SPL v Livingston
DUNFERMLINE 2 LIVINGSTON 0 Date: 02/01/03
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: Kick Off: 15:00
The Pars first match of 2003 brought Jim Leishman`s Livingston to East End Park. The match was in doubt up until 30 minutes before the kick off because of the heavy rainfall in West Fife since the "Bells". Subsequently the pitch held up but beautiful play was always going to be difficult. Two goals saw off the Lions as Scotland striker Stevie Crawford bagged a goal in each half to ensure a great start to the New Year.
Manager Calderwood made two changes from the team that performed so well at Celtic Park on Sunday afternoon. Scott Walker and Gary Mason found themselves on the substitutes bench as starts were handed to Jason Dair and Gary Dempsey.
Livingston kicked off towards the Norrie McCathie Stand but the first quarter of an hour was dominated by the Pars. In the fourth minute Chris McGroarty sent a good ball wide to Craig Brewster on the left wing and his nice delivery was agonisingly just behind the racing in Bullen.
Barry Nicholson was next to provide a chance when his ball to Brewster allowed a shot from the edge of the box but Livvy blocked and Bollan kept the ball in to deny a corner. The visitors did call Stillie into action in the ninth minute when a Bollan free kick was headed goalwards by Marvyn Andrews on the far right of the box.
At the other end the Pars countered through Crawford who sent Dempsey into the right side of the box but Brewster`s shot from Dempsey`s pass was struck at Andrews and again Livingston got the ball away.
After 13 minutes Dair was chopped down on the corner of the penalty box on the left side and his free kick eventually reached Nicholson whose chip back into the box almost provided better from the head tennis of Thomson and Crawford.
Scott Thomson was enjoying a lot of involvement on the right side of the midfield and was causing considerable problems with his slick play on a sticky surface. Dunfermline looked comfortably in charge but no break through was coming.
An 18th minute clash of heads between Brewster and Rubio required the Pars striker to leave the field for three and a half minutes for some medical hand craft and this allowed Livingston to re-group and alter their style to bring them into a game in which they had contributed little to in the first twenty minutes.
The first corner of the match was then won by the visitors as Lee Bullen was forced top head behind. Lee Makel launched the ball, through the six yard box with no takers on either side. The speedy patchwork brought Brewster back into the game and he made his presence felt latching on to a telling ball down the left from McGroarty. Hart was on the penalty spot to head clear however.
Dair was next to attempt to find a route on goal but after trying close control and a 1-2 with Thomson his pass in for Crawford was just a shade out and Livvy could breathe again. Dempsey next picked out Thomson and this time the Dunfermline captain sent in a great cross from the right which Bullen completely miskicked when in a prime shooting position 15 yards out.
Former Par David Bingham sent a good ball out deep on the left and Derek Stillie came dashing out to challenge Davide Xausa. The ball slowed quickly on the wet and muddy surface and the Pars keeper also arrived just a bit too late for comfort. The result was that as Stillie slid in to the tackle the Livvy man sprawled onto the ground in from of him. Referee Gary Mitchell awarded the free kick to Livingston but acknowledging the conditions, talked to neither player.
Makel swung the free kick out right looking for Andrews` head but after a penalty box tussle the ball eventually went out for a goal kick. With 33 minutes gone Skerla returned Bingham`s cross to him and this let Xausa in to shoot but his effort from the edge of the box went high over the crossbar.
Two minutes later Bingham tried a shot from 25 yards but he was wide right. Another Bingham ball to Hart provided a cross that Zarate headed wide. Half time was approaching when Xausa was penalised for his challenge on Skerla and Thomson took the free kick midway inside the Livingston half on the right side. The high ball into the box was aimed at Brewster but Broto came out to pluck it out of the air and then drop it only to pounce back on the loose ball before Crawford could get to it.
Quino had a fierce shot that Stillie could only parry before with only 15 seconds of the regulation time remaining Thomson beat three players as he made his way infield from the right flank and crossed to Dair on the left. Jason played a neat ball to CRAWFORD about 14 yards from goal in the centre of the box. The Pars top scorer turned Andrews and shot firmly. The ball ended up in the net off the right post to give Dunfermline the lead just at the moment when Livingston looked at their most threatening.
To lose a goal just before the interval probably did Livvy no harm but it fairly warmed the 4651 Pars supporters who were brave enough to brave the raw January weather.
For the start of the second half, Gary Mason came on for McGroarty with Thomson switching from the right to take over the McGroarty role.
Only three minutes into the second half the visitors were forced to take off their keeper, Javier-Sanchez Broto. Suffering from a back problem the former Real Zaragoza keeper was replaced by the red shirted McEwan.
Brewster supplied Crawford with a pass that allowed Stevie to race up the right wing. With the crowd anticipating great things as Nicholson, Dair and Dempsey scurried forward to take up good positions the cross was low and easily cut out by the opposition defence.
At the other end Stillie was forced into `saving` a Skerla pass back. Next Dair took the ball on a pacy trip towards the Livvy goal before laying it off to Dempsey. The move looked promising as next Brewster found Crawford wide right but again the cross was not good enough to prevent McEwan collecting before Dempsey.
The Dunfermline pressure did pay off however in the 57th minute. A good ball from Thomson picked out Brewster on the edge of the box and the 36 year old`s shot could not be held by the substitute keeper. Apparent rebounding back off his knee McEwan was helpless as CRAWFORD accepted the chance to stick the ball in the net from 6 yards.
The Livvy drums were beaten louder and the team battled forward. Carnacho and Zarate tried hard to find a way through the Pars defence and three corners in quick succession were concluded by a Bollan shot well over the bar.
Mason was sent through the centre of the Livvy defence courtesy of a good penetrating Dempsey pass but McEwan was out of his box to clear. Then Bullen had a long run all the way up the right and then along the 18 yard line. In the end he found Dair who sent the ball in for Crawford to head but the hat trick was not to be as the ball landed just wide left from 12 yards out.
Livingston tried extremely hard to reduce the deficit and there was a good old stramash in the Dunfermline six yard box before Nicholson stormed up the right to create another opening for Crawford but yet again he was just wide left.
With 20 minutes remaining, Scott Walker was brought on for Brewster. This left just Crawford up front and except for one moment when Crawford tried to walk the ball around the keeper the play was dogged defending from the Pars. It wasn`t pretty and it tested the nerve at times but as Jimmy Calderwood said post match it was the result that was more important than the manner of it.
Crawford had a great match and took his chances well. He was well supported by Dair, Thomson and Nicholson. The three points takes the Pars to just one behind Hearts and above Hibs again. The draw at Tynecastle with dramatically evolved from the period added for injuries was probably the best result for Dunfermline. They now have ten games before the split. Eyes are rising slightly higher than just a top six place but matches at Tynecastle and Easter Road in February are going to be extremely important one way or another.