Betfred cup round of 16, 1400 Pars fans, crowd display planned and a trip to Celtic Park to face the treble treble winners Celtic. Saturday had all the hallmarks of a classic away trip, even if it was the most difficult draw possible for this young Dunfermline side, and it didnt disappoint. Here I review our trip to face the champions of Scotland and review not only the 120 minutes of football, but the day as a whole so buckle in and enjoy.
The journey and pre match festivities.
It was the typical 5:30am start for a trip from Arisaig heading south for a Pars game via public transport. I wasnt doing it alone this time however, me and 4 mates, 2 of them Celtic supporters, braved the early start and 5 hour train journey to Glasgow to see the Pars! We arrived in Glasgow and headed straight for the Shettleston Juniors social club to join the large group of travelling Pars fans and soak up the pre match atmosphere and enjoy a few sociable beverages. Lots of singing and it was a real party vibe, Dunfermline fans all seemed intent on enjoying the day out, with the match itself taking a back seat with most feeling that a comfortable Celtic was inevitable. There were plenty of songs about Stevie Crawford and a whole host of new players with the new Ryan Dow (AH HA!) song a new favourite amongst the Pars faithful, just showing the excitement that the Dunfermline supporters have about the new Pars squad and coaching team, a big turnaround from the discontent of last season.
Atmosphere and crowd display.
The Pars might not have won the match on Saturday, however we definitley won on the terraces, with the Pars fans outsinging the home support for the entire 120 minutes, a fantastic backing. The teams emerged from the tunnel and the Dunfermline players were greeted with another fantastic crowd display (pictured), organised by Jason Canning, who once again went over and above with another magnificent effort to coordinate the display. The fantastic effort from the Pars fans to get behind the players was matched by the effort of the players on the park. Another example of the unity between the team and the supporters that has thankfully returned and how much of an asset that can be going forward. One of the best moments in the away end was the reaction of the Pars supporters to both Celtic goals, immediately in the aftermath the only set of supporters you could hear were those in the away end who continued to back their team.
The highlight of the day was the Pars equaliser, what a feeling. To be just the one goal behind with 15 minutes to go already exceeded the expectations of every Pars fan, so when Tom Beadling scored and ran over to celebrate with the travelling support, the Pars fans went wild. It was a goal celebration that I’d rarely seen matched in my time as a Pars fan attending games. Two prior celebrations that stick in my mind are the Nicky Clark equaliser up in Inverness in 2018 and the Martin Hardie day in 2011. In a word, euphoria. That spell from the equaliser until Celtic eventually made it 2-1 was one of the best times I’ve had as a Pars supporter. If you could bottle and sell that feeling, you’d make millions.
At the full time whistle, there wasn’t any serious disappointment, or anger or frustration. There was however, an immense display of pride and support for the players. The Pars captain, Paul Paton, led the players, manager and coaching staff, over to thank the travelling support. They were greeted with cheers, singing and applause. The Dunfermline supporters singing the name of the manager “Stevie you’re the one” the chant from the away end. This felt like a big moment for the club, when you compare this to the serious discontent at the club and disconnect between the players and supporters at the tail end of the Allan Johnston reign and towards the end of last season, this really shows how far we’ve come in such a short space of time and it can only stand us in good stead.
The Pars fans were kept locked in for a good 20 minutes after full time and even then there was still plenty singing inside the ground, a real feel good factor amongst the supporters on the back of what was a great day out and even better Pars performance.
Story of the match and player ratings.
This was always going to be a backs to the wall job for the Pars, coming up against the best side in the country is never easy. Especially when they’re on a run of 3 domestic trebles as well as scoring 12 in their first 2 league games of the current season.
The Pars game plan was superb, choosing to operate with Josh Edwards, a more defensive minded player at left midfield helped protect the back four and allow Lewis Martin to filter across and fill in as an extra centre half really helped sure up the defence when Celtic had possession in the final third. Having Nisbet up front, playing directly up against Celtic’s new french centre half, Christopher Jullien, proved a fruitful decision as the Pars striker caused the 7 million pound man numerous problems. Also the use of subs by Stevie Crawford was brilliant, Andy Ryan especially provided a huge impact off the bench.
As expected Celtic dominated and had numerous efforts on goal, however the Pars did well to restrict them to mostly shots from range, in the first half at least, with Ryan Scully equal to everything Celtic tested him with. The best chance of the half actually fell to the Pars, Kevin Nisbet did excellently to dispossess Jullien and find himself one on one, but could only prod the ball just past the far post and wide.
The second half was more of the same only with Celtic looking increasingly likely to break the deadlock and eventually the hoops did open the scoring. A long range effort from Mikey Johnston found its way past Scully and in to the top right corner, it looked like it might have been an over hit cross rather than a shot, but the end result was the same and Celtic were in front.
The Pars boss rung the changes and brought on Andy Ryan and Gabby McGill as the Pars went with two strikers to try and get themselves back into the game. Andy Ryan ended up being an inspired substitution, the forward went on a marauding run down the left hand side beating his man, before pulling the ball back for Tom Beadling who finished calmly in to the bottom right corner to put the Pars level with 15 to play.
The Pars continued to defend resolutely and took the game to extra time. It took Celtic until the second half of the extra time period to finally wear the determined Dunfermline defence down as a deflect James Forrest strike found its way in to the bottom corner. The defending Betfred cup holders managed to hold on despite a bit of pressure from the Pars towards the end, and seal their place in the cup quarter finals.
There were a number of stand outs for the Pars on Saturday. Ryan Scully made a number of fantastic saves throughout the entire 120 minutes. The entire backline were superb, young Stuart Morrison came in for the injured Euan Murray, and put in a performance way ahead of his years in such a big game. Lewis Martin had his best game in a Pars shirt, absolutely imperious throughout. In the middle of the park, Tom Beadling and Paul Paton were fantastic, a great supporting run and finish from Beadling for the goal. Kevin Nisbet worked tirelessly and caused the Celtic backline problems on a few occasions. Also there was strong performances from all the substitutes, Andy Ryan especially who created the goal.
What a day. The atmosphere, the performance, the togetherness amongst the players and supporters. I dont think I have ever left a Pars game after a defeat feeling as proud and encouraged by what I had seen. If the team can carry forward all the positives from this experience then we should be set for a good season. More of the same please Pars!