SPL v Hibernian
HIBERNIAN 1 DUNFERMLINE 3 Date: 15/02/03
Fixture: Scottish Premier League
It may have taken 41 years for the Pars to remember how to win a league match at Easter Road on the 11 September but certainly they did not forget on their first return to grab another three points and send three more goals into the Hibs net.
Jimmy Calderwood made two changes for this game, Gary Mason returning from injury and Scott Wilson returning from suspension. Jason Dair and Noel Hunt found themselves on the subs bench as Hibs kicked off towards the Dunfermline support.
There was little to warm the 9,175 fans until in the sixth minute a Paul Fenwick header forced Derek Stillie into a desperate clearance with his feet. Hibs got the ball back into the six yard box and with bodies lunging into challenge for the ball, Gus MacPherson booted away the ball from O`Connor.
Play immediately swept upfield and Lee Bullen was able to supply a fine cross from the right which Stevie Crawford met on the apex of the six yard box to head narrowly off target.
Scott Wilson was penalised for a foul on Mixu Paatelainen and from the free kick midway inside the Dunfermline half, Grant Brebner almost provided Paatelainen with a goalscoring opportunity. Instead, the Finn was left to flash the ball back across the Dunfermline area and fortunately Davide Grondin was able to clear the danger.
It was the Frenchman who directed in a Dunfermline free kick from the right wing in the 10th minute which Lee Bullen came running in from the left to meet with his right foot and narrowly guide the ball over the cross bar. Dunfermline had come strongly into this match with Nicholson and Brannan sending Crawford through on yet another break.
John O`Neil conceded a free kick for a foul on Mason and Wilson swung over a long ball in the direction of Bullen but only to result in a goal kick. Hibs struggled to remove the ball from their own 25, poor clearances and continued Dunfermline pressure eventually produced the opening goal.
In the 20th minute, Gary MASON was able to drive in a shot from 25 yards which seemed to take a deflection off former Pars player Paul Fenwick.
This roused a fairly lacklustre home side into reaction. Alen Orman rounded Grondin to send in a dangerous cross but Derek Stillie came out well to hold.
Next Brebner had a 20 yard effort that was right of target.
Dunfermline could have doubled their lead when Craig Brewster released Bullen up the right. Crawford was waiting in a good position deep in the Hibs penalty area but Bully`s cross was soft and Zambernardi stepped in to steal the ball away. This was an unfortunate finish to a good move and Bullen was causing Hibs huge problems as he performed a more attacking role than he normally does on the right side of the midfield.
In the 33rd minute another Bullen break gave Barry Nicholson the chance to cross into the Hibs penalty box where Brewster was given a free header but unfortunately he directed it wide right. Two minutes later Ged Brannan made a penetrating pass through the centre of the Hibs defence, allowing Crawford to go beyond Derek Townsley but Nick Colgan was out in time to clear.
In the 39th minute, John O`Neil put in a late tackle on Derek Stillie which looked particularly painful and the Hibs No.11 who had picked up a 23rd minute yellow card for his involvement with Wilson, was lucky to remain on the park.
Dunfermline`s second goal came with just five minutes to the interval and yet again it was a simple Brannan pass through the centre that allowed CRAWFORD to beat Townsley on the sprint, and leave him one on one with the keeper. Stevie slotted away with style to the absolute delight of the 727 Pars supporters.
The first half finished with the red carding of Dunfermline midfielder Ged Brannan. There was little doubt that his tackle on Grant Brebner had been two-footed with studs showing, and with it happening right under the nose of referee Mike McCurry, there was to be interest in the second half so see if 10 man Dunfermline could retain their advantage and lift the points at Easter Road for the second time this season.
Bobby Williamson brought on Tom McManus for Alen Orman at half time and his team were out early to get stuck in to the Fifers. Crawford dropped back into midfield as Dunfermline went to 3-5-1. Hibs started with great determination and the ten men were immediately under pressure.
In the 48th minute, Scott Wilson did well to get the ball away from the Hibs substitute and deny him a good crack at goal. Five minutes later, Ian Murray headed a O`Connor cross from the right over the cross bar and Wilson repeated his denial of McManus.
Just when it looked as though the Pars were in for a most uncomfortable 45 minutes, Craig Brewster found himself with possession on the halfway line. He paused, and sent a perfect ball wide right for Bullen to run on to. The Pars No.21 motored up the right and from the edge of the penalty box, crossed for Stevie CRAWFORD sliding in six yards out to turn the ball past the helpless Colgan.
Hibs continued to push for an opening and three minutes later, McManus was unlucky when his header in from six yards appeared to break off his own man. The Hibs sub also missed a good opportunity at the far post only six minutes later.
The goal, which had threatened all second half, materialised in the 67th minute after Murray and McManus had exchanges in the Pars box and O`CONNOR was on hand to drive the ball in from six yards.
The remaining quarter of this match would have been most uncomfortable had there not been a two goal cushion. Hibs pressurised and the Pars blootered defensive clearances away. Their task was further complicated by what looked like a hamstring injury to Lee Bullen in the 71st minute. The bench were very slow to realise that a substitute would be required, and Dunfermline were momentarily down to nine men as Craig James sent over a dangerous corner from the right.
Jason Dair came on in place of the injured Bullen, Craig Brewster who had been ploughing a solo role up front was pulled back to central defence, Crawford went up front and there was utter confusion until the players eventually grasped what was required of them.
This reshuffling allowed Hibs to push Townsley further forward, and it was the former Motherwell man who sent in a 78th minute cross which allowed Brewster to show his defensive qualities to cut it out and get away the danger. Stillie had a fine save from an Arpinon header. Townsley hit the cross bar as he met a corner from the left, although the referee had blown for a foul on the keeper.
James crossed for Townsley to send another effort left of target and with three minutes remaining Dunfermline were given the opportunity to repeat that 4-1 scoreline from September. Barry Nicholson stood and studied the standside linesman unbelieving he was on side before attempting to chip Colgan from 20 yards out. The Irishman just managed to tip the ball away to his right.
Nicholson was handed the captain`s armband in the 87th minute as Noel Hunt came on for Crawford, but in the remaining time and the three added minutes, the only danger to the scoreline was a Zambernardi long shot which Stillie held with his feet almost behind his goal line.
So, another excellent three points gained at Easter Road; a fine all round performance from the Pars showing tremendous character when a man short for the whole of the second half and making Hibs look very ordinary because of the very effective defence and marking from all of the back three and the midfield.
The Easter Road faithful must sorely regret the capture by Jimmy Calderwood of Crawford and Brewster. Now the Pars must hope that their former Hibees can find the route that will take Dunfermline into a European place.