SFL First Division: DUNFERMLINE 3 LIVINGSTON 0: 14/11/99
The St Mirren victory on Friday evening had put them 11 points ahead and defeat at the hands of Livingston coupled with the probable wins for Raith at Ayr and Falkirk at Clydebank would have meant that the Pars could end the day in 5th spot if they were not careful. Over the previous 24 hours thousands of football fans had sung about autumn leaves but for Dunfermline it was important that they did not produce a “fall” of their own.
Following the winter of discontent that had ended with Dick Campbell’s departure, Jimmy Nicholl had the chance to prove that he was a worthy contender for the vacant managerial position. However the Pars performance did little to strengthen his case. Off the park the Dunfermline directors were visibly giving special treatment to former Norwich City and Everton manager, Mike Walker.
Nicholl brought Jamie Dolan back into midfield, Justin Skinner was given a strange new role in the midst of the central defence and Andy Smith started in place of Steve Hampshire. Hamish French was selected to make the half time 50/50 draw.
Livingston had Marc Millar suspended for this game and other former Par Gerry Britton did not feature either.
The game started quietly with Dunfermline playing towards the contrasting noise from the Livingston support. The Livvy drummers were in full flow with a snare drum being beaten for the whole match. I’m not sure whether the West Lothian support were evangelistic “happy clappies” or a Republican Congress party rally but they created an atmosphere when there was a danger that Remembrance Sunday would continue into the afternoon.
A quarter of an hour had passed without a note to make until Chris McGroarty produced a strong penetrating run up the left to produce a cross that McCauldron dealt with with ease. This brought the Pars to life and Smith and Crawford connected to set up Coyle but Livvy intercepted. At the other end Skinner upended King 20 yards out. Derek Fleming took the free kick wide and sent a cross over from the left that Ian Westwater couldn’t reach but miraculously escaped from any real danger.
Andy Smith was caught offside wide on the left in the 24th minute when a free kick (possibly with the ball still rolling) was quickly despatched to him. The Livingston defender kicked the ball back towards the free kick spot but the referee accepted that the offside kick was taken and as the visitors froze Owen Coyle was clear in on the keeper. Unfortunately the Pars top scorer shot wide.
Next Andy Tod had a shot cleared off the line and when the clearance fell to him again his shot was weak.
Very few people in the 4163 crowd noticed an incident inside the Livvy penalty box. The stand side assistant referee raised his flag and Owen Coyle lay slain. It quickly became obvious that as Referee McGarry summoned Sean Sweeney towards him that if a card was to be produced it would be red and consequently a penalty would follow. The red card went up and Andy Smith’s question to the referee confirmed a penalty was the outcome. Stevie CRAWFORD stepped forward and hit a shot low and left into the net under the diving McCauldron.
With Livingston down to ten men Dunfermline should have capitalised. A second goal duly followed when David MOSS met a Scott Thomson free kick from the right. Two down but still Livingston posed a threat and in the closing minutes of the half yet another cross flashed passed Westie to no avail.
Ray Stewart decided to play the second half in 3-3-3 formation Mark McCormick being withdrawn for ex Airdrie man Brian McPhee at half time. This was totally justified when Dunfermline failed to adjust their play to take account for their numerical supremacy.
Charlie King was just wide in the 51st minute and five minutes later David Bingham forced Westie to save after a McPhee cross. Another five minutes produced another near thing from King when Bingham showed great skill and control receiving the through ball to put into his team mates path.
Dunfermline were being outplayed by ten men and when they eventually burst forward in the 69th minute the fans roared their approval. The Pars fought back but never looked like scoring. Chris McGroarty had been stealing forward up the left but was then substituted 15 minutes from time for Eddie May. The fans were not impressed and made their feelings known.
A corner 9 minutes from time saw Owen Coyle try an ovehead kick that McCauldron stole away from Andy Smith. The big striker who had been showing an improved appetite for the game was substituted for Steven Hampshire and immediately the lead was increased to three goals.
Scott Thomson who had switched left following May’s introduction got behind the Livingston defence and cut back for Stevie CRAWFORD to place a shot into the Livvy goal.
This was far from sterling Pars. A bore for lengthy periods and nothing other than a fortunate penalty award and two more goals to be happy about. The BBC pundits will look at the result and think that Dunfermline are back on track but those who paid at the gate to watch this will, without the threat of Railtrack, fear a derailment is possible.
DUNFERMLINE: (5-2-3) Westwater; Thomson, Tod, Skinner, Reid, McGroarty (May 75); Moss, Dolan; Smith (Hampshire 83) Coyle, Crawford.
Sub not used; John Potter
Scorer: Crawford (34 pen, 84) Moss (43)
Yellow Cards: none
Referee: BJ McGarry
League Position 2nd (8 points behind St Mirren)
Strip: Home black & white
Next match v Falkirk (away) Bells Scottish First Division Saturday 20th November 1999
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