Saturday saw Dunfermline travel to the city of discovery to take on league leaders and title favourites; Dundee United, as the Pars looked to make it five unbeaten league games on the bounce. Dundee United have been a bogey team for Dunfermline for years, in the last 20 meetings prior to Saturday’s game United have 15 wins, with four draws and just the single solitary win for the Fifers. It was looking like yet another tough encounter and so it turned out as United made for another frustrating afternoon for the Pars.
Stevie Crawford made one change to his starting side that performed so well in the home win against Ayr United the week previous as match winner Andy Ryan was rewarded for his two goals in two games from the bench with a start in place of Kevin Nisbet. It was Dunfermline who started the brighter in the opening exchanges, Ryan Dow looking a threat down the Dunfermline right, but little in terms of chances created. However the positive start didn’t last very long as with their first real attack United went ahead, through guess who? Lawrence Shankland. This goal was the start of an afternoon to forget for Cammy Gill, he flapped at a cross that looked relatively tame which then made its way to Nick Clark who crossed for Shankland to convert from close range to fit the hosts in front. Clinical as ever from the now called Scotland international.
Despite the early setback, Dunfermline continued what had been a positive start with the Pars looking dangerous, chances for Ryan who saw a header tipped over the bar and for Turner who’s shot from the edge of the box went over. However once again as the Pars looked in control of the game they were hit with another sucker punch and another predictable scorer in Nicky Clark who got his customary Tannadice goal against his former side. A free kick from the right corner of the box went round the wall and in at the near post past the stationary Cammy Gill who will once again be disappointed to be beaten in the manner in which he was. A tough learning curve for the young ‘keeper but hopefully an experience he can use to improve in the future. Dunfermline having started the game reasonably well, found themselves two nil down at the break with what turned out to be United’s only two shots on target in the entire game.
Dunfermline faced an uphill task in the second half despite performing reasonably well in the first 45 minutes. Two poor goals to concede from United’s only two real openings proving why United are so lucky to have players of the calibre of Shankland and Clark, clinical goal scorers.
Dunfermline were forced into a half time change as Lewis Martin went off through injury and was replaced by Danny Devine and despite the initial scepticism from some supporters(myself included) about Devines introduction, he went on to play very well in the second half as Dunfermline limited United to virtually no real chances. The Pars performance in the second was in all truth pretty good in terms of an away performance at Tannadice, not an awful lot between the sides but Dunfermline always looked the more likely to get the games next goal. Kevin Nisbet came on to partner Andy Ryan and there were chances for both in the second half, Ryan coming closest for the Pars as his shot hit the bar. There was also a half chance for Lee Ashcroft who almost bettered last weeks heroics as he saw a volley from 25 yards head over the bar. This was another very good performance for the defender who seems to have recovered his form since dropping the captaincy, which is proving a very wise move by Stevie Crawford.
It has to be said that the Dunfermline supporters were fantastic up at Tannadice, no real negativity despite the result but there was constant singing and backing, throughout the second half especially. There was also a small protest put together and the ticket prices, £24 to be shoved up in the top tier with only two turnstiles open leaving many Dunfermline fans outside after the game had kicked off, all to watch second division football in Scotland, pretty Scandalous in fairness.
The Dunfermline fans unveiled a banner organised by Jason Canning (the man for the big occasion as ever 😜) to protest at the prices with the message “FairPlay stand….unfair prices”. Hopefully the message has been received loud and clear by not just the Dundee United board but other clubs in Scotland as ticket prices all over the country are pricing some supporters out of the game.
This wasn’t Cammy Gill’s finest game, but nobody will know that more than him. Having performed so admirably the week prior against Ayr, this will come as big disappointment to the young Pars ‘keeper but it just showcases the inconsistency you get with young players, especially goalkeepers. Hopefully he can bounce back to form against Arbroath midweek. Lee Ashcroft had another very good game at the back and was my man of the match, as mentioned earlier he looks like a different player this season and long may it continue. Across the midfield we were solid if unspectacular, Paul Paton my pick of the bunch, a good game by the captain. Up front I thought Andy Ryan did well with what at times was limited service, he came close on two occasions and looked our main threat and in another day could have easily had a goal with the ‘keeper and crossbar denying him. Danny Devine was the pick of the substitutes as mentioned earlier, a strong performance from him and you’d imagine he’ll start midweek with the injury to Lewis Martin so hopefully more of the same there.
This won’t be a season defining game for Dunfermline, in fact it’ll almost certainly be forgotten about in a couple of weeks. A decent performance in which the clinical nature of the opposition forwards combined with a couple of mistakes cost us. However, such is the brutal nature of this league, having just been on a run of four unbeaten the Pars now sit only two points off the bottom and could potentially go bottom of the table on Tuesday night, however alternatively they sit only five points off the playoff positions and a midweek victory will put them right back in the hunt for that.