SPFL League One: COWDENBEATH 0 DUNFERMLINE 1: 19/03/16
Another three points closer to title and automatic promotion.
It was a sun kissed Central Park that welcomed Dunfermline Athletic for this League One derby. The Pars requiring three wins to secure the title went with the same starting eleven as proved successful at Somerset Park the previous week. Only change was Paul Joseph Crossan named as a sub in place of the absent Michael Moffat.
Cowdenbeath made three changes from the side that drew at Forfar. Dean Brett, Craig Sives and Liam Callaghan all came in replacing Brad Donaldson, Pat Scullion and Kenny Adamson.
The visitors kicked off into the sunshine attacking the goal at the west end. Ryan Wallace was the first to try a shot but he did not connect well and his effort went high over the bar. At the other end Greig Spence had the ball in the net but everyone except him knew that he was offside. Wallace connected much better in fifth minute forcing Grant Adam to make a good stop.
Faissal El Bakhtaoui was cut down by Aldin El Zubaidi and the big central defender was shown an early yellow. This prompted dissent from Cowden assistant manager Jason Dair and he was sent to the stand by referee Stephen Finnie. From the resultant free kick Michael Paton found El Bakhtaoui and his low shot was saved by Adam dropping to his right.
Cowdenbeath won the first corner of the match in 11 minutes when Wallace headed a cross behind but that was then overstruck and no threat came from it. Another corner off Talbot had the defence scrambling to clear which they eventually did and El Bakhtaoui broke. He had options Wallace to his right, Cardle to his left, he chose Joe but his shot from 18 yards cleared the bar.
A minute later Talbot provided the cross from the left but Adam read Wallace's attempt to chip the tangerine kitted keeper. Wallace and Adam then both went for a cross that came about after Paton had stolen possession, but neither met the cross and a goal kick followed. Adam failed to take cleanly a fairly tame Wallace chip but recovered in time to prevent a personal disaster.
Physio Kenny Murray was required when Brad McKay went down in 24 minutes. He hopped off but was able to continue. The big defender was back on when Greig Spence missed the best chance so far. Lewis Milne swept the ball over from the right and the home striker looked certain to score but fired wide right.
On the half hour a Craig Reid throw in on the right was accepted by Paton and he connected well with his left foot but Adam held. The travelling support groaned in disappointment as the Pars efforts to pass their way into the opposition box appeared to suffer as a result of the pitch. The Blue Brazil then had another good chance in 41 minutes when Milne broke and launched a 30 yarder that Sean Murdoch had to save at full stretch to his right.
Before the half time whistle Cardle cut back the ball from the right but Adam intercepted in front of El Bakhtaoui to ensure clean sheets at both ends. Dunfermline had six first half shots to Cowdenbeath's three but no corners while the home side had four.
Half time: Cowdenbeath 0 Dunfermline 0
The Pars won their first corner 20 seconds into the second half but it was a 48th minute goalmouth scramble that almost broke the deadlock. El Bakhtaoui found himself in possession on the right side of the Cowden box, he picked out Cardle who thrashed an attempt on target but Adam got a block and on loan Livingston player Kieran Gibbons hoofed the ball clear.
In 51 minutes Adam saved a long range effort from Cardle. The keeper knew very little about Wallace's strike the following minute. He had taken advantage on the sun blinding Brett to take the ball to the byeline on the left and played the ball off Cardle to get in a shot that just ran outside the right upright.
Dunfermline kept up the pressure with a couple of Paton crosses into the box. Cardle and then Paton both tried further balls into the Cowden six yard box and the second took a desperate clearance from Brett to deny the much sought after opener.
Murdoch was kept alert with Brett cross and then a Spence shot that proved tricky as it bounced up off the park. Another Paton cross in 61 minutes could not be controlled by El Bakhtaoui and then in 63 minutes the striker got two bites at a good chance but both times the keeper blocked. The chance came from a Wallace pass from the right corner back to Paton and his cross was headed on target by Geggan but the keeper blocked and then spoiled two efforts from the Pars top goalscorer.
In 68 minutes Cardle beat off the challenge of Brett to set up Wallace but his shot came back off Sives. To further frustrate Cowden won a 72nd minute corner but Dunfermline made the break with Wallace sending sub David Hopkirk away down the right only for Brett to cover across from the right and flatten the Pars player. No free kick.
El Bakhtaoui was then shown a yellow card for dissent after he, and most of the 2335 crowd complained about an offside decision that prevented him from going through on Adam. In 79 minutes McKay was dragged down as he attacked a good cross to the far left, no penalty. This infuriated Pars gaffer Allan Johnston and he was sent to the stand.
Two minutes later El Bakhtaoui was brought down on the edge of the box and this time Mr Finnie was disposed to award the free kick. Rhys McCABE had only been on the pitch less than three minutes but his setpiece took a deflection off the Cowden wall to end up in the net. 0-1
The home manager Coiin Nish found something to criticise and Stephen Finnie added to the crowd by dispatching him to join Jason Dair and Allan Johnston in the stand.
The better chances in the remaining minutes were Dunfermline's. Hopkirk again got pushed off the ball when through and both Wallace and Cardle drilled shots at Adam.
COWDENBEATH: Grant Adam; Dean Brett (c), Craig Sives, Ali El-Zubaidi, Mo Yaqub; Declan McDaid, Liam Callaghan (Declan Byrne 66), Kieran Gibbons (Ross Caldwell 83), Declan Hughes, Lewis Milne; Greig Spence.
SUBS NOT USED: Brad Donaldson, Pat Scullion, Chris Kane, Jack Beaumont, Alin Roman (GK).
YELLOW CARD: El Zubaidi (5), Caldwell (90)
DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch; Craig Reid, Brad McKay, Ben Richards-Everton, Jason Talbot; Michael Paton (David Hopkirk 69), Andy Geggan, Josh Falkingham (Rhys McCabe 78), Joe Cardle; Ryan Wallace, Faissal El Bakhtaoui.
SUBS NOT USED: Paul Joseph Crossan, Shaun Byrne, Lewis Martin, Shaun Rooney, David Hutton (GK).
SCORERS: McCabe (81)
YELLOW CARD: Falkingham (63), Geggan (70), El Bakhtaoui (75)
REFEREE: Stephen Finnie
WEATHER: Sunny 11C
NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes League One (home) v Brechin City, Saturday 26th March 2016, kick off 3.00pm at East End Park