SPL v Aberdeen
ABERDEEN 2 DUNFERMLINE 0 Date: 21/02/04
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 12035, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Craig Thomson, Weather: Dry Cool 7C
Sadly the only three points that the Pars were in danger of collecting from their trip to the Granite City were from the speed cameras on the A90. Outplayed by Aberdeen, the visitors were well short of the form that won them the points on their first visit of this season back in August. Goals from McGuire and Booth were enough to sink any hopes the Fifers harboured of keeping the pressure on Hearts.
No doubt encouraged by the draw against Rangers last Saturday the match attracted the Dons biggest home crowd of the season for a match not featuring the Old Firm. They were forced to make one change to their selection when Kevin McNaughton failed a late fitness test and making room for Phil McGuire.
Dunfermline made two changes to the side victorious at Dens the previous week. With both Darren Young and Noel Hunt picking up injuries on the training ground, Derek Young and Billy Mehmet were given starts. The bench saw the return of Lee Bullen to the squad.
It was the visitors who kicked off defending the goals at the beach end but within the first minute Chris Clark won a corner as his cross from the left was headed behind. Although the Dons made nothing of it they kept the play in the Pars half for the majority of the opening nine minutes.
The Pars first threat came from a Stevie Crawford ball in from the left directed at his new striking partner but Diamond headed behind before Mehmet could meet it. Gary Dempsey sent in two corners from the left before the Pars were awarded an indirect free kick 16 yards from goal in a central position.
Skerla and Anderson rose for Dempsey`s second attempt and the Irishman returned the ball for the two number fives to challenge again. Diamond`s high tackle on Scott Wilson was blown up for dangerous play but no penalty was given. Instead Scott Thomson took the touch from Barry Nicholson, drove through the eight man Dons wall and brought a great fisted save out of goalkeeper David Preece.
Preece almost conceded though two minutes later when he came out to a ball that Mehmet and Diamond were up for and the Pars striker won the ball as the defender attempted to head back to his keeper and from the edge of the box prodded an effort narrowly wide of the right goalpost.
Early chances continued with Thomson motoring through the centre of the Dons defence but just failing to find Crawford with the final ball. Nicholson was given a shooting chance but his shot was blocked out before it entered the box.
Having weathered the Pars offensive Aberdeen then took control of the match. Hinds forced a corner on the right off Byrne but Sheerin’s ball was easily dealt with by Derek Stillie. Further danger threatened from a free kick after Nicholson and Dempsey had sandwiched Clark. This set piece 25 yards out saw Clark tap the ball to Zdrilic who thumped in a fine shot that Stillie matched with a good diving save to his right.
Stillie showed great composure in the 22nd minute to coolly clutch a Scott Booth cross from the left as several Dons players raced towards him. Dunfermline did have a further chance when a Greg Shields ball from the right was headed on by Mehmet to Crawford but his poked effort just went over the crossbar from six yards with McGuire probably doing enough to close the Scotland striker down.
Given the amount of possession that Aberdeen had begun to enjoy, there was little surprise when Aberdeen opened the scoring in the 36th minute. Paul Sheerin sent a good ball in from the left that McGUIRE took down, turned Crawford and booted in at the far post apparently bouncing up and off Stillie’s ankle. The Pars had few opportunities to equalise although Dempsey tested Preece after Derek Young had laid the ball back to Nicholson who then set up the Irishman.
The Pars defence were almost caught out by a very quickly taken free kick that saw David Zdrilic scampering through on the left but a very alert Scott Wilson averted a further goal. Young had a header wide before half time but the Dons went in at the interval with a deserved lead. Lee Bullen was introduced for the second half in place of Dempsey and the Dons resumed play kicking into the late afternoon sun.
In the 51st minute Sheerin tested Stillie with another shot that was well saved, but then when Hinds tried to turn Skerla on the left side of the penalty box, Aberdeen won another corner. Chris Clark sent over a ball that Diamond headed down and in true predator style despite the close attentions of Shields, Scott BOOTH converted from six yards to claim his tenth goal of the season.
Crawford, falling backwards, put another shot over the crossbar before Grondin was introduced for Mehmet. Nicholson tried to put Bullen through on the right, but his cross was knocked behind for a corner by McGuire. Barry Nic took the corner but Thomson’s shot was blocked. A long ball from Stillie was fed on by David Grondin and Bullen did well to pop up on the extreme left to send a fine ball in for Crawford but the keeper saved Stevie’s effort.
Things got worse for the Pars when Nicholson took a crushing blow on the shin as he shot on the hour. He played no further part in the match and Jimmy Calderwood was forced into using his final substitute with Aaron Labonte coming on in place of the injured midfielder. Aberdeen continued to be a threat with Sheerin bursting into the box but the Pars defence worked well to thwart him. Young received a Crawford pass to hit a shot wide left from the edge of the box in the 67th minute.
The next Pars chance came from a free kick out on the right in front of the travelling support but Grondin’s in-swinger was headed over the crossbar by Skerla. Eight minutes from time Clark played a good one-two with Leigh Hinds and caused Stillie to produce another good save. Clark was put off by a tackle and had he toppled over, might have won a penalty. Substitute Bryan Prunty shot wide three minutes later and would have been hoping to have seen an offside flag because he should have scored, but the referee decided to overturn the linesman’s decision. Crawford had a final chance in the 87th minute, but his shot was not nearly good enough to beat Preece from 20 yards. The referee’s whistle after almost two added minutes was a welcome relief.
The Pars’ performance was lacklustre. Following good early chances that failed to put them ahead, the visitors were outplayed in midfield, slower to the ball than the team trailing 17 points below them in the SPL and never looked like the team that caused Aberdeen such problem in the earlier fixture at Pittodrie. Craig Brewster is sadly missed and one can only hope, given the extending injury list, that the veteran will make a hasty return.