SPL v Dundee

DUNDEE 2 DUNFERMLINE 3 Date: 12/11/02

Fixture: BOS Premier League

Attendance: 5475, Kick Off: 19:45

The miles to Dundee were quiet and a cold November night awaited on Tayside but as long as the Pars could trip back with three points there would be something to warm the Fife travellers. Jimmy Calderwood was looking for his team to bounce back after the close one last week against Rangers. Restored to captain, Scott Thomson was back in place of the injured Gus McPherson. That was the only change from the team that performed so well in the CIS Insurance Cup.

Dundee kicked off towards the travelling Pars support. The visitors started shakily and proceeded to go the Richter scale. David Mackay could have netted the opener in the third minute but completely missed Caballero`s cross from the right byeline. The Argentinian had a shot from 25 yards two minutes later but was high and right.

It was no surprise when Dundee took the lead in the 7th minute but the manner in which they did it should give Tam Cowan plenty of material for next Monday night. Steve Lovell played the ball out right to Nacho Novo. The former Raith man cut the ball back from the byeline but the only Dundee player, Gavin Rae, anywhere near the ball was yards behind Barry NICHOLSON who with a grave misjudgement swept the ball into his own net just inside Marco`s right hand post from five yards out.

So instead of San Andreas read Nicholson fault. Barry`s acceptance line later was to laugh it off by saying that he couldn`t believe that Marco didn`t save it because he saved everything else all night!

Leading his team forward in the tenth minute Scott Thomson won a free kick to the left of the Dundee box and in so doing earned a long lecture for himself and Lee Wilkie from Referee Freeland. Jason Dair eventually got a shot in from the free kick but Caballero diverted the ball behind for a corner.

Four minutes later Caballero was clear up the left following a good pass from Rae. The Dundee number seven shot from an acute angle but Marco was down to touch the ball into the sidenet. Despite the fact that Dunfermline were playing four at the back against the home sides three forwards, Dundee looked as though they could break through the Pars defence at any stage with the pace of Novo and Caballero looking particularly menacing.

In the 19th minute the ball found its way back to Marco Ruitenbeek and he could have picked it up. Instead he was obviously confused as to who had last touched the ball and ended up conceding a corner on the left.

The corner proved costly as Wilkie headed the ball down to Steve LOVELL and the Englishman put away his fifth goal of the season. Two down the Pars hopes of recovery looked slim but we were to witness a fightback of seismic proportions.

Even before they got one back the Fifers had a well struck free kick destined for the top left hand corner of the net before Julian Speroni heroically palmed out from under his crossbar. Then in the 25th minute a fine interchange from Crawford and Nicholson set up Stevie on the edge of the area. He thought of shooting but chose to pass across the box for his partner Craig BREWSTER to force over the advancing Speroni.

Things were still rocking at the back however and Scott Thomson was mightily relieved to see his deflection off a Ruitenbeek save from Hernandez evade the net and go out for a corner just a minute after the Pars had reduced the deficit. Lee Wilkie got a free header from the set piece but the defence held out.

Nacho Novo tried what would have been a spectacular goal when in the 28th minute he robbed Lee Bullen on half way and shot at goal. Marco had to run backwards and leap to make a two handed catch to avoid joining the David Seaman school of silly slip ups.

There were calls for a penalty when Hernandez appeared to handle the ball in the box but Referee Alan Freeland dismissed any claims that the Pars made for spot kick practice. Things were beginning to look better for the Pars however. The passing started to work and after Nicholson and Crawford worked the ball over from the right Gary Mason had a solid shot blocked on the edge of the box.

Thomson fired over from 25 yards out and then the skipper`s free kick was nodded down by Bullen for Dempsey but his shot was deflected into the keeper. Dundee`s only other chance came 8 minutes from the break after Andrius Skerla slipped and let Lovell away. Scott Wilson`s challenge on the Dundee no. 25 was sufficient to hasten the shot and send it over the crossbar.

Brewster was beginning to use his experience to disrupt the opposition defence with Wilkie collecting a yellow card for his increasing frustration at Brewster`s spoiling.

Half Time 2-1

It was a different Dunfermline that appeared in the second half. In the first minute Brewster picked out Gary Dempsey just inside the box but he was closed down without getting in a shot. Two minutes later Bullen headed a Nicholson free kick just wide. Dempsey had a right footed shot saved and Scott Thomson had a header from a corner that Wilkie sent behind. All that within the first five minutes of the restart.

In the 52nd Dair tried a strike from a 35 yard out free kick but Speroni was down to his right for it and although he spilled the ball out of his hands Bullen was penalised for an overenthusiastic challenge.

Crawford was next to threaten the score sheet when a long ball down the left from Thomson was fed to the hungry Scotland striker. Stevie rounded the Dee defence and forced Speroni to palm away his shot. When the ball broke to Brewster he was shut out before he could shoot.

Dundee reminded us that they had returned after half time when Caballero got the better of Thomson and Ruitenbeek had to be out fast to clear. When Novo accepted a Lovell pass in the 62nd minute to force Marco to divert the ball only just outside his right hand post there were fears that the Pars best chances might have gone.

Sean Kilgannon was a 63rd minute introduction for Gary Dempsey and the Stirling born youngster was unlucky after playing only four minutes as he won a corner and then when Bullen`s header was defended Barry Nicholson stabbed it down for him to shoot. The subs shot however was skied over the crossbar.

Next Brewster was the surprise free kick taker but again Speroni was good enough. Thomson conceded another corner on the right in cutting out Novo and from it Rae sent the ball back across the goalmouth for Marco to punch out. Grady thumped in a reply and Marco turned that one behind.

Caballero was next to test our Dutchman before play switched back in the Pars favour. Wilkie forced his defence to hoof a clearance away when Crawford almost latched on to his poor back pass but then the equaliser arrived.

In the 74th minute Dunfermline second half supremacy produced the goods. A Brewster flick on fell for Stevie Crawford and as he burst through the middle Speroni came to meet him. Three Dundee defenders pursued him to his right but CRAWFORD shook off the posse and shot home. The Dundee players felt that the goal had been offside and their protests probably ended up costing them the game.

Wilkie was awarded a yellow card for objecting. That being his second yellow Freeland then flashed red. Barry Smith was also yellow carded as the referee`s ears were not given peace. Down to ten men with the Pars rolling back, Dundee were now unlikely to get back into the match.

Six minutes from time the fairytale comeback was complete. Kilgannon broke down the left and swung in a cross that surprised the defence and Crawford who seemed to be just ahead of it. Craw chased out right and returned the ball. Dair found himself in possession on the edge of the box and in such circumstances Jason doesn`t wait for a written invitation. To the delight of all Dunfermline fans and his fellow players DAIR`s low drive deceived Speroni and the three points and third place in the SPL were in the bag.

An incredible match. Very entertaining, not recommended for anyone with a nervous disposition but unbelievably satisfying to be a Pars fan. Indiscipline cost Dundee at least a share of the points and the Pars team has to be praised for its tenacity. There are many whose heads would drop if two down within twenty minutes. Barry Nick got off the hook; Thomson inspired his team, Brewster really unsettled the opposition and Crawford as usual had a role in every goal.