SPL v Hearts
DUNFERMLINE 0 HEARTS 1 Date: 26/04/03
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 6968, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Kenny Clark, Weather: Breezy and overcast 10C
A 57th minute Steven Pressley penalty was the difference between the teams as Dunfermline in 5th took on Hearts in third.
Since the teams last met in Fife , 15 matches in the SPL have been played and the Pars sat comfortably in third place in the league, a clear five points ahead of Hearts. Since then Dunfermline have added just 18 points in 18 games while Hearts have gained exactly double that - 36 - to lead the Pars by 13 points going into this game.
Jimmy Calderwood made four changes from the team that went down at Pittodrie two weeks ago. Scott Wilson and Ged Brannan were suspended; Derek Stillie and Chris McGroarty were injured and Gus MacPherson dropped to the bench. Marco Ruitenbeek was back in goals and there were recalls for McGarty, Hampshire and Dair.
Hearts kicked off towards the Norrie McCathie Stand which was not as well filled as the Hearts end. With their tails up following victory last weekend over Celtic the Jambos started the stronger with De Vries and Valois giving early warnings that they were the men who would make the Hearts tick.
In the fifth minute a Valois free kick from the right was turned back at the far post and Phil Stamp had a crack at goal that he despatched to the stand. Severin, Stamp and De Vries had an interchange of passes that further raised the fears of the home support.
The Pars first real pressure in the 7th minute forced Andy Webster to crunch David Grondin to the ground and from the free kick taken short by the Frenchman to Jason Dair was blocked out as four Hearts defenders closed him down before he could release a shot from that powerful right foot.
McGarty did get a good cross into the visitors penalty box after Crawford who had run on to the ball wide right cut back to Brewster who fed the young 20 year old. Unfortunately with all the support out right there was only Barry Nicholson in the middle and he was easily closed out by Pressley.
It took until the 17th minute before there was a clear shot on target this coming after De Vries had wriggled away from the close attentions of his marker, Lee Bullen to rifle a low shot into Ruitenbeek’s arms.
Successfully defending a Hearts corner in the 25th minute almost gave the Pars the opening. Dair broke away and having driven towards the centre circle then sent the ball right for Mark McGarty who beat his man only to be unceremonially dragged down on the edge of the penalty box.
Unfortunately with all the big men strategically placed awaiting the free kick David Grondin blasted the ball over the crossbar. Three minutes later Craig Brewster earned another free kick 25 yards out and Nicholson’s effort was deflected off Webster for the Pars first corner of the match. Grondin took the corner from the left but Tepi Moilanen fisted the ball away.
Dunfermline’s next chance fell to Stevie Crawford after Brewster had played a Grondin cross into his path, but again Webster was on hand to concede just a corner. The Pars were coming into the game much better and a long ball from Marco almost allowed Steven Hampshire a shot at goal, but Pressley and Moilanen did enough to deny the recalled Par.
In the 39th minute Webster struck a careless ball out to the right which Hampshire latched on to running as far as the top edge of the D where Barry Nicholson intercepted to blast a shot over the crossbar. Three minutes later a Webster foul on Crawford handed the Pars a free kick 30 yards out. Nicholson ran over it and Brewster chipped the ball into the penalty area where Nicholson connected but not enough to bother the Hearts goalkeeper.
A minute from half time Dair did extremely well to cut the ball away from Stamp on the edge of the Dunfermline penalty box but then tempting disaster, immediately gave the ball away to Graeme Weir and Hearts forced a corner through Jean Louis Valois. No doubt to Jason’s great relief, Webster headed from the corner high over the crossbar.
As the half time whistle was anticipated, Dair sent over a great ball to Hampshire on the far right of the box, and as he tried to progress along the byeline, the ball cannoned off McCann against the Pars man’s arm. Play continued with Brewster slipping the ball to Nicholson, but unfortunately he did not get sufficient on the shot to beat the keeper diving to his right.
Hearts restarted much better than Dunfermline. Six minutes into the second half a Stamp throw-in came back off De Vries for Weir to drive in a shot that cannoned off Skerla and the Hearts player for a goalkick. It really was all Hearts at this stage and De Vries won a corner off Bullen which Valois swung over but fortunately Ruitenbeek’s safe hands collected.
In the 56th minute Andrius Skerla was forced into booting a dangerous looking ball up the wing into the North East stand. The long throw in again targetted De Vries and as he turned to get away from Bullen, the makedo centre half brought down the big Dutchman on the angle of the six yard box. Referee Kenny Clark had no hesitation in awarding Hearts a penalty kick.
Captain Steven Pressley rightfooted the spotkick into the left side of the goal with Marco going the wrong way. Having taken the lead, Hearts did not relent and Dunfermline’s only response came when Dair picked up the ball on the edge of his own penalty box and produced a driving run to deep inside the opposition half. There was much disappointment when Webster intercepted the eventual pass which was intended for Crawford.
Scott Severin had a shot which Marco dealt comfortably with before the Pars won a free kick as Webster was yellow carded for another heavy tackle. Nicholson curled the ball over the 4-man Hearts wall but unfortunately over the cross bar as well.
Hearts had the ball in the net for a second time after 62 minutes but De Vries was judged to have controlled the ball with his arm before slotting it away. There was a big smile on Lee Bullen’s face as De Vries was substituted by Kevin McKenna and Hearts also replaced Weir with Kirk. Dunfermline meantime had introduced Hunt for the battle-bruised Brewster and Kilgannon for Grondin.
A Pressley tackle on Mason earned the Pars another free-kick but Dair’s effort went way beyond the far post. Crawford lofted the ball in from the right wing, forcing Moilanen to fist clear and give Mason the opportunity to fire a shot back in. The keeper this time managed to hold on to the shot.
The Pars were making great efforts, but still it was Hearts who looked more like scoring. In the 75th minute, Valois obviously noticed Ruitenbeek off his line and tried to score from the half way line, Marco was glad to see the ball sail past his right-hand post.
The Pars keeper produced a fine save from an Andy Kirk shot when a square ball to McKenna would almost certainly have given Hearts the second goal. With only minutes remaining, substitute Scott Walker sent Crawford deep into the left side of the Hearts penalty box but Stevie’s cross across the face of the goal was clutched by the black shirted Hearts keeper.
On 90 minutes, Marco pulled off yet another fine save at his near post when McKenna got around Bullen to fire in a useful shot. With four minutes having been shown for added time, Dunfermline had a final push with Bullen added to the 4-man attack. A Sean Kilgannon throw-in created an opening for Nicholson to attempt a points saving shot at goal, but unfortunately he didn’t connect as well as he would have wanted and the 15 yard effort was too weak to beat the Hearts goalkeeper.
It was a disappointing match yet again for Dunfermline. Neither side created that many shots on target and it was the large travelling support who left the more satisfied. The Pars failed to find the formula that produced the 3-1 victory over their Capital opponents back in November. Four matches remain in this SPL season and hopefully, even if in just one of them, we will see the Dunfermline that played so well in the first half of the season.