SPL v Aberdeen
DUNFERMLINE 3 ABERDEEN 0 Date: 15/12/02
Fixture: BOS Premier League
New Aberdeen boss Stevie Paterson experienced his first taste of the SPL as he took on the Pars at `fortress` East End. Unbeaten at home against anyone apart from the Old Firm since Kilmarnock`s visit in September 2001, the Pars were looking to come back from a poor result at Firhill last Saturday.
Scott Walker and Sean Kilgannon made way for the return of Scott Wilson and Steven Hampshire. Maybe only two changes but quite a contrast in work rate and attitude. Aberdeen`s new era kicked off towards the McCathie Stand but Dunfermline had the better of the opening minutes without really causing Aberdeen any difficulty.
Aberdeen were trying a new 3-5-2 system and the experimentation caused them problems throughout. The visitors best spell, and possibly their only, of the first half came in the fourth and fifth minute after Laurent D` Jaffo gained ground down the left wing to deliver a ball that Andrius Skerla was happy to head behind for a corner.
This was the first of three Dons corners in the space of two minutes.
Jamie McAllister took the first from the right-hand side and immediately won a second when Barry Nicholson turned the ball behind at the near post. Lee Bullen cleared the second corner but Aberdeen forced yet another. The visitors failed to make anything of this pressure and for the remainder of the half the initiative rested with the Pars.
Scott Thomson had a foray up the left wing and delivered a cross which McGuire foiled. Next Andrius Skerla sent a long ball in the direction of Stevie Crawford but he was squeezed out for a corner. At the second attempt, Barry Nicholson provided the cross that gave Craig Brewster his first real chance of the match but his 8th minute shot was well wide.
Aberdeen did try to test Derek Stillie but Darren Young`s 10th minute shot from distance went straight into the keepers hands. Lee Bullen then provided a number of cross balls from the right wing that could have broken the deadlock. The 13th minute cross picked out Brewster whose header sent the ball in the direction of the right-hand post and Stevie Crawford, but Aberdeen keeper David Preece reacted quickly to steal the ball away from the Scotland striker.
Four minutes later, after a period of good Pars possession and passing, Bullen swung another cross in that McGuire turned behind for a corner. Out on the left, Jason Dair took the corner and quickly found the ball back at his feet from Barry Nicholson so the Pars No.3 tried a curling shot that sailed over the crossbar.
Another four minutes passed before another Dair effort with the same result. Gary Mason struck a firm pass out to the former Raith Rovers man and he drove in towards the centre to shoot from 20 yards out.
Midway through the half, Darren Mackie produced a speedy break down the right to cut back a good ball across the top of the Pars penalty box, but his pace had been too much and no Dons players had taken up position in time.
Gary Mason earned himself a yellow card for a late tackle from behind 25 yards out from the Dunfermline goal. McAllister`s shot cleared the five man defensive wall as well as the crossbar. Play switched to the other end with Thomson again breaking up the left and this time it was Russel Anderson who came to the Dons rescue after Brewster had tried a header on.
D`Jaffo fired in a weak shot from 30 yards following a Skerla diving header clearance. Again Stillie collected with ease. On the half hour another Bullen cross directed at Brewster was well cut out by Anderson who fell down on the ball and managed to regain his feet and possession.
In the 32nd minute there was a good old fashioned stramash inside the Aberdeen penalty box when a corner, won as a result of a McNaughton header, was attacked by Bullen, Hampshire and Scott Thomson until the latter took a detour right before turning back in a cross which dropped behind the goal.
Thomson again was given space on the left three minutes later and he teed up Dair for another crack at goal from the edge of the box and yet again the effort went over the top.
Whilst Aberdeen`s efforts failed to bother the Dunfermline keeper, there was every expectation that Dunfermline could take the lead at any stage. So it came as no surprise, when in the 39th minute, the celebratory "Glad All Over" boomed out from the tannoy.
A run of the mill throw-in from Fergus Tiernan on the right side, just inside the Aberdeen half was intended for Anderson, but Craig Brewster put in a strong challenge to steal the ball away and head for goal. McGuire failed to catch him before he slipped the ball right for Stevie CRAWFORD to strike firmly inside the right goalpost from the edge of the box.
