SPL v Hearts
DUNFERMLINE 1 HEARTS 0 Date: 19/09/04
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 5883 Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Mike Ritchie Weather: Wet 12C
Davie Hay was delighted to watch his team get their first win of the 2004-05 SPL season. After Gary Dempsey missed a 47th minute penalty Barry Nicholson saved the day, converting considerable second half pressure into a winning goal that he lobbed in after 65 minutes. This was Dunfermline`s first victory over Hearts since December last year but more importantly broke the run of 11 games without a win and elevated the Pars to ninth place in the SPL.
In the wake of Thursday evening`s impressive 3-1 win over Braga in the UEFA Cup and with the prospect of a CIS Cup tie against Kilkmarnock on Wednesday, Craig Levein decided to make six changes to his starting eleven to face Dunfermline. Maybury, Kisnorbo, Hartley, Hamill found themselves on the bench as the Manager tried to keep his team fresh . De Vries was out with a hamstring injury and sickness kept out Steven Pressley. In contrast Davie Hay stuck by the same starting line up that came so close the previous Saturday.
Hearts kicked off with their backs to the travelling support but it was Dunfermline who created the early danger forcing a corner within the first minute and Dempsey`s delivery forcing Gordon into a punched clearance that unfortunately Nicholson could not take advantage of. The Jambos got to see a lot of the ball but again it was DA who next tested the keeper. Gary Mason made ground up the left and sent over a cross that Brewster met but his shot from the edge of the box failed to beat the new Scotland stopper.
At the other end Hearts best move of the game so far brought Derek Stillie into the match. A diagonal ball from McAllister into the right side of the box evaded the challenge of the covering back Brewster and Stillie was forced to save from Michael Stewart. Still the Pars attacked the visitors from Edinburgh. Mehmet was dragged back on the edge of the box preventing him to get on to a Shields cross and then when Mehmet`a ball out right to Nicholson was despatched into the Hearts box Brewster`s knock down for Mason was blown up as the latter fouled Sives in an effort to get in a shot.
The home support raised the decibels on the quarter hour as the striking partnership of Mehmet and Brewster threatened to break through the centre of the Hearts defence but the final ball went over the crossbar. Hearts got back into the game as they retained much possession without really bothering Derek Stillie. When Dunfermline won back possession they seemed to lose it far too quickly.
A 31st minute foul on Andrius Skerla as he came forwarded let Barry Nicholson stroke the ball left from the free kick for Brewster and he tried a chipped shot that hugged the crossbar before the ball dropped out for a goal kick. Two minutes later a quickly taken throw in on the right from Neilson to MacFarlane allowed a shot that broke only as far as Stewart but his 25 yard shot was easily held by Stillie.
Ten minutes from the interval Dempsey`s 35 yard free kick broke off the Hearts wall for yet another Pars corner on the left. Demps delivered that one for Billy Mehmey to produce a looping header back to the right goalpost where Neilson headed off the line. Brewster was lined up for a shot after Nicholson had done well to get passed McAllister. Unfortunately Brew`s 15 yard shot was blocked and the chances for the remainder of the half all fell to the visitors.
Skerla`s headed clearance dropped to Jancyzk who sent it left for McAllister who swung over a useful ball for Neilson at the far post but Scott Thomson was there to concede a corner. Neilson and MacFarlane worked the ball to Jancyzk who in turn picked out Wyness on the left side of the Pars six yard box. His square ball to Neilson looked destined for the net but his lay off to Stewart was blasted over the bar.
Those back late in their seats after the half time break missed out on the early second half drama. There was only 52 seconds gone when Gary Dempsey received the ball from Mehmet played a one two off Brew on the edge of the Hearts box and then Berra`s clumsy tackle on the Irishman earned the Pars a penalty kick. Dempsey was the nominated spot kick taker so he stepped up with a shot towards the left centre of goal. Craig Gordon dived the right way and parried the ball away. Mehmet followed up but his effort went wide left as the Hearts defence closed down upon him.
Hearts replied with a header from Stamp that went straight to Stillie and Dunfermline picked it up showing a much greater urgency. Hearts boss Craig Levein was very fair with his post match comments which summed up how the match then went: "Apart for a late flurry in the last ten minutes, we got out played in the second half."
In the 52nd minute a Webster foul on Brewster gave Thomson a shot from a central free kick 25 yards out but his aim was too high. Two minutes later the Pars captain broke down the left wing to supply Dempsey with a fine ball that he chested down and fired in on target but the yellow shirted Hearts keeper was equal to it. Dempsey then took two more free kicks; the first was held by Gordon and the second beat out only as far as Darren Young but his shot was blocked.
Levein could see that his team selection was being called into question and he reacted by bringing on Maybury, Hamill and Hartley and risking the closing 30 minutes with no substitutes available to him. So often wholesale substitutions can turn thing around for managers but on this occasion there was no such immediate positive reaction, indeed the opposite.
Irishman Alan Maybury was now up against Barry NICHOLSON on the Pars right and Barry got the break of the ball off the Hearts sub in the 65th minute. He strode on and put Dunfermline one up with a wonder shot high over Gordon into the far left of the net.
Five minutes later Mehmet won a corner on the left but when Dempsey sent the ball over Dunfermline failed to capitalise but had the consolation of a throw in in front of the animated North West supporters. Nicholson accepted the throw and sent in a dangerous cross that Brewster touched to Mehmet. The youngster`s fine headed effort was turned off the line by Neilson to keep the visitors only one behind.
Hartley collected a yellow card for a late tackle that sent Shields spinning and when Shieldsie served up from the set piece Dempsey fired narrowly over the bar. Minutes later Mason squared the ball to Nicholson but his shot was saved by Gordon. On 78 minutes Mehmet and Brewster set up another chance for Dempsey who burst through into the left side of the Hearts box but his shot was saved off the legs of Craig Gordon.
That was really the last chance Dunfermline had to kill off the Jambos and for the remaining 12 and five added minutes Hearts pushed the Fifers defensive qualities. A Maybury shot from 35 yards was held by Stillie, then the same player found himself in space 30 yards out to receive a MacFarlane pass that he lobbed over the advancing Stillie and thankfully the crossbar.
Hamill sent the ball wide for McAllister and his return from the left wing into the Pars six yard box appeared to richocet off Scott Wilson`s hand. Stillie dived forward to smother the ball and the Pars survived to gladly accept all three points.
Barry Nicholson thoroughly deserved the AutoWindscreens Man of the Match Award.