Dunfermline Athletic 1 Morton 3Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Saturday, 5th Mar 2011
The Pars’ ongoing promotion campaign stuttered again when they collapsed to a 3-1 home reverse, failing to recover from calamitous concession of a goal inside 40 seconds. Two further blunders coupled with an attack that rarely tested the goalkeeper means the Pars now trail Raith Rovers by 6 points.
Two large areas of relayed turf meant the pitch had a patch-work quality to it; the team was in slightly better shape with a balanced starting line-up, although the bench looked a bit threadbare. With Paul Willis playing (and scoring) for Ayr, and Jordan White coming off the bench to make his Dumbarton debut, all those who remained at East End Park and were fit (with the exception of Greg Paterson) were in the squad. Pat Clarke started alongside Liam Buchanan in the only change from the team who had won at Dumfries, with Andy Kirk, the division’s leading scorer, surprisingly dropping to the bench. Otherwise, it was at you were – Smith in goals; Woods, Keddie, Higgins and McCann along the back; Mason and Hardie in the middle, Graham on the left and McDougall on the right.
Morton went with 4 at the back, and either 3 or 5 in midfield, depending on whether they had the ball or not. Derek Lyle, he of the brief and unproductive Pars career, was at the apex of the attack, having recovered from the bad injury sustained during his spell at Hamilton, but there was no sign of Graeme Holmes or Darren Young.
Morton, in an all red strip, kicked off defending the Cowdenbeath end, and took the lead in only 36 seconds, scoring what, from a Dunfermline point of view, was a quite ridiculous goal with no fewer than 3 players culpable. Higgins was under a little pressure from Lyle and hit an over-firm pass back to where Smith was, wide of the goal. The ball took a bad bounce (this is where the turf is damaged from the keepers’ warm up) and Smith, with options of booting into the stand (or even letting the ball run under his foot) sclaffed his clearance straight to Lyle. A goalscorer with an open goal doesn’t need time to think, and Lyle shot from the corner of the box. Keddie chased it back and seemingly had it covered, but unaccountably let the ball bounce of the post and over the line. 1-0 Morton.
If you’re going to lose a goal, then losing it with nearly 89 and a half minutes left to play gives you plenty of time to recover, and after the inquest amongst the defenders the Pars set about clawing their way back into the game. In 6 minutes McDougall beat McKinlay with ease down the right and after Smyth struggled to clear Clarke recycled the ball to McCann but he hit his cross too long. Woods had a shot that was well off target before being called into the action at the other end when Fitzharris’s miscue fell in no-man’s land. With Smith hesitant, Woods eventually headed firmly (and nearly beyond) his keeper.
It took until 19 minutes for the Pars to create their first decent chance – with his back to goal Graham feinted right, turned left and hit a cross to the front post where Buchanan badly mistimed his header. Lyle was similarly off-target 4 minutes later when Tidser breezed through 2 challenges to cut-back from the bye-line, knocking the ball over the bar under belated pressure from Higgins.
The Pars were enjoying plenty possession, but couldn’t create much in the final third; Hardie was hitting some decent long passes to Buchanan and Clarke, but then was too far away to get on the end of them, and the absence of any real aerial threat made Morton’s defensive tasks that much easier. Morton, on the other hand, were happy to sit back, and break quickly with the pace of O’Brien and on-loan Celt Fitzharris on the flanks. Even a rare tactical switch, with McDougall and Graham swapping wings, couldn’t generate any real threat, and with virtually the last kick of the half Mason handicapped himself for the second period by getting himself booked for a late challenge on Tidser.
Half Time: Pars 0 Ton 1
The second half started better than the first for the Pars, but only in that it took a good two and a half minutes longer before they gifted the visitors a goal, although they nearly had a chance themselves within 15 seconds of the kick-off. A long punt towards the Morton box came off Jenkins and afforded Clarke the opportunity for a bicycle kick, but he seemed caught into two minds, and neither flicked to Buchanan, or got the ball towards goal. Two minutes later and O’Brien was allowed to run into the Pars box unimpeded, but seemed to take a bad touch given Higgins the chance to clear. Higgins reciprocated with an appalling attempt to get the ball away, slipping into the bargain, allowing O’Brien a free shooting opportunity at the edge of the 6 yard box. No problems for him, and 2-0 Ton.
McDougall was back on the right and Graham the left, but this arrangement didn’t last long as Macca made an early double-substitution, bringing on Kirk and Cardle for Clark and McDougall, forcing DG back to the right to allow Cardle the left-wing slot. The change saw no immediate impact, although the Pars were increasing the tempo of play, just as Morton were trying to slow it down. Unless they were attacking of course. Higgins nearly blundered again, trying to shepherd the ball out for a shy only to be tricked by Fitzharris, but the centre-back managed to spare some of his blushes with a ball-winning tackle. However, he was the one to give way when Macca made his final change with 14 minutes left – bringing on Thomson as the Pars moved to three at the back.