SPL v Motherwell
DUNFERMLINE 1 MOTHERWELL 0 Date: 21/09/02
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 4987, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: C Richmond, Weather: Sunny
With the attention heaped on both Dunfermline`s on-form strike partnership and Motherwell`s young star in recent weeks, this game should have had a lot more going for it than scrappy battles in the box to try and find the net. However, Sammy the Tammy`s red-haired pre-match antics in front of the Motherwell fans were to prove closer to threatening the goals than Motherwell`s young starlet was to manage.
An early scramble in the Pars box had some pressing the panic button but in the end it was young McFadden who made a better job of breaking down the attack than the Pars defence, needlessly conceding a foul Initial attempts did not fare any better at the opposite end and although Dempsey did well to bring the ball under control at the edge of the box he soon found himself crowded out when he got into the area.
The first real hint of danger came, predictably, from the Crawford and Brewster partnership. A lovely one-two saw the latter feed the former and though the offside trap was beaten Stevie was forced wide, from where his shot found the waiting arms of Woods.
The Pars then forced a couple of set pieces from Motherwell, including a free kick from a promising position when Corrigan
cynically tugged Sean Kilgannon`s shirt, but ultimately nothing came of them. The Pars were lucky not to be ruing the squandered opportunities when, with twenty minutes gone, Gary Mason gave the ball away in the middle of the park. Dempsey finally broke down a quick break from Motherwell with a desperate but well-timed block. Dunfermline might have then snatched something on the counter attack had Lee Bullen not delivered the ball to the wrong side of Stevie Crawford in front of goal.
A nasty clash of heads saw Brewster and Sengewald taken off the pitch for treatment but in the meantime Dunfermline still proved to have the edge in the aerial battle. Dempsey and Crawford combined to allow Kilgannon, starting in place of Walker, to whip in a dangerous cross. Lee Bullen rose above all, but his header across goal flashed past the post.
Motherwell did not look like posing much of a threat in the first half and it would have been through luck rather than tactics had Keith Lasley`s drive found the net, ricocheting between several players before eventually finding Ruitenbeek. Dirk Lehmann was to have a better chance when he won a header inside the Pars box but came closer to hitting the corner flag than the goal.
With half an hour played, Gary Dempsey did well to win possession in the box from Scott Leitch and two corner kicks later found space on the edge of the box to rifle a shot just over the bar. Dempsey`s partner in the centre Gary Mason also dispossessed Leitch on the edge of the Motherwell box but the ex-Par recovered in time to put in an important block.
Pars found themselves in a little danger from a similar position when McFadden won the ball on the edge of the 18-yard box but despite a brief run along the line he could find no way to get his shot past the solid Skerla.
Dunfermline had the chance to snatch a lead just before half time when a low cross from Kilgannon was met by a thunderous volley from the recovering Brewster but his shot zipped over Woods` crossbar.
The second half started in a more attacking vein than the first, but this was largely to do with Derek Adams sending an ambitious shot wide of the home goal straight from the kick-off. It did not seem to set a precedent and the game soon settled back into the huff-and-puff nature of the first half.
Ten minutes had passed before the game really sparked into life courtesy of McFadden, though this time it was not his footballing ability that was bringing the attention. Becoming increasingly frustrated with Skerla`s refusal to allow him into the game that he lashed out at the nearest player. There were doubtlessly numerous 12-year-old wrestling fans that can tell you the name of the move he tried on Lee Bullen, but it certainly doesn`t appear in any textbooks of the beautiful game. The youngster grabbed Bullen and threw him to the ground only yards in front of referee Charlie Richmond. Only the man in black will be able to explain why he was allowed to play on with only a yellow card to his name.
Shortly before the hour mark, Stevie Crawford came the closest so far to scoring when he let rip with a superb volley from the edge of the box, but Stephen Woods pulled off a marvellous save to parry it away.
Brewster then left the pitch permanently, and a tactical switch saw Lee Bullen being thrown up front to provide the height and it almost paid off immediately when Crawford`s cross saw the ex-fullback header over the bar.
Crawford looked to provide again when he and Nicholson combined on a quick counter attack but in the end the striker`s cross could not match the accuracy of his earlier effort.
Substitute Jason Dair was the next to provide Bullen with an opportunity but this time his header was directed straight at the keeper. It was third time lucky however just after the half-hour mark. The ball dropped to Chris McGroarty on the edge of the box but sensing that the shot was not on, he rolled it back out to Barry Nicholson on the left wing. Nicholson`s cross was a dangerous one and this time Lee BULLEN was on hand to head it past Woods.
Motherwell stepped up the pace a little and could have grabbed a quick equaliser when Adams and McFadden combined on the edge of the box but this time it was the timely intervention of McGroarty that saved the Pars. The visitors were also lucky not to get a penalty whenBullen appeared to push Lehmann in the box but instead the free kick was awarded the opposite way.
Both teams had been relying heavily on long balls throughout the game and in the dying minutes it became a habit, with Motherwell desperately trying to pressure the Pars, who in turn were just desperate to avoid conceding a killer late goal.
The nerves were beginning to show - Marco had to be on his toes to deal with a difficult pass back from McGroarty with just a couple of minutes remaining; Lehmann beat Skerla to the ball only to fire his header off target; and the home support were relieved to see Marco confidently dealing with a 30-yard effort from an ambitious McFadden free kick.
In the end the Pars found themselves hanging on in much the same way as their siege at Tannadice the previous week, but a solid defence kept the opponents at bay on the rare occasions when they tried to threaten. The last five minutes were rough but, unlike the nerve-wracking Tannadice encounter, there will be less argument this time over the deserved winners.