the wind spoiled the game for the 5642 spectators who did brave the November evening to turn up at East End Park.
Dunfermline kicked off with the wind and the Norrie McCathie stand to their backs. First danger came from the visitors when in the third minute Grant Murray got to the byeline and then headed for goal. His shot was well held by Marco Ruitenbeek. Chris McGroarty switched the threat to the opposite end when he picked up a Jason Dair lay off just inside the Hearts half and travelled on the ball until passing to Steve Crawford whose shot was blocked by Grant Murray.
This confidence boost to Young Chris no doubt encouraged him to have another go in the 9th minute when another run brought a good save from Antti Niemi. Hearts did have their chances. McGroarty was penalised for an over enthusiastic tackle much to the chagrin of the home support. From the free kick Stephen Pressley almost sneaked in at the far post but his header went wide.
Lee Bullen and Steve Fulton both had off the mark attempts at goal as Hearts had a short spell of concerted pressure and possession. With 31 minutes on the clock Andy Kirk latched on to a long ball and then shot wide. Justin Skinner joined the home attack and got a shot in on goal. The effort was blocked and Eddie May then shot wide. Not to be outdone by marauding raids Andrius Skerla was next to venture forward; he set up Eddie May but again Hearts blocked the shot.
Then in the 40th minute Dunfermline won their first and only corner of the match. As the ball was played from the right corner flag the clearance went as far as Jason DAIR whose return ball found no heads but as Pressley and Niemi hesitated the ball slipped low into the net. Jason Dair admitted later that he was "just trying to get the ball into the box and then anything could happen. I was surprised to see it going in."
The second half started with great promise for Dunfermline as McGroarty made another defence splitting movement within the first minute. This time the shot was saved by Niemi. Lee Bullen and Steve Crawford almost got a breakaway but Fulton was on hand as the last man in defence to thwart the break. Having gone the entire first half without a corner Hearts had four in quick succession between the 5th and 10th minutes of the second. Dunfermline defended well and survived an appeal for a penalty when the ball played Skerla`s hand on the hour.
The Pars seemed to be getting driven back into defence by the wind and rain. Crawford had a 320 yards shot which was easily saved by Niemi. Peter Houston tried a double substitution to try to enhance his chances of becoming Hearts manager; Tomaschek and McSwegan came on while Severin and Kirk were withdrawn. This substitution worked better for Dunfermline!
Jason Dair had another go for gold in the 71st minute but his shot went just over the crossbar. Three minutes later Stephen Boyle who was causing the Hearts right flank allsorts of problems, made in on goal and as is blocked effort fell invitingly Barry Nicholson and Steve Crawford collided with Niemi in the scramble to net. The net was not to be reached. Then with ten minutes remaining Lee Bullen headed on into the path of Steve Crawford; he lined up and took aim but the shot was again saved by Niemi.
The last minute of normal time saw Marco dart out to the edge of his area to deny Juanjo and ensure his shut out. On full time a great through ball from Bullen sent Nicholson in on goal and nobody arrived to turn in Niemi`s parry. Crawford was needlessly booked after 48 minutes of the second half for "shooting" after Willie Young had pulled play up.
The final whistle after more than four extra minutes was greeted with much joy from both fans and players alike. Colin Cameron had a quiet match but every credit should go to Rob Matthaei who was given the job of "looking ater him". Chris McGroarty seems to improve with every match. The manager jested that he had been substituted because he did not like playing 90 minutes, but the truth is he was hobbling with what might be a hamstring problem.
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