SPL v Dundee United
DUNFERMLINE 4 DUNDEE UNITED 1 Date: 04/12/02
Fixture: BOS Premier League
Attendance: 4342, Kick Off: 19:45
Dunfermline recorded their most emphatic result over the Tannadice side for some time and opened up a five point gap between them and the best of the rest - Hibs, Hearts and Dundee.
Sean Kilgannon returned to the team in place of Gary Dempsey; Jason Dair switched to the right midfield and Scott Walker reverted to his more accustomed role on the left of the back three.
Dundee United kicked off towards the Norrie McCathie Stand but as the teams tried to settle down the Pars struck with virtually their first sortie into the opposition penalty box.
In the 4th minute Craig Brewster sent the ball out to the right where Barry Nicholson latched on to it and cut back across the six yard box. BREWSTER had the simplest of chances from all of three yards as the Pars queued up at the far post. The action replays will be of interest in discovering not how Craig managed to net but to reveal where the United defence had gone.
The rude awakening roused the visitors into some kind of reaction but really their defence continued to look as though it had been given time out to do some Christmas shopping.
When Lilley outstripped Walker down the North West Stand Jim McIntyre`s poor effort was easily dealt with by Scott Wilson. Then it was all Dunfermline again. Brewster and Thomson combined to put Stevie Crawford through but Paul Gallagher was out to dive in front of Craw`s feet.
In the 11th minute a Scott Thomson free kick was cleared only as far as Scott Wilson so he elected to shoot but was just wide with his 25 yard effort. Space seemed to open up in front of him as Scott Walker made his way down the left wing to send in a good ball for Brewster. The latter`s right footed shot from 12 yards was saved by the keeper, diving to his left.
Stephen Thompson featured in both the visitors warnings to Dunfermline. In the 16th minute he whipped the ball across the goalmouth but there were no takers. Next he headed down a cross from the right and Lee Bullen had to scramble it away but only as far as McIntyre who returned the ball across the goalmouth yet again.
From the first corner of the match in the 18th minute Walker headed wide from Nicholson`s cross. Play switched back to the other end and a 25 yard shot from McIntyre was deflected away for a corner by Derek Stillie.
The supporters in the McCathie Stand thought that the second had arrived in the 23rd minute after Sean Kilgannon skinned Wilson down the left before send over a surprisingly good cross. Crawford looked like he might net until McCracken`s timely intervention. Bullen had a shot straight at the keeper after Nicholson swung in a free kick from the left.
United were unlucky that Derek Stillie was on fine form. After Craig Easton fired one over the crossbar their next sortie saw Paterson cross from the left only for Thompson to fail to connect and Hamilton on the far side being thwarted by the acrobatics of Stillie. This might have been the turning point for while United could not find a route to goal they next conceded a penalty at the other.
After Scott Thomson had picked out Bullen on the right wing the cross fell for Walker to burst into the penalty box only to go done at the challenge from Mark Wilson. Craig BREWSTER was in no doubt that he was taking the 37th minute spot kick and he was equally sure with the conversion driven low to the keeper`s right.
Four minutes later Craig Easton was annoyed to yield another free kick for his tackle on Nicholson, on the right side deep into the United half. Dair and Kilgannon stood over the ball but it was the latter who put in a deadly ball to the far post where Brewster left it for WALKER to head in. Again poor defence and they really must remember to post early for Christmas.
Just on half time Brewster dispossessed Laughlan and took a 30 yard snap shot that went over the top. No first half hattrick for the former United and Hibs striker but the Pars were in total command and a three nil half time lead gave comfort that the points were already gift wrapped and delivered.
The second half understandably saw the Pars take their foot off the throttle. Three minutes into the second term McIntyre struck a left footed free kick in on target forcing Stillie to pluck the ball out from just below his crossbar. Jim Laughlan was forced to leave the field holding his side and the Dundee United management team failed to introduce a substitute and paid dearly for the lack of cover at the back.
While down to ten men United lost the fourth goal. Walker played Kilgannon deep down the left and yet another good cross was half cleared but Barry Nicholson stepped up on the edge of the box to strike in with the aid of a Mark Wilson deflection.
Four nil down with 35 minutes remaining United could have been excused for giving up but they didn`t and probably played the better in the remaining period of the match. Stephen Thompson, midway inside the Pars half sent McINTYRE bursting through on the right.
There was plenty of space as the former Kilmarnock and Reading player bore in on goal and unleashed an unstoppable shot from an angle into the top right of the net.
Brewster was still trying to bag a third and might have in the 64th minute when another Kilgannon cross was met by the striker`s left foot just 15 yards out but the keeper dropped to his left and saved.
As United introduced their substitutes, sometimes not with the full approval of the 788 travelling supporters, they got more into the game. McIntyre had another shot wide from 18 yards. Thompson put a Duff cross over the crossbar. Subs Carson and Smart grabbed the chance to show that they were worthy of a starting place. Smart the former Watford striker and Carson previously of Ibrox both upped the performance but no goals were to be added.
With 13 minutes left the Taysiders were denied a penalty when somehow Thompson`s foot managed to get restricted in an attempt to net from close in. No penalty from Kevin Toner and Paul Hegarty was left to conclude that this was the worst United performance in his ten match tenure. "Not acceptable" was the visiting manager`s opinion but from a Dunfermline viewpoint this was three well earned but easy points.
Motherwell were meantime hitting Hearts for six and Hibs were losing to Celtic. To be a Pars supporter is looking better every match and outside the Old Firm there is no better. The Norrie stand chanted "We`re top of the league and you`re No" - it seems the Old Firm have already departed the league that the remainder contest.
Next can the Pars grasp the Thistle?