Dunfermline Athletic 3 - 0 Stirling AlbionAuthor: Alistair Campbell Date: Saturday, 30th Oct 2010
Dunfermline’s home record is beginning to look impressive – that’s 5 league wins from 5. A superb Gibson free-kick set the Pars on their way, and a Kirk tap-in had them two goals to the good at the break. Some second half consolidation followed before a late Woods strike sealed matters. Kyle Allison made a belated debut after goalkeeper Smith suffered a facial injury.
Macca had a couple of selection decisions to make before the match with the rapidly improving Stirling Albion – would he make any changes to the central defensive partnership, and would Cardle, whose form had shaded, keep the recovered Graham out of the starting line-up? The answer was “no” in both cases, so we had the following eleven: Smith in goals, a back four of (reading from the right) Woods, Dowie, Higgins and McCann; a midfield quarter of Gibson, Bell, Mason and Graham; and a striking partnership of Clarke and Kirk. Cardle took his place on the bench, alongside the usual suspects of McDougall and Allison. Keddie was there as defensive cover and with Phinn and Burke both sitting injured in the stand, young Ryan Thomson got the nod as mid-field back-up.
Any thoughts that the visitors, from the newly renamed Doubletree Dunblane Stadium, would park the double-decker bus in front of the goal in the absence of the suspended Aitken were soon dashed. Although they did adopt a defensive line-up with 5 at the back initially, they had the impressive Gordon Smith leading the attack with Scott Robertson providing support, as well as the tricky Réunionnais Heeking in the middle of the park. Callum Reidford was between the sticks, and got a healthy round of applause pre-match, despite only having played half a game for the Pars.
The visitors won the toss, and unusually decided to shoot towards the Cowden end in the first half, giving them the advantage of the late autumn sun. The Pars were soon into their stride, with Gibson breaking in the first minute, but his drive from 25 minutes went straight at Reidford. A minute later and Gibson was again on the break; this time he opted to slip the ball inside to Kirk, only for Kirk to slip in turn.
Calum Woods seemed to take a leaf out of Oor Wullie’s book beating Brown on outside to win the game’s first corner, but that was soon cleared. Gibson meantime wasn’t enjoying the best of starts. After failing to convince referee McKendrick that he had been fouled, he took justice into his own hands with a petulant trip of Smith, which earned him an extended lecture. No sooner had he retreated for the free-kick, but he was getting the ball full in the face.
Bell was also on the deck, his slip allowing Robertson to advance but having evaded Dowie’s challenge, the cut-back was poor, and the Pars defence could breathe again. Most of the action was at the other end though, with Clarke missing a free header at the back-post from Woods’ cross, then the same player appealing for a penalty after colliding with Reidford and Allison going for a looping ball, the referee compromising with the award of another corner, which again proved fruitless.
The Pars had more joy from a dead-ball taking the lead in 18 minutes. Heeking had tripped Mason about 20 yards from goal, and Gibson simply blasted the ball past the outside of the wall into the far corner. 1-0 Pars.
Two minutes later and Heeking gave away another free-kick, a little bit wider, and a little bit further out. Gibson again took responsibility, but this time crashed the ball off the back of Clarke. A minute later and the Pars had a let-off. A cross, high to the back post was gathered by Chris Smith who under-pressure from his namesake Gordon, dropped the ball, but recovered well to make a stunning point blank save when it seemed Smith must score.
Stung by this the Pars produced some of their best moves of the match – a sweeping move with the ball passed from right to left and back culminated in a spectacular, but mistimed, scissor-kick from Clarke. Gibson had yet another go from a free-kick, again a bit wider and further out. Clarke made himself scarce, but Wullie went for placement rather than power, chipping over the wall and off the bar.
It seemed a matter of time before the Pars got another goal and after Clarke was unlucky not to get on the end of Graham’s near-post ball in 26 minutes the second duly arrived. The Pars don’t score many from corners – but when Gibson’s delivery found its way to Mason at the back, and after the referee had got out of the way, Kirk was on hand to divert Gary’s shot home from a yard out. 2-0 Pars.
Stirling had changed things about, with Kane moving to a more central position as they sought to get back into the match, but the Pars still looked the likelier of the two sides, without quite hitting the heights. Clarke had a late chance when Gibson latched onto Kirk’s defensive clearance, but Reidford made the latest in a series of saves to beat away the forward’s shot.
Half-time: Pars 2 Binos 0
Perhaps mindful of recent lapses in concentration in the few minutes after the break, the Pars were slow to get going in the second period, although Higgins’ glancing header from a free-kick produced another Reidford save. However just before the hour Clarke got free to run on goal, but his shot was blocked and Graham lobbed the loose ball just over the bar.