DUNFERMLINE 3 - 1 PARTICK - CIS Cup 3rd Round
After the weekend win against Craig Levein's Jambo's side, the task was simple ; beat Partick comfortably in the cup, boost the confidence and book the Pars place in the League Cup Quarter Final draw. A task the Pars passed - despite a minor setback - with flying colours. Just a shame then that just over two thousand Pars fans saw the need to witness their team's CIS Cup victory - a figure which would no doubt rise somewhat considerably should the Pars reach the latter stages of the competition! Nothing like a loyal support, eh?
With Derek Stillie overcoming a stomach problem, the Pars went into the match with just one change following sunday's win against Hearts, with Thomas Butler - making his first start for the club - replacing the injured Gary Mason in midfield - Butler taking up a left-wing position with fellow Irishman Gary Dempsey partnering Darren Young in the centre of the midfield.
For those supporters that did make the effort to turn up, the game started in good humour with many Pars fans more than happy to remind themselves of Falkirk's less than impressive showing against Celtic the night before, "Let's all laugh at Falkirk" could be heard from many a sympathetic Pars fan obviously still hurting after Yogi's side's 8-1 hammering from a Celtic 'reserve' team the previous night. Hell, even "Scotland's No.1 Club Mascot" Sammy The Tammy got in on the act, pushing around the 'Falkirk Wheel' - a tyre tanned from a car outside - to the sound of that well-known Steps classic '5,6,7,8'!
When the football took centre stage, the Pars - unusually kicking-off towards the 'Norrie' end - were first to threaten after, once again, getting out of the traps very rapidly indeed. An excellent Darren Young cross in the 3rd minute was met by Craig Brewster, the veteran's header creeping just wide of Kenny Arthur's post. A minute later, with the Pars pounding the Partick defence, Greg Shields found himself through on the goal with the ball sitting up nicely for a volley. Should Shields have attempted a shot instead of a cross, you can't help but feel as though the Pars would have taken an early lead - instead the ball drifted away to safety.
The Pars seemed to be denied a 'stone-wall' penalty in the 7th minute after Billy Mehmet - making his fourth consecutive top team start - was hauled down inside the area by Partick's Aussie defender Adrian Madaschi, referee Mike McCurry - a well-known 'bawbag' - waving away the home side's claims - just as well when you consider the Pars recent penalty-taking record! With the Pars refusing to let-up in their relentless attacking moves, Darren Young came close soon after, seeing his 20-yard drive sail just over Arthur's cross bar.
With the home side enjoying what seemed like a free reign down the left-flank - mainly due to Thomas Butler's refreshing willingness to take on his opponents - Billy Mehmet came agonisingly close to opening the scoring on the quarter-hour mark when, after showing good skill to make space for himself, the striker saw his 20-yard effort touched just wide from the Partick keeper. Even the most staunch Partick Thistle fan would have to admit that a Pars goal was undoubtedly on the cards, and in the 31st minute, it arrived thanks to a sweeping move - once again orchestrated down the left-wing. An excellent Butler through-ball found Billy Mehmet in acres of space on the left flank, the striker's first time cross was brilliantly met by Craig BREWSTER who 'schlaffed' the ball home from six-yards out.
With the Pars in, what seemed like, a commanding position, the Pars did what the Pars always do, and let the visitors back into the contest. After Derek Stillie struggled to touch a Leigh Hinds cross-cum-shot over the bar, the home side refused to take heed of this warning conceding the equaliser only minutes later. From the resulting Derek Fleming corner, Andy DOWIE'S close-range free header was excellently padded away from Stillie only for the ex-Rangers defender to react the quickest and scramble home his side's equaliser five minutes before half-time. With this the Pars looked nervous and struggled to regain their composure against an increasingly-confident Partick side. The half-time whistle bringing an end to an uncertain few minutes for the Davie Hay's side.
