SPL v Rangers
DUNFERMLINE 1 RANGERS 3 Date: 08/02/03
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 8754, Kick Off: 12:30
As HMS Invincible slipped out of Fife, the league leaders sailed in to examine the gulf between these two teams. Newspaper evaluations of Dunfermline`s poor record against Rangers obviously annoy Jimmy Calderwood. More than anyone at the manager would love to bury the near 33 year old invincible record that the Ibrox enjoy of games at East End Park.
The most recent meeting between the teams kicked off at 12.30pm for the benefit of satellite television. Having signed three new players in the January transfer window home fans were given a view of all three as Calderwood chose to start with all three of them.
This meant four changes from the team that started against Livingston for Tuesday night`s Cup replay. Grondin, Brannan and Hunt were joined by MacPherson as Hampshire, Kilgannon, Dempsey and the suspended Scott Wilson dropped out.
The Pars kicked off towards the almost full East Stand and within 30 seconds the new front partnership of Craig Brewster and Noel Hunt combined to force Craig Moore to concede a corner.
Jason Dair swung over the corner from the far left and when Lee Bullen knocked it back for Craig Brewster, the striker tried an overhead kick which fell just wide right.
Rangers were being troubled by the pace of Hunt and in the sixth minute, the young Irishman played the ball through Barry Nicholson to get a shot on goal which blasted wide left. In the ninth minute, Stefan Klos was called upon to make a good left-handed save after Nicholson`s square pass to Brewster 15 yards out was dispatched on target.
The early play was almost all Dunfermline and it was the 12th minute before Derek Stillie was forced to make a save. With his back to goal, Craig Brewster laid back a ball for Dair to provide new boy Davide Grondin the opportunity to show his passing talents. When his low and neat ball to Brewster created another opening, the striker was unlucky not to get a connection.
Dunfermline were really making it difficult for the league leaders. They successfully pinned Rangers back into their own half where only the back three were allowed to exchange passes in comfort. A Brewster pass for Crawford was cut out by Amoruso as Hunt made a decoy run down the left.
Crawford dispossessed Mikel Arteta and set off at speed into the opposition half. The ball was passed out right towards Hunt but unfortunately his cross could not match the standard of the break. Rangers first real sortie on the Pars goal came in the 29th minute when a simple low and long ball from Lorenzo Amoruso was accepted by Arveladze, who shot from 15 yards bringing a fine left-handed save out of Stillie.
The next minute, Dunfermline were back attacking the Rangers goal. A fine pass upfield from Jason Dair sent Hunt up the left wing and despite the close attentions of Maurice Ross, Hunt held the ball up until Crawford arrived on the edge of the box. The pass into the striker was near perfect as it gets, but unfortunately the left-footed shot was high over the crossbar.
Injury to Ross forced Rangers into a 33rd minute substitution. On came Bob Malcolm whose introduction transformed Rangers so far inept performance as Alex McLeish changed his system to put four men in midfield. Ricksen`s cross for McCann was thankfully belted over the crossbar and a 36th minute corner from McCann was easily taken by Stillie.
Arveladze forced Andrius Skerla to concede another corner in the next minute. In the North West corner of the pitch a short taken set piece was played to McCann, who could only have been three yards out from both the bye-line and the touch line. McCANN noticed no-one at the far post and sent the ball in that direction. To some surprise to both him and the Dunfermline defence, the ball sailed into the far side of the net. It was a lead that Rangers barely deserved and one that Stillie felt illegally achieved since he felt Shota Arveladze had prevented him going for the cross.
Ged Brannan tried a shot which came back off Craig Moore only for Crawford to lace into the path of Noel Hunt. The youngster shot well but Klos saved, although the flag was up for offside against Hunt.
The second half started in the best possible manner for Dunfermline as Crawford and Brannan worked the ball out to Hunt on the left side of the Rangers penalty box. Noel appeared to have delayed too long in picking his spot as Moore blocked his effort, but the ball fell to Craig BREWSTER who bent a right footed shot into the Rangers net.
This only caused Rangers to step up the pressure. Nicholson skied a clearance on the edge of the box and Arveladze`s header was guided back to Stillie by Skerla, although the Pars keeper had to react rather quickly. Amoruso was yellow carded for chopping the feet from Hunt and from the resultant free kick the Pars won a corner of de Boer. The North West Stand and the Norrie McCathie Stand rose to rally their team, but Nicholson`s corner was headed into the arms of Klos.
Barry Ferguson and Neil McCann switched play deep into the Pars half, but Ged Brannan was back to force the ball away from de Boer. Then it was the turn of Gus MacPherson to clear after Arteta and McCann had caused more danger. Ricksen set up Ferguson as Rangers turned up the pressure, but fortunately the shot went into the Rangers support behind the goal.
Dunfermline caused themselves a fair amount of trouble through their inability to properly clear from defence. de Boer supplied Ferguson with another chance but MacPherson blocked it out. Artur Numan`s tackle on Hunt left the new signing lying face down on the park. Rangers continued to push forward until Numan`s conscience got the better of him and put the ball out to allow Pip Yeates to treat the injured Par.
Sadly Hunt played no further part in the game and departed on a stretcher towards the dressing rooms. Steven Hampshire came on for Hunt but Rangers then forced corner after corner as they looked for their second goal. de Boer sent a dangerous ball across the face of the Pars goal. Stillie tipped over from Arveladze and at the third corner in quick succession, Lee Bullen did very well to keep the ball out at the far post.
Substitute Hampshire was back defending in the 71st minute, but conceded a free kick about 25 yards out, level with the right perimeter of the Pars penalty box. Arteta touched the ball to AMORUSO who dispelled his row Z shooting record by rocketing an unstoppable ball from his green boot into the Pars net.
With 15 minutes remaining, Hampshire had two opportunities in quick succession to notch the equaliser. Firstly, Crawford picked him out in the centre of the box and substitute took the ball left before executing a fine shot which was equally well blocked. Then Malcolm stepped in to block Hampshire`s next effort.
Rangers brought on Claudio Caniggia and then Michael Mols while Dunfermline had introduced Andre Karnebeek for Dair and Kilgannon for MacPherson. Karnebeek could do nothing to prevent Caniggia and de Boer laying on a great square ball for Mols whose shot went straight at Derek Stillie, with the keeper doing well to hold the ball as it spun under him.
A Nicholson cross from the left was headed down by Bullen for Stevie Crawford in space right in front of goal. Crawford`s blushes for managing to clear the cross bar were spared when Hugh Dallas decided that Bullen had done some illegal climbing to get to the header.
The scoreline was further amended one minute into the added four, when McCann`s cross was easily headed in by CANIGGIA. The Pars fans poured out of the stadium for their late lunch and early pint. They had witnessed a much better performance against Rangers. The new players obviously did not know how Dunfermline normally play against Rangers and on this showing there has to be optimism that some league points can be won in February with the away games at Hibs and Motherwell.