SFL v St Johnstone


Fixture: Irn Bru SFL Division One

Attendance: 4215, Kick off 15.00

Referee: John Underhill


After two no scoring draws against the Perth Saints it was all change in the dug outs for this the third SFL match between these sides this season. Jim McIntyre, Gerry McCabe and Stephen Wright were together for their first match and of course Derek McInnes was in the opposition dug out following the departure of Owen Coyle to Burnley.

Stevie Crawford and the suspended Calum Woods made way for the return of Greg Ross and Darren Young while Derek McInnes also had two changes - Steven Anderson and Greg Cameron coming in for Stuart McCaffrey and Kevin Moon.

Dunfermline kicked off attacking the goal in front of a surprisingly small travelling support and thanks to perseverance of Ross and Thomson play was pegged back deep in the opposition half. Before Saints could play the ball back into the Pars half a Stephen Simmons header to Mark Burchill created the first shot at goal after just 98 seconds. Burchy laid the ball off for Jim Hamilton to clip an effort narrowly wide of the right goalpost from 20 yards.

Despite the Pars strong start it was the eighth minute before Alan Main was pressed into action parrying away a Scott Morrison free kick hammered in on target from 30 yards. Four minutes later Dunfermline won a penalty from which they failed to score.

A Thomson throw in on the right was nodded down from Ross to Hamilton. The striker got a lucky break back off Anderson to thread the ball into the penalty box where Burchill was downed by Gary Irvine. Burchill got up to take responsibility for the spot kick but his left foot blasted the ball into the stand.

St Johnstone continued to make Dunfermline aware of their presence with Gallacher forced to fist clear and Peter McDonald shooting wide of the left goalpost. A Scott Wilson clearance was picked up by Steven Milne and he drilled in a shot that rose all the way to clear the crossbar.

Paul Gallacher pulled off a fine save midway through the half, stretching to his left to deny a Paul Sheerin attempt after Stanic had picked out Craig on the left side of the Pars box only to see that attempt blocked. St Johnstone`s confidence and command over the game was beginning to grow as they forced their opponents into misplaced passes and ball chasing.

Some respite came in 31st minute when a free kick on the edge of the Saints box allowed Simmons to drill a shot at their wall and Wilson to try┬ and net the rebound. Unfortunately the defence came out on top. Next minute a long through from Simmons was hooked wide of target by Burchill after Main had raced out to narrow the angle.

Dropping to his left, Gallacher held a well struck shot in 39th minute. McDonald returned a cross from deep on the right for Greg Cameron to turn and hit but fortunately the Pars keeper was on top of his form.

On the stroke of half time the Pars defence got caught out on their left side. Steven Milne latched on to a pass that he swiftly switched to Andy JACKSON and he slotted past Gallacher to find the net in the far left corner.

Chances had come the Pars way but St Johnstone had seen plenty of possession that built up to earn the breakthrough.

Half Time: Dunfermline 0 St Johnstone 1

Kevin Harper replaced Darren Young for the second half and he immediately injected some urgency into the Pars play winning a free kick and then being tumbled in quick succession. Corner kicks followed but still the final telling blow could not be delivered.

St Johnsone won their first corner of the second half in 52 minutes when McDonald`s shot from 22 yards was deflected wide right and Anderson got two bites at the cross both blocked. Liam Craig found himself with time to shoot just three minutes later but sent the ball wide from the angle at the top of the box.

Jim McIntyre introduced himself for Greg Ross and he came desperately close to turning in a Hamilton knock down in 62 minutes but Main intercepted. The Pars forced a corner on the right that brought an East End roar and Hamilton was next to be out of luck as he headed Scott Morrison`s ball on to the crossbar.

The pressure was maintained with Morrison making Main hold a drive from the edge of the box. In 67th minute Kevin Harper sent a free kick from the left right through the crowded box and out at the far post. His corner from the left a minute later was defended but Morrison as last man sent the ball wide for Harper to beat Irvine and centre for his Manager but he lost the race to the ball against the defence.

Dunfermline were almost caught out when Main booted a long ball up the park. Milne won the ball off Murphy and Wilson produced a great last ditch tackle to thwart Jackson. The Pars captain was booked for a challenge on Milne earning Saints a pop at goal from the 23 yard free kick but that was blocked.

With 14 minutes remaining Dunfermline moved to a 3-5-2 with Steve Crawford coming on for Jamie Harris. The screw was tightened on the Perth outfit; Simmons belted a good chance over the bar and when Harper achieved a fine ball in from the right both Simmons and Burchill tried to head in but all they managed was to put each other off.

In 86 minutes Gallacher pulled off a cracking save from McDonald turning the ball around his right hand post for a corner. When that came over Anderson headed on to the crossbar and it was the East Stand that was in song at the end.

This was before one hell of a final push from Dunfermline and a penalty denied when Jim McIntyre was pulled away from Thomson`s cross from the left byeline. After the final whistle there was a dust up between Daal and Murphy but by then nothing was going to alter the scoreline.┬ Referee John Underhill showed both players a straight red after they left the field of play which means that Murphy has played his last match for Dunfermline Athletic.

St Johnstone`s first league success at East End Park in over ten years was not to be prevented and Jim McIntyre discovered for the first time what it was like to┬ be in charge of┬ a losing eleven.┬ Dundee only drew at Clyde and Hamilton lost heavily to Partick Thistle so the three points for the visitors gave them renewed optimism in the promotion chase.┬ Dunfermline dropped two places to sixth.

DUNFERMLINE: Paul Gallacher; Scott Thomson, Jamie Harris (Stevie Crawford 76), Scott Wilson (c), Danny Murphy, Greg Ross (Jim McIntyre 58), Darren Young (Kevin Harper HT), Stephen Simmons, Scott Morrison; Mark Burchill, Jim Hamilton.
SUBS: Sean Murdoch (GK), Tam McManus
YELLOW CARD: Wilson (75)
RED CARD: Murphy (FT)

ST JOHNSTONE: Alan Main; Gary Irvine, Goran Stanic, Greg Cameron, Kevin Rutkiewicz, Steven Anderson, Peter MacDonald, Liam Craig, Andy Jackson (Dyron Daal 90), Steven Milne, Paul Sheerin (Allan McManus 70).
SUBS: David Weatherston, Derek McInnes, Kevin Cuthbert
SCORER: Jackson (45)
YELLOW CARD: Rutkiewicz (60)

REFEREE: John Underhill

NEXT MATCH: Scottish Cup (away) v Partick Thistle, Tuesday 22nd January kick off 7.45pm