SPL v Dundee United
DUNDEE UNITED 1 DUNFERMLINE 0 Date: 31/01/04
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 5564, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Kenny Clark, Weather: Cold, Snowing at times 1C
Dundee United made four changes from the team that got knocked out of the Scottish Cup at East End Park three weeks ago, two from the team defeated at Dens Park the previous Sunday. Chris Innes and Jim McIntyre returned and club captain, and scorer at Dunfermline, Derek McInnes found himself on the bench.
The Pars were without Craig Brewster out with an ankle injury sustained in last Saturday`s win over Motherwell. Aaron Labonte came in to replace him and there was a starting debut second time around for Greg Shields.
It was Derek Young then who took the kick off alongside Stevie Crawford and United put pressure on themselves with a needlessly conceded corner by Mark Kerr. Barry Nicholson swung the ball in from the south east corner flag and Scott Wilson was there to challenge and force another corner that Barry again took. This time it was Andrius Skerla whose head powered in a useful effort on target only to be turned away bu what looked like a hand in the United defence.
The Pars early play was encouraging with a fine move involving Derek Young, Greg Shields and Crawford ending with Young just placing the ball too far in front of Shields as he advanced on the penalty box.
Derek Stillie got in on the action after six minutes, first coming for a long McCracken through ball and then diving out to cut out a Barry Robson ball from the left byeline. A miskick from Kerr gave Darren Young possession and he fed Crawford on the left. Paul Gallacher easily held a well struck 20 yard shot from the Pars top goalscorer.
Two minutes later in the 14th minute the home side won a corner on the left off Wilson and his United namesake delivered a low ball to the near post that McLaren flicked across the face of the goals without anyone connecting.
Next minute Billy Dodds tried to work his way into the Pars box and as McCracken joined him in the tussle Skerla stepped in to boot the ball out for another corner this time from the right. Nicholson blocked the first to cause another which was swung high over for Charlie Miller at the far post but the Pars defence nipped it off his toes.
In the 18th minute Dunfermline had their best chance of the game when Stevie Crawford beat Innes to a Nicholson pass and turned inside the D at the top of the box to fire a good shot on target that Gallacher did well to turn around his post.
Aaron Labonte fouled Mark Wilson on the edge of the box on the left side 6 yards out from the byeline and when the ball came over Wilson and Darren Young beat it away. The Pars were beginning to live dangerously and Billy Dodds almost made something of the clearance. Next Mark Wilson forced another corner and Robson`s left footed inswinger intensified the pressure on the Fifers defence before Nicholson cleared.
Greg Shields and Barry Robson; Scott Thomson wins challenge: Gary Mason watches Charlie Miller
A Darren Young mistake after 26 minutes gave McIntyre possession and his ball through Kerr to Miller was driven over the crossbar from the edge of the box. Stillie`s misdirected clearance a minute later allowed Miller to send the ball out left for McIntyre to cross in for the awaiting McLaren. The 30 year old United striker headed the ball first time into Stillie`s hands when he might have done better to take it down and control it first.
Andrius Skerla fights for the ball at Tannadice
Dunfermline threatened again when Nicholson and Mason combined to push Shields up the right. The new man swung in a ball that Derek Young could only head fdown at the far post but again United got the ball away.
The first half ended with the Pars chasing the opener. A Nicholson corner three minutes from half time almost reached Scott Wilson but when the ball was cleared out of defence it was fed back to the left wing where Crawford collected drove to the byeline to float over a fine ball that Scott Thomson rose to head but unfortunately wide to the left of the goals.
Half Time 0-0
United possibly had the greater possession in the first half but the Pars had the better chances and Derek Stillie was barely tested in the first 45. For the re-start Andy Tod was introduced for Aaron Labonte. Dunfermline switched from 4-4-2 to three at the back and Scott Thomson moved on to the left flank.
The changes just about produced the desired return. Crawford twice in the opening four minutes of the second half provided chances for his striking partner. In the 47th minute Young drove just wide from 30 yards and two minutes later Young was through into the box but this time obviously thought about composing himself for a finish and David McCracken swiftly slipped in to rob him.
United fought back. Miller had a good effort from 25 yards that was narrowly wide left. Wilson struck over a ball that Miller edged on to Robson who also shot wide. Next the hosts forced two successive corners after Shields and then Tod had no choice.
It was the 57th minute when Jim McINTYRE scored the only goal of the match. Charlie Miller feigned a pass one way and then the other on the left corner of the penalty box. Scott Wilson tracked him but could not cut out the pass that was then fed through for the former Kilmarnock and Reading player to net from 10 yards. Andy Tod was left standing as the goalscorer darted between the retreating Darren Young and the stranded Skerla. The touch of magic was enough to completely mesmerise the Pars defence.
On the hour a free kick 35 yards out on the left side was flighted into the far side of United`s penalty box. Crawford has peeled away from his marker to make a huge space and he drove in a shot with his right foot that hit the net but it was the outside of the side.
At the other end McIntyre hit the top of the net but then again a free kick put the Pars in a recovery situation. Nicholson set up Shields for a shot that was blocked and Calderwood went for his second substitution as the ball went out for a throw in. Noel Hunt came on for Gary Mason, Derek Young moved to left midfield and Scott Thomson switched again this time to centre midfield.
Darren Young struck a shot from 20 yards that swerved over the crossbar before he was forced to concede another corner as Miller battled down the left and Robson looked likely to convert. Stillie fisted the corner and Chris Innes surprised at the ball falling to him could only turn the ball out for a goal kick.
With ten minutes left the two Jimmies through everything they had at United. Andy Tod moved into the forward line alongside Hunt, Crawford and Derek Young leaving only Skerla and Wilson at the back. Every Pars outfield player was inside the home half in the 83rd minute but Shields` shot was blocked and United tried to hit on the counter attack.
Dempsey came on for Nicholson who limped off and although the Irishman forced a corner Hunt headed that over the bar. The three added minutes saw further Pars attempts but McCall`s men clung on for three points that take them level with Livingston and Hibs eight points behind the Pars.
It was not a day that was conducive to good football. The Pars had a bad day but Stillie had little to save. Another match without Craig Brewster and like the one against Livingston when he was missing, a struggle.