This weekend saw the quarter-final ties of the Scottish Cup being played which unfortunately Hamilton got knocked out of in the first round against St Johnstone in January. So a free weekend for myself could only mean one thing. Look for another game to attend. So on Saturday afternoon I set off to Fife to watch Dunfermline v Queen Of The South at East End Park.
The Pars have had a up and down season with very inconsistent form which led to manager Allan Johnson parting company with the club at the start of January. Stevie Crawford was handed the job and has made a big difference to Dunfermline . It was a tough start to life for Crawford, losing his first two games in charge, including a 3-0 hammering in a local derby against League One side Raith Rovers. Their fortunes started to change when The Pars won their first game since December, when they beat Inverness 1-0 at the start of February, before going on to win their next three. Four win’s on the spin have Dunfermline now sat in a play-off position which is quite remarkable.
Queen Of The South also have had a seesaw season. The Queen’s home form has been key to points this season, with the Dumfries side having won just three away games all season. The visitors came to Fife losing six games on the trot and the defeat at the weekend has pulled them right down into relegation battle. I’d never expect to see Queens down the bottom fighting, especially when they are the fourth highest scorers in the Championship and have the services of the prolific Steven Dobbie.
Dunfermline made one change from the fantastic 3-0 victory over Partick Thistle on Tuesday evening with Aidan Connolly starting in place of Louis Longridge.
Queens boss, Gary Naysmith made one change from their defeat at Cappielow on Tuesday with former Par, Fraser Aird starting on the wing with Barry McGuire dropping to the bench.
It was a very slow start in Fife with both teams struggling to string a couple passes together. Every attempted pass was just a long hit and hope ball up to either sides striker. The hoof ball tactic did nearly pay off for the Pars, who should have taken the lead on the third minute. The cross was poorly dealt with by the Queens defence allowing the home side a second chance. The ball was worked to James Craigen, who dinked a beautiful chipped ball into the box, setting it for Kallum Higginbotham on a plate,but the striker couldn’t divert it by Alan Martin.
The visitors first attempt of the afternoon came after six minutes when Lydon Dykes was brought down on the edge of the box. The deadly Steven Dobbie stepped up and fired the ball just wide of the target.
The Dunfermline defence in particular had a very dodgy start to the game, putting themselves under constant pressure with self-inflicted errors. Both Danny Devine and Lee Ashcroft struggled to clear their lines properly on numerous occasions in the first 30 minutes.
There then was a quiet spell in this very scrappy match, which actually looked like both sides didn’t want to lose. It did surprise me to see The Pars not attacking with confidence after the fine run of form they have at the moment.
Ryan Blair was next to have a pop at goal after the home side were awarded a free-kick. His effort was a good one but was tipped over the bar by Martin. To be honest it was a terrible game and it looked to have 0-0 written all over it. Both sides were severely struggling to create any real opportunity’s, with all the chances so far being half chances since Higginbotham’s golden chance was wasted early in the game . Aberdeen loanee Bruce Anderson went close to open the scoring just before the break as the young striker turned Ryan Williamson’s cross narrowly wide.
Fraser Aird wasn’t getting much of a welcome back to East End Park as he was booed every time he touched the ball but he nearly silenced his critics when he stormed clear down the wing, beating Williamson and curling an effort just wide of Ryan Scully’s goal.
It was a very poor and rather dire opening 45 minutes in Fife as referee Gavin Duncan blew for half-time.
Half Time- Dunfermline 0-0 Queen Of The South
As the second half got underway it was no different to the first half. It was very even and tense and continued to lack a piece of quality, with not one chance being created in the first 15 minutes. Anderson was still a threat and he came close to breaking the deadlock. On the 66th minute, Ashscroft got his head onto Blair’s corner before being flicked over the bar by Anderson from point-blank range.
The opening goal did somehow come and it was the only piece of quality that had been seen all afternoon. I knew it was going to take something special to win this one. Ryan Blair was given the ball by substitute Jackson Longridge before being urged to shoot from the crowd. The midfielder duly obliged and rifled a low drive by Martin and into the far right-hand corner.
Darren Brownlie could have counted himself a lucky man to be on the park after it looked as if he elbowed Anderson in the face as the youngster was about to race through on goal. A huge burst out from the home crowd was followed by only a yellow card by Gavin Duncan.
The Dumfries side changed things up with Gary Naysmith bringing on Ian McGrath, Andy Stirling and Barry Maguire as they hunted for an equaliser. The game should have been dead and buried however as Anderson squandered the best chance of the game on the 84th minute. Louis Longridge beat his man on the wing before delivering an inch-perfect cross which was met by Anderson, but his header from six yards was aimed straight at Martin. Longridge had another excellent chance to put the game beyond Queens as Jordan Marshall’s poor clearance led to Longridge being played through by Anderson, but the substitute seemed to lose his balance and pulled his effort wide of the target.
The visitors nearly stole a point in the dying seconds as substitute Maguire got his head on a corner which was just about saved on the line by Scully.
It wasn’t the bestest of games. A better second-half than the first but id be surprised if Dunfermline held onto the play-off place. Queens do have work to do to avoid relegation with Partick and Falkirk starting to pick up points but I will be interesting to see how it all pans out.
Full Time– Dunfermline 1–0 Queen Of The South
Referee – Gavin Duncan
Assistants – Calum Spence & Tony Fullerton
Attendance – 4,708
Yellow Cards- Blair(38), Brownlie(80)
Red Cards- 0