SPL v Dundee

DUNDEE 2 DUNFERMLINE 2 Date: 10/05/03

Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League

Attendance: 5411, Kick Off: 15:00

Referee: Callum Murray, Weather: Sunny Intervals 13C

Pars fans visiting Dens Park over the years have come to delay their departure until the referee has blown for the final time. Back in November it was Jason Dair who hit the late winner, this time it was Lee Bullen who grabbed an equaliser with just 20 seconds of the regulation 90 minutes left to play.

Scott Wilson returned after suspension and Gus MacPherson came into the side with Jason Dair and Gary Dempsey missing from the team that took on the UEFA cup finalists the previous Saturday. Dundee made three changes from the team that drew with Rangers, Milne, Burchill and Brady starting in place of Rae, Carranza and Caballero.

Dunfermline kicked off playing towards their travelling support on a cool, overcast afternoon. Things almost got gloomier after only 20 seconds when Mark Burchill fired a shot which Ruitenbeek had to hold. The visitors first foray towards Speroni in the Dundee goal came in the fifth minute when David Mackay handled on the edge of the box. Barry Nicholson took the free kick which rebounded off the five man Dark Blue’s wall.

Lee Bullen headed a Sean Kilgannon corner from the right high and wide to the left of the Dundee goal. At the other end Marco was out quickly to cut out a Mackay cross, but play was far from fluid. The Pars were continually losing possession too easily and at times were guilty of sleeping on the ball. Their lacklustre play brought further problems for them when Scott Wilson took down Burchill on the left side of the penalty box , allowing Steve LOVELL to stick away his 13th goal of the season, sending the ball low into Marco’s right hand corner. The keeper did guess the correct way to dive, but the Englishman’s shot hit the net before Marco hit the deck.

Dundee certainly had their tails up and when Garry Brady beat two men on the right side of the penalty area, Scott Walker came to the rescue to prevent a further goal. Khizanishvili was forward in the 20th minute to clip a cross which Burchill headed goalwards. Fortunately, MacPherson was there to head away and when Dundee rocketed in a shot which hit the crossbar, the referee’s whistle brought relief as he noticed the assistant referee’s flag up for offside.

The assistant referee on the other side next awarded Dunfermline a corner to the great surprise of the 22 players on the park. The Pars made little of the corner, but for a period the visitors came more into the game. David Grondin took a free kick within shooting distance of the goal but even given two attempts, both came back off the Dundee wall.

In the 26th minute, Marco yet again kept the score down saving from Steven Milne after the defence had gifted the 23 year old the ball. Play continued to be concentrated in the Dunfermline half and Jonay Hernandez put over two useful crosses for Burchill in the 33rd and 35th minute. On both occasions, the ex-Celt headed wide to the right of target. Khizanishivili broke down a Dunfermline attack on the edge of his box and his long ball through to Lovell almost created the opening for Dundee’s second.

The Pars did rally towards the end of the first half with Brewster’s left-footed shot from the edge of the box causing Julian Speroni to make his first real save of the match. The opportunity came from a neat move from Brewster to Nicholson who returned the ball for the striker to drive at goal. Two minutes from the interval Stevie Crawford fed Nicholson a ball which he crossed nicely into the centre of the Dundee penalty box, but Craig Brewster just couldn’t get high enough to head home.

As the teams went off at half time, Jimmy Calderwood had a quiet word with Jason Dair, obviously telling him to warm up and at the start of the second half David Grondin found himself replaced by Jason. Tactically, Gary Mason moved back to his more familiar left central midfield role, Barry Nicholson moved to the centre from right midfield and Jason patrolled the right flank.

The Fifers did look a more potent force but when the breakthrough came in the 54th minute, it came out of the blue. A through ball picked out Brewster who swept the ball through for Stevie CRAWFORD to run on to. The Pars top goalscorer excellently executed the killer blow with a right foot shot from 12 yards out which he buried in the bottom right corner.

Two minutes later his striking partner almost put the Pars ahead. Brewster won a challenge with Speroni, took the ball left and shot from an acute angle. The ball whizzed across the face of goal and the hopes of the loyal Pars travelling support were rising by the minute. The roller coaster emotions of the travelling supporter were yet again changed when, in the 58th minute, Burchill sent the ball right for Steve LOVELL and with defenders diving in the Dundee man coolly slotted the ball past Marco.

Milne and Smith almost broke down the Pars defence in the 64th minute but when MacPherson came to the rescue, the offside flag was up anyway. The ex-Killie man then made way for substitute Scott MacNicol. The substitute did really well two minutes into his game when Burchill created a chance for Barry Smith, but the young Australian tracked back on his man enough to close down Smith and allow Marco to save the effort.

The Pars pushed up as is their tradition but had to thank Marco for twice performing the sweeper’s role. Nacho Novo tested Marco in the 75th minute and Lovell tried to win another penalty a minute later, but referee Callum Murray experiencing a rare taste of SPL football was not to be fooled with the dive. Sean Kilgannon was next to have a crack at goal, but Khizanishvili did well to block. Jason Dair took the resultant corner, but Dundee headed clear.

Five minutes from time Craig Brewster took a free kick 30 yards out which penetrated the Dundee defence, except for the diving Speroni who got to the shot down at his right hand post. Dundee had yet another chance to put the result out of any doubt when Carranza and Burchill were through with only Scott Walker back in defence. He did enough to delay Burchill’s shot at goal and Marco produced yet another lifesaver, this time with his right foot.

Dundee had been well frustrated by the tall Dutch goalkeeper and their pain intensified when Lee BULLEN found the net in the 90th minute. Bully had been up for a corner kick and had decided just to stay forward as the corner appeared to have been successfully defended. Crawford came deep to play the ball to Dair, who slipped the ball right for MacNicol to cross into the crowded penalty box. The big Dunfermline No.21 got his name on the scoresheet as he deflected home from 8 yards.

It was the Pars supporters who left the more satisfied having seen a below par performance from their side, but with a considerable contribution from Marco Ruitenbeek a point was able to be stolen at the death. So Kilmarnock and Rangers now stand between Dunfermline and a new SPL scoring and points record. If the luck has changed then who knows what is possible in the next two games; they need one goal and one point to re write the history.