An absolutely shocking display, unforgivable, the kind that leaves a bad taste in your mouth! That's right...my half-time pie was an absolute shocker! As hot as a night out - or night in, rather - with Abi Titmuss and as greasy as a Falkirk fan's mullet, the pie was quite simply abysmal! An issue which needs swiftly addressed before the chants of "Stephen's, Get tae f**k" can be heard gracing the stands at East End.
Thankfully, the Pars players standards are somewhat higher than those set by the East End catering staff, a factor which was perfectly exemplified in the second-half with the Pars turning in an impressive display. Just six minutes after the restart, Darren Young - firmly in-control of a non-existent midfield - picked out capatin Scott THOMSON thirty-yards from the visitor's goal. After taking a touch to set himself, Thommo sent an unstoppable left-footed drive into the top left hand corner of Arthur's net, putting his side firmly back in the drivng seat.
The Pars continued to threaten a Partick defence looking ever-more shaky with each Pars attack. Realising this, manager Davie Hay remebered it was 'good to talk' and sent the call down to Kirkwood in the dug-out ordering his right-hand man to unleash Noel Hunt on the visitor's defence. Replacing the tiring Butler - clearly lacking match practice - Hunt joined Billy Mehmet up-front with Brewster dropping into the hole behind the front two. A move which was to pay dividends with Brewster's top quality distribution being complimented well by the pace and alertness of Hunt and Mehmet.
The Pars - in-keeping with their character - were still prone to the odd defensive lapse however, a factor which could have proved costly in the 71st minute when, after conceding three consecutive corners, Partick substitute Armand One - posing problems for the Pars backline - saw his unchallenged header crash off Stillie's cross bar, the Pars eventually clearing to safety. This was to provide the much-needed spur that the Pars required, Noel Hunt scoring the Pars third, only five minutes later. After picking the ball up, twenty-five yards from goal, HUNT took a touch before curling an exquisite right-footed shot round, both, defender and goalkeeper to put the game beyond any doubt.
The Pars had chances to further add to their lead in the last ten minutes, with Hunt (twice), Dempsey and Shields going close with decent efforts, the game petered out to a finish - a match the Pars looked in-control of from start to finish. Two games away from another final, let's just hope the draw stays kind!
A win was the priority. A win was what was required. In a cup tie it doesn't matter if the score finishes up 1-0, 5-4, 10-8, or even 8-1 (although that would be ridiculous wouldn't it?!) a win is all you need, and a win was what the Pars achieved.
The performance - for large periods of the game - was equally encouraging and - without wanting to curse the side ahead of their trip to the 'tattie bowl' - the confidence seems to be returning. Greg Shields looks back to his old self, Scott Thomson is growing more and more influential with every game, and even 'Hunty' got that elusive goal he's been desperate for. The - much-acclaimed - passing game seems to be returning slowly-but-surely into the Pars style of play and as a result the Pars are once again beginning to tear opposition defences to shreds.
The only serious worry for home fans to come out of this cup tie was the amount of young children in the home end...seeing Partick midfielder Stevie Fulton's face close-up will surely do them some serious mental damage wouldn't you think?!
Two wins in two games, brilliant! Next up - Celtic Park...oh dear!!!
Man Of The Match - SCOTT THOMSON - Just shading it from Wilson and Brewster. 'Nipper' seems to be getting tantalisingly close to his pre-injury form.
PARS - Stillie 7, Shields 7, Skerla 7, Wilson 8, Thomson 8, Nicholson 6, Darren Young 6, Dempsey 6, Butler 7, (Hunt 66) 7, Brewster 8, (Labonte 89) 5, Mehmet 7, (Tod 83) 5.
SUBS NOT USED - Langfield, Donnelly.
PARTICK - Arthur, Panther, Dowie, Murray, Madaschi, Wilkinson, Fulton, (One 68), Fleming, (Howie 82), Milne, Escalas, Hinds, (Anis 82)
SUBS NOT USED - Pinkowski, Britton.
REFEREE - Mike McCurry
ATT - 2,301