Dunfermline Athletic

Ross County 1 Dunfermline Athletic 3

Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Saturday, 18th Apr 2009

The Pars got their first ever win in Dingwall by making the most of their chances, and can now look forward to the cup semi-final with relegation fears (almost) banished.

This was my first visit to Victoria Park - and very enjoyable it was too. A lovely drive up the A9 through some of the finest scenery in the country, skipping past the Caledonian Stadium, scooting across the Black Isle and then getting your first glimpse of a neat, compact stadium on the outskirts of the town. Plenty of free parking, a pleasant stroll through the town, a bit of banter with the local constabulary then a choice of standing (shock, horror) in the sun, or a seat in the stand, with excellent service at the pie shop thrown in. Hospitality (and weather) typical of the Gaidhealtachd. All it needed was a win to make the day complete…

But back to business: Scott Wilson was suspended and Scott Muirhead injured, but fortunately a third Scott (Thomson) had recovered from his injury and was back in the side at centre-back, alongside Greg Shields, who had the skipper’s armband. McCann came back in at left back, and Woods was at right back. Greg Ross got his first start in over a year (with Nick Phinn taking a breather on the bench) slotting in to the middle with Bell, Burke started on the left (ish), David Graham was on the right, and Kirk and Bayne were up front. Paul Gallacher was in goals. Joining Phinn on a very young bench were Rory Loy, at just turned 21 the oldest, Paul Willis, sub keeper Greg Paterson and a rare appearance for Lee Graham.

County, who had considerably more experience among their substitues, including ex-Pars Craig Brewster and Scott Morrison, made 4 changes, Golabek, Craig, Hart and Corrigan all coming back into the side, with Brittain and Boyd being suspended.

The Pars kicked off towards the Jail End, but play ground to a halt after just a minute when Golabek headed Bell rather than the ball and both players required lengthy treatment. When play restarted Burke swung in the free-kick and Shields was laid low by home keeper Malin and again Gerry Docherty was required to make liberal use of the magic sponge.

In addition to the stop-start nature of the match Greg Ross was doing a good job of breaking up play in the middle of the park, and it took until the 11th minute (albeit at least 5 of those had had the players kicking their heels) until the game’s first chance. Space opened up 20 yards out for the red-booted Sean Higgins, but his delicate chip was past the far post. At the other end, Kirk and Graham both turned their men in turn, and after Woods’ centre was missed, Bell got a shot away that was blocked well short of target.

There were more injury problems after 20 minutes, with Corrigan being stretchered off after an innocuous challenge - Adam Strachan coming on in right midfield and Mark McCulloch going to right back. When play restarted the home team had a great chance - McCulloch got forward on the overlap and with Shield misjudging the cross Stevie Craig had a free-header, which he powered over the top. A let-off for the Pars.

Greg Shields’ defensive style over the years has often resulted in acrobatic clearances leaving him grounded, only for him to leap to his feet almost instantly. In 27 minutes, after a typical clearance, he lay prone, and had to be helped to the pitch side. With Greg Ross taking over as centre-back temporarily, Shields was put through his paces behind the goal, but a cup semi-final being the better part of valour, he was forced to give way to Phinn. A rejigged line up saw Calum Woods move inwards, with Ross taking his favoured right back position.

The Staggies didn’t clear the lines properly in 34 minutes, Bayne feeding the ball to Graham on the right, and Keddie scooped the cross over his own bar and out of the ground. Graham trotted across to the far side to take the Pars’ first corner, it was flicked on beyond the far post where Nipper Thomson was lurking. Nipper cleverly nodded it back to the edge of the 6 yard box where Woods buried the ball with aplomb. 1-0 Pars.

County tried to hit back immediately on the break, but Gallacher was sharply out of his area to clear, and with 45 minutes on the watch Woods did well to shield the ball all the way back to Gallacher as Craig looked to do damage.

The Pars finished the half with a bit of pressure - in the 51st (!) minute McCann’s searching cross to the back post was defended in the nick of time by Golabek as Bayne sought to capitalise. Malin flapped at the first corner, and made a marginally better fist of the second, just getting the ball away. Eight minutes injury time came and went and the Pars had the half time lead.

Half time: Staggies 0 Pars 1.

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