Scottish Cup v Inverness Caley Thistle
INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE 2 DUNFERMLINE 3 Date: 20/04/04
Fixture: Tennent`s Scottish Cup
Attendance: 5728, Kick Off: 19:45
Referee: Hugh Dallas, Weather: Sunny Cool 8C
A gem of a goal from skipper Barry Nicholson secured Dunfermline’s place in the Scottish Cup Final, their first since 1968 and a place in next season’s UEFA Cup.
Ten days ago these two sides couldn’t be separated and the Semi Final was destined to go to a replay. Like the venue or not it was clear that Jimmy Calderwood, his players and travelling support were not going to have Inverness Caley Thistle spoil the chance of the Pars qualifying for European football for the first time in 35 years.
Dunfermline welcomed the return of their recently out-injured defenders Scott Wilson and Lee Bullen as the starting line up saw nine changes from the team that lined up against Dundee United on Saturday. Inverness Caley had scorer in the first game goalscorer, Paul Ritchie back but Barry Wilson failed a late fitness test.
Caley kicked off playing towards the Pars supporters in the lower half of the Richard Donald Stand. The South Stand was completely empty but by condensing the small crowd there was a great cup atmosphere as the Pars took the first effort at goal three minutes into the game. When Darren Young was fouled Barry Nicholson chipped in from midway inside the opposition half. Dempsey returned the cleared ball, Bullen headed to Brewster who hit the ball over the top from 12 yards.
Keogh was then given two free kick opportunities from the left side. The first in the fifth minute brought indecision out of Skerla and Wilson and David Bingham amazingly managed to head wide of the left post. The next free kick Craig Brewster was the last man and he headed a flicked on ball clear.
There had been early warnings and after six and a half minutes the Pars found themselves behind. As they pushed up Darren Young lost possession deep inside the Caley half but Bingham burst away and then as he was exiting the centre circle released a ball to his left that split the defence of Skerla and Wilson setting up Paul RITCHIE with a run in on goal. The Caley striker shot right footed through the advancing Stillie, the ball entering the left side of the goal.
It was a stunned Athletic that tried to get back on level terms. Wilson’s ball over Crawford to Bullen was played into the path of Brewster but he hit high over the top without really getting any control on the ball. Looking like they would build something up to get the goal back Wilson’s pass to Brewster was played towards Darren Young but as the ball broke off his arm the Caley defence cleared.
In the 19th minute Inverness came incredibly close to conceding a second. Keogh moved play to McBain on the left and Gary Mason conceded the second corner for Inverness Caley. Liam Keogh sent in over from the left and Steven Hislop jumped in in front of Brewster to send a glancing header narrowly wide left.
Midway through the half the best Pars chance so far fell to Lee Bullen. He headed a Bobby Mann header towards Crawford who touched it back to Bully but Ross Tokely timed his tackle perfectly and it was gone. The equaliser was not far off thankfully. In the 25th minute Craig Brewster was deep in the centre of the opposition half to play a fine ball out to the left where Bully raced on to it and delivered a great ball low into the six yard area. DARREN YOUNG met it early right footing it beyond the keeper`s outstretched left foot into the far side of the net.
Crawford chose not to involve Dempsey just a minute earlier and had he the score might have been increased. Instead he went left and eventually fed the Irishman a ball that he centred for Brew to head wide right. On the half hour Skerla had a good blocking tackle on Hislop as Ritchie put his through into the right side of the box.
Mark Brown pulled off an incredible save from Brewster two minutes later. Brew started the move through Mason to Derek Young. From the right touchline Derek picked out the head of Brew but Brown threw himself at full extension to stop the header and then Brewster took the rebound but fired it against the outside of the left post.
The Fifers were gaining lots of the possession though their first corner of the evening only came in the 36th minute when Brewster’s left footed shot from the edge of the box was touched over by Brown. Then a Dempsey pass to Brewster was chested down and touched with his left for Stevie Crawford to try a shot from inside the D on the top of the box. The Scotland man’s shot was wide right of target.
Darren Young kept Brown busy with another shot that the keeper had to save falling to his left. Three minutes from the interval Gary Dempsey was denied by McCaffrey whose tackle arrived just as Dempsey was about to connect with his shot from close in.
Dunfermline kicked the second half off and keeper Mark Brown was in early action when Crawford sent Derek Young down the left to cross into the six yard box. Russell Duncan forced a substitution from the Highlanders in the 51st minute as he seemed to do himself an injury as he kicked the ball up the right wing. Ex Hibee Darren Thomson was the replacement.
Three minutes later Brewster and Darren Young tried to force a way through on the left side of the box but the defence despatched the ball to their left from where Derek Young whipped in a cross that Tokely headed behind for a corner but alas nothing came from that.
The Fifers might have gone behind in the 59th minute. Thomson sent a great ball out left and Hislop’s shot at an angle from the left hit the crossbar. Golabek next crashed a low shot narrowly wide. Caley’s pressure was almost converted into a lead when Tokely got to the right byeline to send over a good ball that Ritchie rose to head towards goal. The outstretched Pars keeper then pulled off a great save to keep the scores level.
Having survived all that Craig BREWSTER then turned the fortunes. A neat reverse pass from Gary Dempsey put the veteran striker into the left side of the penalty box and he made no mistake with a left footed shot that was deflected by Brown off the inside of the right goalpost to put the Pars into a 2-1 lead.
Byrne was introduced for Dempsey midway through the half and things got heated with three yellow cards in four minutes. Caley pushed but the Pars recovered to take play back to the beach end. With fourteen minutes remaining Ritchie was subbed by former Don Darren Mackie and the SPL side put on Aaron Labonte for Gary Mason.
Two minutes later however captain Barry NICHOLSON sent the Pars support delirious with a great individual goal. Lee Bullen pushed a straight ball in for Barry he got away from his man and then twisted his way passed Golabek, evaded McCaffrey’s challenge and sidefooted in at a tight angle from eight yards. Commentators will compare it with the Archie Gemmill goal in Argentina and even Barry would admit that he couldn’t recall scoring a better one.
Skerla and his defence booted everything clear and there should have been no way back for Robbo’s men. Stillie was out to head away a long ball but Caley were kept well away until the 92nd minute. Scott Wilson’s knee took down Darren Mackie and Hugh Dallas had no hesitation in giving the penalty.
David BINGHAM stepped up and stroked the ball left into the net passed Derek Stillie to cut the lead back to one but time was against Inverness and the final whistle soon arrived. Everyone went mad. Management team and crowd. The players applauded a the crowd and vice versa. Just for once no one wanted to leave Pittodrie.
Brewster as ever was so important for the Pars but Andrius Skerla played with great determination in the centre of the defence too. Calderwood’s team were worthy winners and now Celtic stand between them and legendary status.
Awoken after 35 years Dunfermline, the Rip van Winkel of European competition are back. When dreams come true then Pars we’ll follow you.