SPL v Hibernian
DUNFERMLINE 1 HIBERNIAN 1 Date: 13/04/04
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 5041, Kick Off: 19:45
Referee: Craig Thomson, Weather: Light Rain 11ºC
It was back to SPL duty for Dunfermline after their Scottish Cup Semi Final in this delayed game because of Hibs CIS Cup Final involvement. After going one down to an early goal the Pars fought back against ten men to equalise and fail narrowly to get the win.
Greg Shields and Scott Wilson returned as expected and there was a start for Gary Dempsey. On to the bench went Gary Mason and Andy Tod, there they were joined by Scott Y Thomson who took the place of the departed Marco Ruitenbeek as reserve keeper and Richie Byrne found himself relegated to the stand.
Hibs kicked off towards the McCathie Stand and captured much of the opening play. Just when it looked like the Fifers were beginning to settle Lee Bullen playing at left back lost possession to Scott Brown midway inside the Pars half. The Hill O’ Beath man sped off down the wing and cut back to Derek RIORDAN just outside the box, right side. The Hibs youngster sent over a chip of a shot that took a deflection off Darren Young as it dropped into the far side of the net. So Dunfermline found themselves one down within four and a half minutes.
This was certainly a wake up call for the Pars, Derek Young immediately responding with a drive down the right. Craig Brewster rose for the cross but Hibs conceded the corner. Dempsey sent it over but Wilson’s header was held by Anderson.
The Hibs keeper got something to save in the tenth minute but it was hardly a test a Barry Nicholson`s weak low drive was easily held. Brewster had a shot blocked as he and Crawford began to create things. Things might have got oh so worse however in the 12th minute as a Scott Wilson back pass drifted towards his own net and Derek Stillie scrambled back to boot it only as far as Alan Reid. The Hibs midfielder failed to net when presented with the chance.
Dunfermline turned up the pressure but Hibs with their speed had to be watched on the counterattack. A Roland Edge pass into the Pars penalty box was one such warning and Stillie was happy to see Brown sidefoot it wide.
Greg Shields took a 20th minute free kick sending the ball deep into the Hibs box and Doumbe went down in challenging. The referee stopped the game as Derek Young`s return from the right was directed wide of the left post by Gary Dempsey. Craig Brewster earned the wrath of the Edinburgh side`s 1598 supporters in the East Stand as he, quite correctly, competed for and won the drop ball situation on the edge of the box.
Nicholson was penalised for a tackle on Tom McManus on the right side and Kevin Thomson curled a shot that appeared to be very close but dropped over for a goal kick.
On the half hour Brewster won a corner on the left off Caldwell and Bullen rose as the corner travelled along the six yard line to head at an angler but over the crossbar.
Leading by example captain Barry Nicholson kept the heat up on the visitors. First his free kick was hooked over the bar by Skerla although it looked suspiciously like hand ball from the centre back. Next Dempsey connected with Nich`s corner from the left but his effort from 25 yards went straight to the keeper. Then his run down the left was stopped when Murdock headed behind for another corner that Barry took and picked out Bully at the far post but his attempt went over the bar.
One minute from the interval Wilson conceded a corner on the left after good chasing from McManus and Kevin Nicol powered in a header from 8 yards that was only just wide left.
A minute into the time added at the end of the first half there were strong and justifiable claims for a penalty for Dunfermline. Shields swung in a free kick that Bullen rose to header. A hand appeared to be used; a stonewaller of a penalty one player claimed after the match. The referee blew for half time and Crawford and Bullen continued to have a heated debate with the man in charge all the way to the tunnel.
Within 50 seconds of the restart Bullen`s pass to Brewster was turned for Crawford but Murdock hauled him down and the referee reached for a yellow card as he awarded the free kick just 25 yards out. Dempsey assumed responsibility for the shot but his chip over the six man wall landed on the roof of the net.
An off the ball incident in the 50th minute when Thomson appeared to kick Derek Young and the Par aimed back a throw earned both players a yellow card. Thomson lasted only seven minutes on yellow status. Bedlam broke out as Crawford appeared to be tumbled by Kouo Doumbe again off the ball and Murdock put in a hefty tackle right under the nose of linesman Willie Dishington.
The man with the flag drew the referee over and nobody really could predict who was going to get what but after lengthy talks another yellow card was shown to Thomson and Hibs were down to ten men. Greg Shields immediately pushed up into the space left down the right and just about made the difference right away.
Shields push up the right ended up with Nicholson and Crawford playing a ball in for Brewster on the edge of the D but the Hibs defence again blocked the striker`s effort.
Edge`s 62nd minute challenge on Brewster as he went for a Bullen cross brought another penalty appeal from the McCathie Stand. No penalty given but the home support were beginning to sense that a goal was a distinct possiblity anytime now.
Darren Young had a go that was wide left and then a great 1-2 from Bullen to Dempsey put the tall fans` favourite through into the box. Bully sent a fine ball into the six yard box but nobody could convert and it slipped away despite Derek Young sliding in close.
Brewster had a thumper of a shot that went for a corner and when Dempsey sent that over a posse of Hibs defenders closed down Nicholson was he went to strike at the headed away clearance. Skerla complained that he was spilled as he went for a Dempsey free klick that resulted from a yellow card earing tackle from Caldwell on Bulllen.
Scott Wilson took a nasty knock in a tackle in the 72nd minute and hobbled off three minutes later despite having had treatment. The ankle injury will potentially keep the former Ger out of the next three Dunfermline matches. Aaron Labonte came on in his place to play the cventral defensive role that he so ably fulfills in the Under 21s.
Perseverance eventually paid off for the Pars 12 minutes from time. Another penalty claim was warranted as Crawford received a fine pass over defenders to him 15 yards out. The ball broke left to Gary DEMPSEY and the referee could forget about pointing to the spot as the ball hit the back of the net.
Billy Mehmet was brought on to play upfront with Brew and Crawford was pulled back into a more creative role. Try as they might there was just no way through the Hibs defence. Andy Tod was thrown on in place of Brewster and with his first touch just about changed the match. Tod found Crawford who teed into into the path of Dempsey but his fierce shot was well saved.
Even after Fourth Official Colin Hardie had indicated three added minutes Dunfermline had three more shots on the Hibs goal. Shields cross was laid back by Tod to Nicholson who shot wide right. Tod next set up Derek Young whose effort was well held by the keeper and then Bullen nodded down to Mehmet but his shot was again saved by the keeper.
Hibs left East End Park still without a league victory since 1991 but the Pars sorely needed three points if the chances of catching Hearts were to be anything other than mathematical possibilities.
A much improved second half performance in a match that Barry Nicholson gave his all. Motherwell await and it will be no easier there.