Last updated : 23 January 2005 By Pars Mad

On a day when a Great Dane threatened to grab all of the headlines it was an old Craw who was to prove to have the last laugh.

Some say it was written in the stars, others – namely myself – would tend to blame complacent defending. Whatever the reason, the undeniable fact remains that Stevie Crawford’s second half equaliser cost the Pars three vital points which were all so clearly merited. In a one-sided match which, at times, threatened to become as one-sided in terms of the score line, with the Pars enjoying near total domination up against a Dundee Utd side that were so often devoid of idea or attacking guile – McCall’s side resorting to an unfashionable and ultimately unprofitable hit-and-hope style of play. Passing and moving with a pace and a purpose, the Pars first half display was arguably Hay’s side most impressive all season. Tearing through the United defence with venom and relative ease, you can’t help but wonder whether on another day the Pars would have went into the half-time break three or four goals to the good. And had it not been for some truly baffling officiating – lets just say there aren’t enough four letter words in the English language to describe the referee and his North Stand linesman – the Pars would now have the luxury of a rather comfortable seven point gap over bottom club Livingston.

With the visitors so dependant on launching the high ball deep into the Pars defensive territory in search of target man Jim McIntyre or the pace of Stevie Crawford, the Pars makeshift defence coped – but for a fatal moment of complacency – comfortably with United’s attacking forays, which to be honest were very few and far between. Whilst both showed good defensive awareness and impressive attacking runs, the full backs Thomson and Labonte seemed far too reluctant to thwart the source of crosses, with Barry Robson and Mark Wilson frequently allowed the time and space to deliver cross after cross into the Pars goalmouth. Although to be fair the Pars central defensive pairing of Andy Tod and Andrius Skerla dealt superbly well with each and every cross and corner delivered into the Pars box. Big Toddy – most recently starring as a prolific striker – hardly gave Crawford a moment’s peace all afternoon, using his strength and awareness to deal with the threat of the ex-Pars hero both in the air and on the ground. And had it not been for a goal that, lets face it, your granny’s dug could have scored, Crawford’s return to
East End Park would have been as uneventful and as goal-free as his last few months in a Pars jersey. As for Skerla, if there’s a better defender in the SPL then I’ve yet to see him. The guy consistently oozes class and composure, contributing as much in defence as any prolific striker does in attack.

With his future – be it at
East End, Pittodrie or wherever – receiving more than its fair share of press speculation in the last few weeks, Barry Nicholson once again justified just why he is so sought after, turning in an influential assured performance on the Pars right-hand side. Showing a combination of skill and commitment, the absence of that decisive cutting edge was the only factor which stood between the Scotland internationalist and a goal. Alongside Barry in midfield Lee Makel and Gary Mason performed very well, controlling the midfield battle from the word go. Also still lacking match practice, Makel’s guts and creativity in the middle of the park alongside Gary Mason’s strength and composure ensured that Dundee Utd’s Mark Kerr and Derek McInnes were allowed little or no impact on the proceedings. Beginning the match on the left flank, Gary Dempsey started sluggishly, conceding possession all too easily and frequently, before exerting more of an influence on the game as the game wore on, the Irish midfielder clearly in his element when the Pars are on the offensive. Fellow Irishman Noel Hunt once again showed signs of his recovery from injury, looking sharper and more confident with each game. Despite being booked for ‘diving’, the striker threatened all afternoon to add a cutting edge to his play, coming close with a fierce shot from which Utd keeper Bullock had to produce a wonderful save to prevent a goal. Although partnering Hunty up front, trialist Jesper Christiansen produced a superb man-of-the-match display for the Pars, surely earning himself a contract until the end of the season – at least – in the process. The big Danish striker managed to get the goal which his powerful and composed performance deserved. Showing excellent hold-up skills – in turn bringing the Pars midfield into play on several occasions – Jesper also showed battling qualities when aiding his team mates in defensive situations. Although appearing like the conventional target man, Christiansen’s first touch and ability on the ground suggests that Hay and his coaching staff may just have unearthed a hidden gem.

So once again the Pars lead a match 1-0 whilst playing some very good football and then…bang, disaster strikes. The word dejavu somehow leaps to mind! Dundee Utd, Motherwell, Hafnarfjordur anyone? Although it has to be said that coming away from this fixture, my feelings for the future are much more optimistic than before. Yes we drew against a team that we should be beating, certainly based on yesterday’s performance. But the simple fact is if the Pars can repeat this level of performance on a far more frequent basis then the corner might yet be turned…sooner rather than later!

Man Of The Match
– JESPER CHRISTIANSEN – An excellent display of strength, guts, awareness and skill from the big man who some say isn’t cut out for this level. New Contract please!

Stillie 7, Labonte 7, Thomson 7, Tod 8, Skerla 8, Nicholson 8, Dempsey 6, Makel 7, Mason 7, Hunt 6, (Mehmet) 6, Christiansen 9.