SPL v Aberdeen
ABERDEEN 1 DUNFERMLINE 0 Date: 12/04/03
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 10033, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Ian Brines, Weather: Overcast & Breezy 14C
Dunfermline travelled to Aberdeen to complete the last round of matches before the SPL split. The sunny spring Saturday made the journey a pleasure; the daffodils in Dundee, the rich Mearns soil and the unusually temperate climate at a normally perishing Pittodrie would have made a perfect ending to this part of the season. However, the Pars poor post winter-break form did not change and the journey home lacked the colour of the journey up.
Aberdeen must dearly welcome the fixture with Dunfermline who become the only team that Aberdeen have managed to beat twice at home this season. Their only other league success at home being a 3-0 victory over Dundee Utd in February.
From the team that were knocked out of the Cup at Ibrox in midweek, out went Steven Hampshire to be replaced by David Grondin. The Pars kicked off defending the goal in front of the Richard Donald Stand and the match was a fairly tame affair – two free kicks being the only incidents – until Aberdeen opened the scoring on nine minutes.
The goal was a disaster for the Dunfermline defence where Andrius Skerla seemed to have cleared the ball to Lee Bullen, but Bully passed the ball back to the central defender and in his rushed clearance, Andrius succeeded only to pass the ball to Aberdeen’s top goalscorer, Paul SHEERIN. The former first division player launched a rocket shot passed Derek Stillie. The Dunfermline keeper had no chance in stopping the shot which swerved away from him as it made its way to bulge the net.
Steven Tosh robbed Stevie Crawford of the ball after quarter of an hour and booted the ball wide left for Leigh Hinds who eventually worked himself into a shooting position, only to see the shot blocked and frustrate the Dons fans screaming for a pass to Sheerin who had arrived in a hurry on the edge of the box.
After 17 minutes the visitors first real penetration of the Dons penalty box arose from a Lee Bullen cross successfully beating off Chris Clark’s challenge and finding the head of Craig Brewster. Craig’s header from 12 yards was well wide of the left goalpost. Referee Iain Brines did little to amuse the travelling support all afternoon, but his recovery from a Tosh push brought laughter from both sets of fans. He recovered in time to see Chris McGroarty swing over a cross from the left touchline which Deloumeaux headed away.
Sheerin sent a long ball for Derek Young to chase after Brannan had made a clumsy tackle. When play eventually came to a halt with a Dunfermline corner, Brines pulled out his yellow card which Barry Nicholson declined to accept, Bemused, the referee put his card away again but presumably having discovered the identity of the crunching tackler from one of the opposition, Brines then marched up to show Ged Brannan the yellow card he deserved.
The corner was fisted away by Peter Kjaer but Dunfermline quickly won a free kick on the left which Barry Nicholson took some 20 yards out from the goal line, Brannan rose to head and was very unlucky when his effort was deflected right of goal for another corner. This time Grondin’s corner from the right found Crawford at the far post but his header went softly into the hands of Kjaer.
Nicholson tried a 30 yard shot which went over the crossbar before Russell Anderson lobbed the ball up the right for Young. Stillie raced out and the Dons striker failed to hit the target with his aerial scoop. There were 26 minutes on the clock when Gus MacPherson put in a high and late tackle just inside his own half which earned Aberdeen a free kick. Eric Deloumeaux swung in the ball towards the Dunfermline penalty area where eight Pars men were strung along the top of the box. Stillie came out to clutch injuring Anderson in the challenge.
Two minutes later Young intercepted with a back header which dropped for Tosh and Stillie did very well to produce a fine save. Dunfermline did manage another sortie into the Aberdeen area when Brannan picked out Brewster in the box and then ran on to the knock down before firing at the Dons goal from an acute angle. Kjaer fisted behind for a corner.
Dunfermline’s best chance of the match came in the 34th minute when a Crawford breakaway down the left wing was supported with Grondin and McGroarty racing through the middle into space. Stevie’s cross found McGroarty who shot from 12 yards out, but Kjaer held it diving to his left. Three minutes later, Hart and Tosh combined on the right to provide a fine ball into the box which Hinds shot wide left.
Five minutes from half time, Nicholson took Dunfermline’s fifth corner of the match and this time it was Lee Bullen who was unlucky to see his headed effort clear the crossbar. Two minutes later, Anderson demonstrated the kind of form which has made Berti Vogts interested in him by denying Brewster following a fine burst from Crawford. The half ended with a Sheerin break up the left and cross into the box which Mason and Young met together resulting in a bye kick. A decision which few understood.
Half Time: Aberdeen 1 Dunfermline 0.
Dunfermline had a better second half, although it was the home side who started stronger. Bullen headed out a Sheerin free kick and then when Fergus Tiernan fed the ball across the penalty box swings from Tosh and Nicholson failed to alter the path of the ball and eventually, Chris Clark drove from the angle on the far side. The shot was blocked and next Crawford created the danger as he won possession on the left wing and sent the ball into the penalty area for Brewster. The big man failed to connect and when the ball broke to both Bullen and Nicholson, neither could get in the shot.
Bullen was the next to pick out Brewster but this time the Pars man’s header was cleared by the defence and Aberdeen broke down the right with Hart taking advantage of a rebound off Nicholson’s back to find Young on the edge of the box . He didn’t manage a shot, but Sheerin did, and his chip from 25 yards out went over the bar.
The sun re-emerged as Skerla and Grondin pushed forward and Dunfermline continued to seek an equaliser, but on the hour their efforts were eclipsed when Brannan’s two-footed challenge on Hart earned him a second yellow card and the Pars were really up against it facing the next half hour with a man short.
Hunt came on for Grondin, McGarty for MacPherson and Hamilton for Brewster as the two Jimmy’s racked their brains for the solution that might salvage something from the game. Young and Sheerin almost created Aberdeen’s second goal on the 70th minute, but Stevie Crawford was back to do sufficient to put Sheerin off. Three minutes later Crawford was back in his forward role, beating three men as he drove into the left side of the Aberdeen penalty box, but he failed to get in the necessary shot.
Former Don, Jim Hamilton, almost opened his Dunfermline account in the 76th minute when he accepted a Noel Hunt cross from the right, but his shot from 12 yards was blocked. Next a Nicholson free kick picked out Hamilton who teed up McGarty with a shot which was also blocked. The all out attacking policy almost caught the Pars out when Young raced on to a ball up the right wing and Mason remarkably got off with a strong challenge on the Aberdeen player.
When Hinds fed Kevin McNaughton on the right, the Aberdeen substitute ripped through the sparse visiting defence to pick out Young in acres of space and only he will know how he managed to miss from six yards. Three minutes later a Stephen Payne cross from the right found Young again and this time he turned and shot to bring another fine save out of Stillie diving to his right.
Twice Crawford required treatment from Pip Yeates as he got caught up in frantic defending. Almost all of the 300 plus Pars fans were on their feet appealing for a penalty two minutes from time, when Bullen’s ball into the box appeared to be handled. No penalty and no luck for the Pars as the four added minutes were completed.
Another disappointing day watching the Pars. The manager described their defending as "suicidal", but their inability to finish the match with 11 men certainly greatly contributed to the pointless trip up the A90. Aberdeen missed many chances in the second half when the Pars defence was merely Skerla and Mason. The scoreline then could have been much worse, but in the end Dunfermline only lost by the one goal.
The cavalier Calderwood tactics failed to produce the much sought after equaliser and now his team will face tough top six competition as they try to notch their record number of points in the Premier League and chase somewhat optimistically that elusive UEFA cup place.