The Scottish Cup third round weekend. The start of another cup campaign for the Pars as they looked to avenge last years damaging cup defeat to Raith Rovers. As usual there was an excitement amongst the Dunfermline support, given the history of the club with the much celebrated cup wins in 1961 and 1968, the Scottish Cup remains a very special cup competition for the Pars fans. Having had a free weekend due to the international break, Stevie Crawford’s men had plenty time to prepare for this encounter and were looking to bounce back from defeat last time out away to Alloa.
Dunfermline made two changes to the starting lineup, Danny Devine came in for the suspended Lee Ashcroft whilst Greig Kiltie made way for Lewis McCann who was fresh off the back of a positive display on international duty with the Northern Ireland U19’s. The surface at Stair Park could only be described as sunday league standard, both sets of players consistently struggled to deal with the pitch and it certainly wasnt conducive to silky football. Stranraer did have the best of the opening exchanges as the hosts looked hungrier and seemed to relish the pitch conditons and definitely seemed more up for the fight. Stranraer had a number of efforts at goal and corners early on, forcing some good saves from Ryan Scully and also hitting the post.
There was then an unfortunate incident as Pars ‘keeper Ryan Scully suffered an injury whilst bravely coming to collect a low cross he was subsequently knocked out and after a ten minute delay in proceedings was stretchered off. Hopefully there will be a speedy recovery for Ryan and he’ll be back soon. He was replaced by Cammy Gill who made his first appearance since the defeat at Tannadice last month. The break in proceedings really calmed the game down and things really petered out as the first half came to a close. A poor first half for Dunfermline and surely things would pick up in the second half, surely?
The second half was very much more of the same, Dunfermline really couldnt get anything going. The passing was slack, they seemed content with just hoofing the ball long from the back and any time the forward players did get ahold of the ball nothing was sticking and there was no real end product. If you were a neutral and someone told you that one of the teams was bottom of league of league and the other was a championship side you would be convinced Dunfermline were the side bottom of the third tier.
Stranraer deservedly took the lead on 61 minutes from the penalty spot. Once again Dunfermline conceded a penalty for handball, no complaints about this one thought as the ball hits the arm of Lewis Martin, a stonewaller. James Hilston converted from the spot to put the blues in front. Dunfermline now faced an uphill struggle and once again continued to huff and puff but with very little chances created. The closest they came was from a Kevin Nisbet freekick that rattled the crossbar. Dunfermline had a penalty shout of their own towards the end of the game, a handball by a Stranraer defender that the referee judged to have taken place outside of the box. My thought at the time was that it should have been a penalty kick however in all honesty it would have been a lifeline that the Dunfermline performance didn’t really merit. Dunfermline’s final effort of the game really summed up their day as a Paul Paton volley cleared the fence behind the goal. The full time whistle was greeted by loud boos and lots of anger from the Dunfermline supporters who had made the trip down.
Theres not an awful lot to say about the ratings to be honest, they pretty much speak for themselves. A pretty dismal team performance with nobody standing out as having a good game. I actually feel that singling any individual players is unfair because they were almost all dreadful. The only one positive I can think of is that Joe Thomson, who’s just back from a long term injury, looked very mobile and got about the park well. He had more drive and showed more hunger in his cameo off the bench than any of the others in a Dunfermline shirt had in the 90 minutes.
A really dreadful day for Dunfermline, and now back to back defeats to part time opposition after the Alloa defeat last time out on league duty. The Pars supporters who travelled down were, rightly, very unhappy with the performance and made sure to let the team know how they felt. After a good spell in the league in the run up to the Alloa game it felt like Stevie Crawford was finally starting to get it right but with these two damaging defeats next Saturday’s game at home to bottom of the league Partick Thistle is now a huge game for Crawford. There are a large portion of the Dunfermline support who don’t think he is the man to take the team forward, and whilst I’m not at that stage yet, I do feel that the team need to bounce back from this next weekend and I fear that another defeat could make for a rather poisonous atmosphere at East End Park.