SPL: DUNFERMLINE 1 CELTIC 1: 03/05/98
A 3-1 win at Motherwell the previous week had assured the Pars their place in the next season’s SPL and although manager Bert Paton has an eye on two wins to secure a sixth place finish, this match was all about Celtic’s title hopes. After Rangers defeat the previous day at home in the third minute of added time to Kilmarnock, it meant that this was the match where Celtic could win the championship.
A warm and sunny spring day blessed Dunfermline’s last home game of the season. For the home fans there was the added emotion in that it was the last day of standing on the terraces. 22 year old Jamie Squires, on loan from Preston, came in for his Dunfermline debut taking the place of Craig Robertson and Bert placed three forwards on his subs bench.
No club wants to have an opposition and their support turning up to win the championship on their patch. Dunfermline were certainly in that category.
Wim Jansen’s Celtic certainly came to Dunfermline expecting to get their party underway. Celtic`s fans turned out in force chasing tickets for love or money and probably 9000 Celtic fans formed a sea of green and white in the sunshine sunny at East End Park.
Another 9000 watched the game at Celtic Park on the big screen because no Celtic fan believed that the title would not be won and everybody thought it would be won at this game. The huge incentive of course was that the Premier League title would stop Rangers winning ten in a row.
Scotland’s Players Player of the Year, Jackie McNamara returned for Celtic and throughout they created plenty of opportunities to win the game but a goal seven minutes from time ensure that the Pars’ last stand kept the fight for the league title going until the last day of the season.
The title challengers had chances from Simon Donnelly and Henrik Larsson before they went ahead in 35 minutes through DONNELLY. The goal came from a classic defence splitting pass from Larsson and the Celtic player’s sixteenth goal of the season was tucked away into the far side of Westie’s net.
Celtic had plenty chances both before and after the interval. From a corner on the right Stubbs sent a headed effort over the bar. After a penalty was denied by referee John Underhill when Craig Ireland tugged Larsson and the Pars went up the other end immediately to score. On loan Craig FAULCONBRIDGE made a huge leap to scored with his first touch of the ball and the visitors paid dearly for all their misses.
The 20 year old on loan from Coventry City met a Greg Shields free kick from the centre circle and his header spun through the air before dropping inside the keeper’s right hand post. The goal went in right in front of the home support, it silenced Celtic and the celebrations were all Dunfermline’s.
Westwater made yet another crucial save in the closing minutes and after two minutes of added time it ended 1-1. Simon Donnelly was named Man of the Match but forever Craig Faulconbridge will be remembered for his part in spoiling the day for Celtic.
Acute frustration for Celtic and at the end of the game the team and their support beat a hasty retreat to allow the Pars players and management to come out and greet their ecstatic fans who were in full song. “Andy (Smith) must stay” was the message that came over loud and clear. The 29 year old striker who scored 26 goals that season, earned himself a new four year contract.
The next week’s opponents, third placed Hearts had an eye on the Cup Final. The final league match meant little to them but they ended the Pars unbeaten run of five matches and any chance to clinch 6th spot. In the end the Pars finished eighth equal on points with seventh placed Dundee United.
Celtic defeated St Johnstone 2-0 in their final league match to win the league by two points.
DUNFERMLINE: (5-3-2) Ian Westwater: Greg Shields, Scott McCulloch, Andy Tod, Craig Ireland, Richard Huxford, Gerry Britton (Craig Faulconbridge 77), Jamie Squires, Andy Smith, Hamish French (Stewart Petrie 70), Mark Millar (David Bingham 70)
SCORER: Faulconbridge (83)
YELLOW CARDS: Ireland, McCulloch, Millar
CELTIC: Jonathan Gould: Tommy Boyd, Enrico Annoni, Jackie McNamara (Harald Brattbakk 86), Marc Rieper, Alan Stubbs, Henrik Larsson, Craig Burley, Simon Donnelly, Phil O’Donnell (Morten Weighorst 87)
SUB NOT USED: Regi Blinker
SCORER: Donnelly (35)
YELLOW CARD: Annoni
REFEREE: J Underhill (Edinburgh)
League Position 7th
Next match v Hearts (away) Saturday 9th May 1998
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