David Preece gave his new management team further palpitations by deciding to play football outside his box on the left and then resorting to a scramble to retrieve the situation. The half finished with Anderson clearing yet another cross from the left by Jason Dair and Thomson just failing to get on the end of a Dair free kick.
The match was shown live on BBC TV in Scotland and at half time summariser, Gordon Smith, told us that the first half been nothing special and he suggested that it might have been more exciting spending the afternoon Christmas shopping with his wife. The match wasn`t that bad, the Pars were one up and one would have to ask Mr Smith what he and his wife get up to when Christmas shopping.
The second half was more of the same. Dunfermline pressed from the start with Dair firing in a shot as an opportunity materialised from a throw-in on the left. Within 90 seconds of the restart, Dunfermline scored to make it 2-0. Jason Dair`s corner was aimed at Thomson and Brewster on the edge of the six yard box but Jamie McALLISTER rose between them and headed a gem of an own goal passed his keeper and defenders on the post.
As often happens, conceding a goal aroused the opposition. They won two corners courtesy of Lee Bullen`s head, the second of which Skerla headed out only as far as Darren Young, and his shot from the edge of the box was on target until Darren Mackie close in, deflected it over the crossbar. Stillie had Young`s effort well covered, but had Mackie been more fortunate with the deflection, the former Dons keeper might not have been so lucky.
In the 52nd minute, Thomson popped up yet again on the left flank to swing over a good cross into the danger area. Barry Nicholson rose high above the Aberdeen defence to direct a header which Preece saved. So high had Nicholson got up that he injured himself with his fall from such a height, but fortunately the midfielder was able to continue. In the Director`s Box, Scotland team coach Berti Vogts had some fears for his Scotland Future`s Squad member but Barry was able to join the party to travel to Germany for Tuesday`s game.
Eric Deloumeaux created some hope for the Dons fans in the stand behind Stillie`s goal. Firstly, he directed in a free kick that earned a corner and subsequently gave D`Jaffo a chance at the near post, and then minutes later he took a corner which again gave D`Jaffo an opening within the six yard box which he failed to take.
Having absorbed four minutes of Dons pressure, it was back to normal service as Dunfermline passed the ball around and positively played themselves out of bother. In the 61st minute a long ball out of defence by Scott Wilson looked to be going out for a goal kick until Barry Nicholson`s perseverance caught out McNaughton, leaving Brewster to cross into the six yard box and create uncertainty within the visiting defence.
Two minutes later Scott Thomson continued his torment of the right side of the Aberdeen defence leaving his challengers in his slipstream and advancing into the penalty area. Derek Young`s tackle took the right foot away from the Dunfermline captain and referee Hugh Dallas had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. There was little objection from the visitors and little resistance from the keeper as Craig BREWSTER drilled low into the right side of the goal.
Aberdeen were unlucky not to grab a consolation when Anderson put D`Jaffo through between Skerla and Wilson and his shot, which looked goalbound from the main stand, rebounded off the centre of the right goalpost. McAllister tried to redeem himself for the own goal when he struck a headed clearance from a Derek Young cross but his effort was way over the top.
Dunfermline were comfortably in control, Thomson continued to push forward and Dair was put through towards the penalty area but his final pass was wayward just when he threatened most. The substitutions did not start until the 83rd minute when Dempsey was introduced for Nicholson and Steve Paterson made his first substitutions bringing on Leon Mike and Scott Michie for his French partnership of Deloumeaux and D`Jaffo.
The match was well won by now and little changed as a result of the substitutions. The 3-0 scoreline possibly flattered Dunfermline but it was a satisfactory response to the hugely disappointing performance at Partick. Craig Brewster was awarded the BBC Man of the Match award although the match sponsors plumped for Scott Wilson.
Mention too should be made of the attacking performance of Scott Thomson who surely must have impressed the watching Mr Vogts. For Aberdeen, the Paterson era had started two goals better than the Skovdaal era but the lyrics from the PA that bellowed out to wish the departing fans seasonal greetings were most appropriate for today`s opponents. "Look to the future now its only just begun".
Dunfermline`s future looks much rosier. Back into 3rd position in the league really given that it is the Old Firm above them things cannot get much better. Despite the Manager and players dismissal of thoughts of European competition, qualification for the first time in 34 seasons remains a realistic bet. Only the future will tell.