SPL: DUNFERMLINE 1 HIBERNIAN 1: Date: 02/10/04
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 7290 Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Calum Murray Weather: Blustery 12C
Yet another home draw against the Hibees but it took a late strike from Simon Donnelly to square the scoreline. The ex Celt made his fifth appearance off the bench to score within four minutes of coming on. Earlier Gary O’Connor had shot Hibs into the lead 39 minutes but the recent history of draws in this fixture was to continue.
Thirteen of the nineteen SPL matches between these clubs and the last four at East End Park have now all been draws. Statistics it is said are just like bikinis - it is what behind that is of interest. It was attractive football from both sides and the entertainment value was good. The game swung from end to end with the keepers being kept in constant involvement.
With Gary Mason still out injured Dunfermline started with the team that defeated Partick Thistle only ten days previously in the CIS Insurance Cup. After losing the toss the home side were asked to change ends before kicking off towards the Norrie McCathie Stand. Within the first minute Hibs had won possession and O’Connor’s cross from the right edge of the Pars box was well saved by Derek Stillie from the head of Stephen Fletcher.
The Pars too gave the visitors early warnings of their desires to make it three home wins in a row. A Scott Thomson ball from the left corner flag was met by Billy Mehmet but Ian Murray cleared the danger. Keeper Simon Brown did not get his first touch until midway through the fifth minute, collecting a Barry Nicholson cross from wide on the right.
A move David Murphy to O’Connor created a shooting chance for Derek Riordan in the eighth minute. His shot melted the top of the crossbar but the offside flag was up anyway. Dunfermline broke with Gary Dempsey playing the ball off Thomas Butler before releasing a shot from an angle on the left that Murray flashed at without connecting as it dropped wide of the right post.
Greg Shields won the first corner of the match off Fletcher in the 12th minute. Dempsey’s delivery from the right was headed back across the penalty box from Skerla to Wilson who flicked it back to Thomson and his thundering shot from 15 yards went narrowly wide of the left goalpost.
Two minutes later a Brewster ball in from the right was punched off the head of Dempsey by the yellow shirt Hibs stopper. Then a free kick awarded for Wilson’s challenge on O’Connor allowed Stephen Glass to float in a left footed effort that Guillaume Beuzelin hit on the volley and over the bar.
The Fifers had a good chance in the seventeenth minute when Mehmet sent away Dempsey to get the better of Caldwell and set up his provider. The young striker took a touch while picking his spot at the near post but shot just wide.
In the 24th minute Nicholson lost out to Brown in the scramble to get on the end of Brewster’s nod down of a Butler cross.
Then next minute Fletcher’s foul on Butler 24 yards out on the left side saw Dempsey and Thomson hover over the ball as Hibs built a five man wall with Brewster trying his best to break it up. The captain seized the initiative and curler in a fine shot around the right side of the wall to hit the right post. Brown didn’t move for that one but expertly held the shot from Darren Young on the rebound.
Hibs took the game back to the other end. Beuzelin, Riordan and O’Connor trying to make a breakthrough with Fletcher’s final ball to Riordan being well defended by the Pars. Butler then had two shots at goal. The first in 32 minutes coming after he had beaten off two defenders but drilled at Brown, then four minutes later after Brewster and Mehmet had carved their way through the middle and Dempsey skied a ball in the penalty box the Pars latest signing put in a shot that the keeper easily dealt with.
Hibs lived dangerously with Brewster’s good shot being blocked and the ball being played about deep within their penalty box. Just when it looked as though the Pars looked the most likely to score Hibs took the lead. A pass out to the left from Wilson to Nicholson was a touch too far for Barry and Whittaker sent the ball right for Riordan who quickly switched it inside to O’CONNOR. The Hibs number nine was given space as Skerla was a yard short and he took the opportunity to fire a low right footed shot that sneaked in at the base of the right goalpost.
The half ended with Mehmet hitting another wide after a Brewster ball had broken kindly off Nicholson on the edge of the six yard box.
Dunfermline were unlucky to be behind at the break. They had hit the post and made goal scoring chances but there still remained a question mark over who was going to score for them. Dempsey was very close in the 48th minute. Brewster ball wide right for Nicholson was centred for the Irishman to meet well but the keeper’s save was just as impressive to deny him.
Hibs first try of the second half came from Whittaker who burst through on the right, getting away from Mehmet to send in a testing shot that Stillie parried right for a corner. Shiels scooped that one over the bar after the first ball had been defended. Billy Kirkwood had his ear to the phone twice in the next six minutes during which time his team retained much of the possession and combined well with good passes but produced only a Darren Young shot deflected wide right for a corner.
The word from Davie Hay in the stand resulted in the substitution of Mehmet and the fourth appearance of the season for Derek Young. The home side kept up the pressure on the capital side. Brewster taking a Darren Young pass and firing over the bar from 30 yards. Butler was next to get a chance when Thomson pushed forward wide left and let the 23 year old ex Sunderland man another into Brown’s hands.
The Autumn sunshine that had blessed the second half went behind a cloud and the gloom seemed to signal that the Pars had had their chances.
Riordan reminded us of the danger he can cause, cutting inside Greg Shields to send in a 69th minute shot that was heading for the top right corner until Derek Stillie sprang to his left to turn the ball around the post for a corner.
Dean Shiels left a trail of sprawling Pars defenders in his wake before final defender Scott Wilson stopped his run but the ball broke to Beuzelin and his shot was well saved by Stillie.
Andy Tod came on for Butler in the 74th minute and Derek Young was drawn back from his striking role to play wide on the left of midfield. Toddy had half a chance when Thomson ball to Derek Young was threaded through into the penalty box but the Hibs defence snuffed him out.
Hibs almost doubled their lead in the 81st minute when Shields chest back dropped short to Riordan but the Pars defender was back on his line to clear the back heeled shot beyond Stillie. Play was quickly up the other end and Derek Young played a one two off Nicholson to drive a hard and low shot into the six yard box from the right. Tod, knee on the ground met the ball with his right foot but the ball flew wide to the right of the near post.
Brewster was penalised for pushing as Shields sent a ball into the box and with five minutes to go Dempsey shot wide left. The 3000+ Hibs supporters were in full song but their celebration was premature.
Simon Donnelly had only been on the park four minutes but in the 86th minute Derek Young laced a fine ball from the touchline through into the box from the left. Brewster appeared to leave it and let it run to DONNELLY who lifted the ball over the challenging Murray and past Brown to finish in style. Hibs almost stole the show in the 90th minute. Beuzellin had three goes at scoring from tight in on the right. Stillie saved twice and Skerla intercepted before the Frenchman put the ball on the roof of the net.
With no floodlights for the three added minutes the stands that were now more illuminated than the pitch and the home fans hopes were brighter than their visitors but the match ended with no further scoring.
A point was certainly warranted but Hibs played well too and deserved their share. New boy Butler came through the game well. Greg Shields won the Man of the Match Award but Simon Donnelly’s timely intervention brought the greatest pleasure to fans, players and management.