SPL v Kilmarnock
DUNFERMLINE 2 KILMARNOCK 2 Date: 17/05/03
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 6896, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Mike McCurry, Weather: Cloudy, showery 13C
The final home match of the 2002-03 season took Dunfermline to a record number of Premier League points as well as setting a new record number of goals in the top flight. For half of Scotland the main task of the week has been the search for UEFA Cup Final tickets but with the Pars giving away 6000 complimentary tickets for this game to home fans the major problem was giving them away to someone who might use them.
In the end the attendance was 6896 and they should have witnessed the Pars comprehensively ending Kilmarnock’s hopes of UEFA Cup football next season. The Pars managed to miss chance after chance as the visitors tried to claw back from going two behind after just 11 minutes.
Jimmy Calderwood reflected that the match mirrored the Pars season; great start and a poor second half.
Dunfermline brought in Chris McGroarty and Jason Dair in place of David Grondin and Scott Walker with Derek Stillie resuming in goals relegating Marco Ruitenbeek to the bench.
Kilmarnock kicked off towards the Norrie McCathie Stand and although Killie forced Stillie into action within 10 minutes it was the Pars who started with the greater urgency and fluency. First danger came from a Sean Kilgannon cross into the box after Stevie Crawford had sent the former Middlesboro player down the left. When the cross came over Freddie Dindeleux intercepted a ball destined for Brewster in a scoring position.
The Pars did get the quick breakthrough that they were threatening however when with just under five minutes gone a Jason Dair corner from the left was met on the angle of the six yard box by Stevie CRAWFORD. The Pars top goalscorer took his tally for the season to 23 as he rose above everyone to glance a header into the Kilmarnock goal.
Crawford was through again moments later but Gordon Marshall won the contest this time and then at the other end Dindeleux brought Stillie into action as a save was required at the left hand post after the defender headed a Fulton free kick on target.
In the eleventh minute the Pars doubled their lead when McGroarty and Kilgannon worked an impressive move down the left. Chris received the ball back from Kilgannon looked up and picked out Gary MASON who arrived from deep to volley a shot from 16 yards that Marshall could only watch drop into his goal at his left hand post.
Dunfermline now looked comfortable; Brewster, Nicholson and Dair re-discovered the crisp passing and control that had brought success before Christmas and the home fans were justified in believing that there was more to come.
Dindeleux cleared a Dair free kick only as far as Nicholson and Barry slipped the ball right for Dair who tried a snap shot that narrowly cleared the crossbar from 30 yards out. After Greg Shields hauled down Brewster, Nicholson squared the ball for yet another long range effort from Dair that was even closer.
Then in 26 minutes Kilmarnock scored their second fluke goal of the season against the Pars. Gary McDONALD was fed the ball out to the right wing and the cross he returned floated over the six yard box to hit the angle between post and crossbar on the far side and rebound into the right side of the Pars goal.
From being freewheeling the Pars were immediately under siege. Stillie dealt satisfactorily with two Peter Canero headers both of which lack sufficient pace to beat the yellow shirted Dunfermline keeper.
Brewster gave Killie another fright after 31 minutes when Crawford robbed Dindeleux on the edge of the box with Marshall having come out to assist but the striking partnership could not beat the Killie keeper despite the fact he was well out of position. Sean Kilgannon was next to fail to convert a good chance when in the next minute he was through on the keeper and having got the ball on his favoured left foot he was denied by Marshall.
Kilmarnock changed tactic in the 34th minute taking off ex-Par Shields to be replaced by Gary Hay and altering from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2. Kilgannon blasted a 25 yard shot at McLaughlin and then Crawford read the substitutes header to set up Brewster but his shot on the run went over the crossbar.
Dunfermline had the last chance of the first 45 when Lee Bullen headed down a Gary Mason free kick to Craig Brewster but alas the shot was tipped round the post by Marshall.
Gary Dempsey came on for Kilgannon at half time but for a good ten minutes until Jason Dair moved to patrol the left wing, the Pars looked lopped sided. Kilmarnock upped their efforts as they demonstrated that the black arm bands on their red shirts were not there to mourn the loss of possible European qualification.
Bullen displayed good defensive qualities to keep out Boyd in the 49th minute and Canero had a shot that was too high to do any danger. The Pars only reply came from Dempsey who set up Brewster only to see the big man play the ball on to the heels of Hay.
Di Giacomo was introduced as Kilmarnock manager Jim Jeffries adopted Calderwood-like tactics to rescue his Euro dream. The Pars were under great pressure but when Mason played a fancy turn deep in his own half he was able to play the ball up to the other end through Nicholson, Brewster and Dair. Unfortunately the finishing continued to be less than impressive and Kilmarnock survived.
Kris Boyd had a header at Stillie while at the other end Scott Wilson was just wide from a Dair free kick. Andy McLaren was brought on with his instruction "two goals please". It was Dunfermline who got the chances though as the defence held out. Brewster left Dindeleux in the 64th minute but have made ground up the right sent in an early ball that neither Crawford or Dempsey could reach.
Next minute Derek Stillie was adjudged to have been fouled by the Killie forwards when coming for a ball that Wilson ended up palming over the crossbar. Canero almost put Boyd through and then McLaren drove over the crossbar. Pressure was soaked up and chances kept coming Dunfermline’s way.
Dair had a low drive at the keeper and Barry Nicholson was unlucky not to get on the end of a Mark McGarty cross. Bullen got to a McSwegan cross from the right and Canero blasted another chance over the bar. Play switched from end to end as McGarty found Nicholson and Brewster finished off with another ball off target.
With thirteen minutes left Stevie Crawford looked certain to score but failed to turn in from just six yards out. Next Dempsey gave Brewster another opportunity but again the shot from 18 yards was blocked.
More chances fell to Brewster, Di Giacomo drove into the sidenetting and then in the 81st minute an amazing waste by Crawford who after rounding Marshall six yards out took too long and the Killie defence came out on top. Remarkably the visitors then presented Dair and Crawford with yet another chance to finish the Ayrshire hopes but somehow it was just not the Pars day.
The missed chances were to be rued when in the 92nd minute Kris BOYD deflected in a cross from the left to grab the equaliser. Still the Pars got breaks for goalscoring opportunities but it surprised no one that they just weren’t going to go in.
Good defensively play by the Pars which might be very necessary next Sunday at Ibrox and mixed fortunes on the striking front. Good then bad – but that’s our season.
It was the Killie fans who were happiest at the end