SPL v Hibernian
DUNFERMLINE 0 HIBERNIAN 0 Date: 20/09/03
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 9715, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Mike McCurry, Weather: Sunny 15ºC
The first match on the new East End Park playing surface should have yielded three points for the Pars. Instead they had to settle for one from a goalless draw and the rest of the points of view had to be about the surface. The match attracted a large crowd and a massive amount of media and sporting interest.
Dunfermline made one change from the side that went down at Ibrox last Saturday with Craig Brewster returning in place of Gary Dempsey. Hibs kicked off towards the McCathie stand and other than one Lee Bullen burst up the right to unleash a shot that went out for a throw in on the far side there was very little to note from the first ten minutes.
Maybe gingerly paying respect to the untested underfoot conditions it took until the 13th minute before a goal threatened. Darren Young sent the ball square for Andrius Skerla to run on to a launch a great ball into the box for Brewster to head narrowly over the crossbar.
Two minutes later a David Grondin delivery from the left floated into the Hibs penalty box and after Crawford left it for Bullen, the tall no.2 lost sight of it as it spun above his head. Then it was Gary O’Connor who almost struck the opener for Hibs. He got the better of Skerla before sending in a curling shot that just slipped wide of the right post.
Whether or not it was the sight of the Hibs crest on their opponents shirt’s, Stevie Crawford and Craig Brewster appeared to be out to demonstrate the qualities that had them recognised as the most potent Scottish striking force last season. Brewster found himself deep down the right wing in the 17th minute and provided a fine cross for Crawford at the far post. Stevie’s dinking header was aimed inside the right goalpost, but Anderson was just big enough to reach up and spoil the outcome.
Three minutes later Brew sent Crawford scampering down the left with Kouo-Doumbe in his wake. He hit the byeline and centered the ball but again Andersson cut out the danger. In the 21st minute a long kick from Stillie earned a free kick 25 yards out after Crawford was held down by Kouo-Doumbe. With Grondin, Nicholson and Young hovering over the free kick, Barry Nicholson stepped in to drive in a shot that rebounded off the five man defensive wall.
Dunfermline continued to pressurise with Brewster having the ball returned to him via Crawford and Young to evade the challenge of Glass and hit a cross-cum-shot which Andersson collected at the second attempt. Bullen was next to call the keeper into action when Tod’s free kick found Lee’s head on the right side of the box. There was 28 minutes on the clock when a Nicholson cross brought another save out of the Hibs keeper from the head of Brewster.
Crawford was wide on the right three minutes later and his cut-back into the box was blasted over the top by Craig Brewster. It was all Dunfermline and they possibly should have capitalised on all the possession and territorial possession that the enjoyed for the most part of the first half. Instead, Hibs could have gone in ahead had O’Connor’s volley just before the interval been slightly lower and hit the net instead of clearing the crossbar.
At half time Dunfermline substituted Sean Kilgannon for David Grondin. This was a tactical substitution and although Grondin had done little wrong, Kilgannon’s introduction did allow the Pars even further forward. The Pars were again first to threaten with Brewster’s touch allowing Crawford to burst into the penalty box. The Scotland striker appeared to lose control before hitting the deck and weak cries for a penalty were dismissed by referee Mike McCurry.
Andy Tod did enough to deflect away a Garry O’Connor shot. Scott Wilson appeared to collect a thigh injury and he was duly substituted by Gary Dempsey in the 52nd minute. The Pars regrouped with Lee Bullen falling into the back three. Substitute Dempsey’s first touch was a shot that deflected off the Hibs defence after a Young corner had been cleared into his path.
Lee Bullen tried a long range effort that was well wide of the right goalpost, while at the other end a Grant Brebner ball produced a chance for O’Connor that came off Tod and fell nicely for Derek Stillie.
Play was interrupted by a male streaker who seemed to emerge from the South East enclosure and ran the full length of the pitch to dive in front of the North West stand. The players ignored the antics of the attention seeker and referee McCurry failed to produce a yellow card . Eventually, Fife Constabulary took to the park and having closed in escorted the said streaker out of the ground with a police hat strategically deployed to save any further exposure.
Brebner set up O’Connor in the 63rd minute with the Hibs No.9 getting the better of Skerla and a posse of Pars players who tried to halt his progression into the penalty area. Fortunately the striker’s shot was not as good as his build up and Derek Stillie had a relatively easy save diving to his left. Dempsey and Mason combined two minutes later to create a chance for Nicholson but his header was cleared. Kilgannon and Bullen next supplied Mason with an opportunity to lay on another good chance but the Pars support had a united "awe" when the ball seemed to go behind Kilgannon and nobody else was there to convert.
Yet again it seemed to be Dunfermline pushing forward in numbers and with the greater possession. Roland Edge nicked the ball away from Crawford after Dempsey’s ball to Kilgannon had been sent into a dangerous position. Next it was Mason who supplied Kilgannon with another ball which he pumped into the penalty box, Nicholson headed it down in the direction of Crawford but again the Hibs defence came out on top.
The offside flag was up in the 74th minute when Brewster had touched the ball through for Crawford. Oblivious, the Scotland striker struck at goal but the ball went narrowly passed the left goalpost. Temperatures were raised when a Stephen Glass challenge on Dempsey went unpunished and immediately Mason’s tackle on Brebner woke McCurry’s attention. Mason and Glass were shown yellow cards, but remarkably it was Hibs who were awarded the free kick.
DA were parked in the Hibs half for last quarter of an hour of the match yet balls chipped in from Skerla, Kilgannon and Bullen brought nothing. Crawford shot from 25yards but the keeper held the shot falling to his right. In the 85th minute Stevie looked certain to score having broke clear of the Hibs defence, but his shot was blocked by the feet of the diving keeper.
With Dunfermline pushing up so much, Tod found himself in a difficult position as Hibs substitute Stephen Dobbie broke from the half way line. Toddy’s tackle some 40 yards from goal caused McCurry to reach for his cards, and the Pars support were relieved to see it was just a yellow since the tackle could have been perceived as having been the last man.
The final threat to the scoresheet came in the 89th minute when Brewster sent the ball left for Kilgannon to feed Dempsey who crossed and Mason popped a shot at goal from 20 yards which unfortunately dropped just wide of the left goalpost.
This was a game that Dunfermline could have won, should have won, and would have won had they had more luck in front of goals. The football will be swiftly forgotten as attention centres on the merits of the new artificial playing surface. The physios were not on the park at any point, despite predictions by some that the pitch might cause greater injuries. That said, Dunfermline did lose Scott Wilson to injury. The players did appear to tread carefully, but there was little evidence of lack of grip or reticence at going into sliding tackles.
After another week of training on their new surface lets hope that Dunfermline will take full advantage in next Saturdays home match against Partick Thistle.