SPL v Partick Thistle
DUNFERMLINE 1 PARTICK THISTLE 0 Date: 20/03/04
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 4349, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Willie Young, Weather: Blustery, Heavy Rain at times 8C
The opposition from bottom of the table Partick Thistle made life difficult for the Pars. It was a very different game from the cup tie two weeks ago despite the Fifers again going ahead within the first ten minutes.
Gary Mason was out with the flu, Andy Tod and Lee Bullen were back on the bench making way for Greg Shields, Gary Dempsey and Derek Young. Thistle too made changes with Arthur, Madaschi and Britton missing from the team that faced the Pars in the cup; Langfield, Anis and Thomson replacing them.
Thistle emerged wearing their Aston Villa style away strip not to disguise the fact that they were the team that Dunfermline last defeated but probably because they needed to boost the sales of their travelling gear. The Jags duly won the toss and made the Pars kick off towards the McCathie Stand. Early play gave little indication that the home side were going to ultimately struggle to overcome the Glasgow side.
In the third minute a good Derek Young burst sent Crawford away down the right and his ball over found Craig Brewster’s head but the wide attempt would not bother Langfield. Crawford sent an effort wide of target two minutes later and the Pars continued the one way traffic to take the lead in the ninth minute.
Crawford and Brewster combined to lay the ball back for a looping ball out of the centre circle from Barry Nicholson. This sent DARREN YOUNG through the middle and fighting off the challenge of Daniele Chiarini he fired into the left side of the Thistle net from the edge of the box to the delight of his team mates and fans.
Eight minutes later with Referee Willie Young ignoring the offside flag of the north side assistant, Darren despatched a shot over the bar relieving the officials of the controversy that would have ensued had the ball found the net. Jamie Langfield’s goal kick soared far into the Pars half over Scott Wilson and Derek Stillie was forced to come out and deflect the ball behind for a corner on the right. Ian Ross swung over a good delivery but Gary Dempsey met it well to clear.
With 19 minutes on the clock Thistle kept up the pressure with an Andy Thomson shot at an angle from twelve yards to the far post. Stillie pulled off a good save touching the ball round the post. Five minutes later a foul on Crawford out on the left wing presented Dempsey with a chance to pick out his tall target men but his ball into the box evaded Skerla and Byrne as they challenged.
The rain pounded down on the stand roof tops as Byrne sent in a ball that Brewster managed to head into Langfield’s arms. There were appeals from the stands when Greg Shields` cross from the right was deflected away by Jean-Yves Anis. Willie Young gestured that it had been a head rather than a hand that had defended the cross.
A Crawford break in the 33rd minute set up his captain Nicholson with a shot that cleared the crossbar. Next minute a Derek Young ball from the right picked out Dempsey who failed to hit the target from 10 yards and then it looked as though those missed chances might have been costly as the Jags were awarded a penalty.
A Billy Gibson shot from 30 yards out was spilled by Stillie and as the keeper tipped it away James Mitchell nipped in to gather the spoils. As the ball went to Stephane Bonnes Shields was penalised for the challenge and a 36th minute spot kick followed. Luck has deserted Thistle this season and the found no change as James Mitchell hit the ball to Stillie’s right to see the keeper hold first time.
Play switched quickly to the other end and Brewster set up Crawford with a shot that was narrowly wide. Two minutes later in the 38th minute the Pars won their first corner when a good individual effort from 20 yards by Darren Young was touched round his left goalpost by Jamie Langfield. The corner went deep to Dempsey but his shot was high over the bar.
An excellent save by Stillie three minutes from the interval denied Gibson and a Crawford cross at the other end teed up for a Dempsey strike that went wide right from 10 yards. Thistle ended the half with a sixth corner (to the Pars one) when Bonnes ball to Mitchell was defended by Darren Young but Wilson easily dealt with the inswinger.
Possibly paying the price for his wayward shooting Dempsey was replaced by Lee Bullen at the interval with the Pars switching from 4-4-2 to 3-5-2. The second half was a great disappointment however with Athletic putting in a poor performance and giving Thistle plenty of scope for an equaliser.
Four minutes into the second 45 Wilson’s foul on Mitchell gave the visitors a free kick opportunity but with Ross, Milne and Gibson hovering to strike the latter cleared the four man wall and the crossbar. Dunfermline took ten minutes to provide any sort of threat when a Brewster corner from the right was headed over by Skerla.
On the hour Rowson picked out Bonnes on the right and his pass to Thomson resulted in an unhappy miss. The Pars then missed too when Derek Young and Brewster allowed Richie Byrne a pop from 30 yards that was too high. Shields tackle on Mitchell gave the Jags a free kick 20 yards out and Gibson struck a fine shot that Stillie held diving to his right.
Aaron Labonte was a 67th minute substitute for Byrne and he was relieved to see his pass to Thomson hit the top of the net from an Anis cross. Thistle steadily introduced all their subs; Jorge Cadette making what appears to have been his final appearance for Thistle.
A Brewster shot etched out of a Derek Young/Crawford move was deflected off the rear of Derek Young in a rare Pars attack. Thistle drove relentlessly towards the Pars goals and after Murray’s ball to John Paul McBride was saved by Stillie the Pars keeper’s throw out went straight to Mitchell. Stillie’s blushes were spared as Shields chested the snapshot wide for a corner on the right.
The corner was fisted out by Stillie but Rowson got in another shot that Skerla defended bringing boos from the home support. Andy Tod came on as Derek Young was withdrawn in the 82nd minute and the Kelty man was quickly involved conceding yet another corner. This time the cross from the left was hit wide by McBride.. Thistle kept up the fight with a McBride free kick being cleared by Bullen.
There was a poor effort from Brewster before Rowson despatched the last try of the game wide right. Derek Stillie was awarded the Man of the Match award in a lacklustre team in which only Darren Young gave him any contest for the nomination.
Things can only get better after such a performance. Indeed it has to for the next Thistle up will be Inverness in the Tennents Scottish Cup Semi Final and the Highland Jags might just take their chances.