Dunfermline 0-1 FalkirkAuthor: Stuart Holland Date: Wednesday, 26th Dec 2012
Falkirk used the old Muhammad Ali trick of “rope a dope” to win a game that they looked to be losing on the judges scorecard in the Boxing Day derby at East End Park. The Pars had more of the ball, most of the chances and more reasons to question some of the decisions made as Blair Alston took one of the few chances Falkirk created to take all three points back over the Kincardine Bridge.
Dunfermline made three changes from the team that failed to break down a stubborn Hamilton defence the week in their last home game, with Paul Gallacher replacing deputy Michael Hrivnak and Ryan Wallace and Joe Cardle coming in for Craig Dargo and Ryan Thomson to provide the width that was lacking against the Accies.
Falkirk made only one change from the team that had beaten Airdrie in the rearranged game before the Festive break, with Craig Sibbald dropping out for Alston. This meant the visitors lined up 4-1-4-1 with Lyle Taylor looking to add to his hat-trick at New Broomfield while the Pars reverted to Jim Jefferies’ preferred 4-3-3 with Josh Falkingham in a free role behind Wallace and Andy Barrowman.
he teams lined up on a slate grey day with the Pars kicking towards the visiting fans in the Cowdenbeath end and immediately tried to get on the front foot. It was the visitors though who carved out the first chance with Dods flicking a header towards goal and Andy Dowie hooking clear although it may have been going wide in any event.
The Pars then countered with Wallace having a blast from long range that was blocked. The end-to-end nature of the opening exchanges continued with Taylor being called offside as he broke through on goal.
Taylor was causing problems and after he was leaned on by Potter, the Falkirk man received a warning for overreacting slightly to the challenge. It appeared as if the teams were having a rotation policy for attacks and it was no surprise when Dunfermline broke forward down the right with McMillan, Wallace and Husband combining to set Cardle in.
The winger couldn’t quite get the ball under control though and McGovern was able to smother the ball despite Cardle having a little dig with his boot on his way through.
Falkirk weren’t put off by this foray forward though and attacked that very flank with pace and trickery. Kingsley and Fulton combined to get up a crossing opportunity and when the ball in was blocked, Fulton followed it up with a low drive that Gallacher did well to hold given the slippery conditions underfoot.
Andy Geggan was next to try his luck as the play moved to the other end, as he got his head to a cross from the left flank but sadly for the former Dumbarton and Ayr player, he could only direct the ball over the bar. Barrowman was the next player to have a go and his header forced McGovern into a save as his header skipped up off the greasy surface.
It was a good save by a ‘keeper many Pars fans hoped to sign from Ross County but Barrowman did well to generate any power onto his attempt on goal and it was a difficult chance for the big striker. Falkirk were closing the Pars down at every opportunity and Fulton managed to annoy Potter enough to warrant the ref warning the former St Mirren captain for having a little niggle at the forward.
A few minutes later and the referee’s assistant made the first of several calls that bemused and annoyed the home fans. Despite being 30 yards away from the dug-outs, he seemed to take umbrage at something said by the Pars management team and after discussing matters with referee Finnie, Jim Jefferies was sent to the stand.
A strange call given that the Pars manager didn’t seem to leave his technical area although the linesman himself seemed to want to be the centre of attention and was running on the pitch instead of the astroturf strip up the line provided for him.
Falkirk tried to rub salt in the wounds but Taylor shot high and wide after some nifty footwork at the edge of the box. Not the best start for Falkirk’s top scorer this season.
Dunfermline were determined to go in ahead at the break and a Cardle breakaway forced Duffie into hacking the winger down for a deserved yellow card. Stephen Jordan was next to try his luck as he sneaked into the box but his left foot shot spun off a defender and sadly for the home fans smacked against the face of the bar.
Geggan was also getting forward from his midfield beat but as was too often the case, his cross in was blocked. Just as Dunfermline looked to press home their advantage, all hell broke loose. McMillan looked to be fouled as he made a typically marauding run up the wing but no free kick was awarded.
A lunging challenge by Murdoch on Falkingham that looked a little more than 50/50 then seemed to go unpunished but the Man Stand linesman’s flag soon raised the referee’s attention. While most people weren’t at all surprised that Murdoch and Falkingham were booked (after all when the referee doesn’t see anything, it seems to be their default response), there were bemused faces all round at the linesman appearing to push a player away from the resulting melee and even more confusing looks and anger when Jordan McMillan was given a straight red card.
To recap then; Pars down to 10 men, their manager in the stand and still around 50 minutes to play. The Athletic managed to get to half time unscathed though, despite McGrandles winning a free kick that came to nothing as the half came to a close.
Half-time: Dunfermline 0, Falkirk 0
The second half started with neither team making any changes to personnel although Andy Geggan moved to fill in McMillan’s full back position as Gerry McCabe relayed the manager’s instructions from his position in the Main Stand Enclosure.
Andy Barrowman took on the role of cheerleader in chief and tried to gee up the Pars fans after the home team had forced a corner. As expected though, Falkirk started to see more of the ball and were forcing Dunfermline to sit deeper and deeper.
Taylor had a shot that took a nick off a defender but Gallacher was equal to it and managed to hold onto the spinning ball. Falkirk may have been in control of possession at this stage but the home side were always dangerous on the break.
Wallace in particular was using his pace and with Dods looking to tug the former East Fife man’s jersey, Wallace tried to flick the ball over the defender’s head. The ball never made it though, either because of an arm (if you asked the Pars fans behind the goal) or Dods’ upper chest (if you asked the referee).
One to watch again on the highlights DVD, perhaps? Falkirk were also looking dangerous when they upped the tempo and when the ball was cut back from the goal-line, the visiting fans rose to salute an opener. Taylor managed to let the ball roll across his foot though, and the ball managed to avoid any other Falkirk players as the Pars defence managed to clear.
Falkirk were getting the ball wide with their numerical advantage but crosses were being blocked, headed away or clasped by Gallacher as the Pars defence held firm. With around an hour to go though, the game seemed to change tack as Dunfermline managed to get the upper hand.
A break by Falkingham was halted cynically by Grant which set up a dead ball chance for Stephen Husband. Despite having success with a similar effort at Stark’s Park though, his low driven shot went harmlessly wide. Wallace was also having success against the left back Kinglsey, at one point skinning him delightfully with a nutmeg but sadly his final ball was lacking on this occasion.
A better ball in set up another Pars attack but while Cardle seemed to be held by the Falkirk defender’s bear hug the referee wasn’t impressed and yet another big call seemed to go against the Pars.