Life as a Pars fan seems to be getting all too depressingly familiar these days.
Yet another Saturday, yet another dismal away day, and yet another inept performance from a Pars team so lacking in the qualities which had, in recent times, cemented the Pars position as one of the country’s top sides.
Oh how a dire, dismal, boring, no-frills no-score draw would have suited today. A nice wee hard earned point for Hay’s side to take into the forthcoming trips to
After coming off the subs bench to salvage the Pars a scarcely-deserved point against Hibs two weeks earlier, close-season signing Simon Donnelly found himself spearheading the Pars attack alongside veteran Craig Brewster, Donnelly replacing young striker Billy Mehmet in what was the only change from Hay’s previous first eleven.
If it wasn’t for a small section press coverage, the return to the Almondvale of Livingston’s prodigal granddad, Davie Hay would have gone unnoticed. Any welcome or sound the tiny band of home supporters did make for Hay was unfortunately drowned out by the sound of tumbleweed blowing across the Almondvale pitch. The home support could be heard however, when the Pars got off to the worst imaginable start, going behind after only five minutes. After conceding a needless free-kick twenty-five yards from goal, the Pars defence seemed to be afflicted by temporary blindness, failing to spot David McNamee hovering on the right hand side of the Pars penalty area. An ex-Par was shrewd enough to spot the Livi right-back however, with Jason Dair picking out the Scotland Internationalist. Taking a first touch, McNamee sent a driven cross into the box which only went as far as Scott WILSON, the Pars defender turning the ball past the helpless Derek Stillie and into the Pars net.
With the Pars well and truly on the back foot – and that numpty drummer continually making a racket – Livingston went in search of a quick fire second, 17 year-old striker Robert Snodgrass seeing his fierce drive excellently turned over the crossbar by Stillie in the Pars goal. The home side could have added to their lead in the 15th minute when an unmarked Oscar Rubio headed over the bar from a corner after indecision from the Pars backline. The only sign of a Pars resurgence came two minutes later when Thomson saw his weak free-kick rebound off the Livi defensive wall, the wall eventually clearing the ball to safety.
With the Pars tactic consisting off sending long ball after long ball towards the fairly untroubled Livingston defenders, it was no surprise when the home side almost added to their lead in the 21st minute, twice being denied by fine Derek Stillie goalkeeping. After going down under a rash Thomas Butler challenge, David McNamee picked out Jim Hamilton with a right-footed cross from the resulting free-kick.
In a rare attack in the 38th minute the Pars showed good build-up play after a good move involving Butler – turning in an impressive performance on the left wing – and Brewster, Scott Thomson eventually sending a poor shot far over the cross bar. The home side replied in the perfect fashion almost instantly when young debutant Robert SNODGRASS scored his first ever senior goal for the club. After receiving a first-time pass from David McNamee, the youngster managed to – all-too easily – skip past Scott Wilson on the edge of the Pars eighteen-yard box before curling an exquisite effort around the diving Stillie and into the Pars net to double the home side’s lead. With the Pars players looking visibly deflated, the refuge of the half-time break couldn’t have come quick enough.
With a distinct air of discontent hanging over the Pars disgruntled supporters, Snodgrass could, and possibly should, have added to the home side’s, already emphatic, advantage. Only three minutes into the second-half, the Pars defence was sliced open by an excellent Stuart Lovell through-ball sending Snodgrass charging down on the Pars goal, Derek Stillie once again turning the youngster’s effort wide. After a Simon Donnelly effort was disallowed for offside, the Pars seemed to have a sense of renewed vigour, Darren Young seeing his long range effort blocked in the 55th minute after good play down the left-hand side involving a combination of Thomson, Butler and Brewster. This was to be the older of the Young brother’s last constructive contribution to the proceedings, being replaced by his younger brother Derek shortly after.
With the Pars continually pressing – without much substance – Donnelly and Young both saw fairly weak efforts fly wide of Roddy MacKenzie’s post before Thomas Butler wasted a decent opportunity in the 70th minute. An impressive flowing move involving Shields, Donnelly and Young saw the Irish winger gather the ball on the angle of the Livi penalty box, Butler checking back before seeing his effort fly tamely over the cross bar. A deflated, and ultimately depressed, Pars support aired their disgruntled views four minutes later when Hay saw fit to replace the impressive Simon Donnelly with centre-half Andy Tod in an attempt to bolster the lacklustre Pars attacks. A loud chorus of booing greeted the substitution in a same fashion to which Mehmet’s withdrawal against Motherwell last month prompted a chorus of disapproval. Just why Hay chose to bring on a centre-half for a striker is beyond me. More than anything, it makes you feel for Toddy, with the defender – an accomplished one at that – being constantly asked to fulfill the last-throw-of-the-dice role.
The introduction of Tod, for what it’s worth, did almost lead to a Pars goal however, with the big defender almost getting on the end of a Thomas Butler cross after a neat one-two with the ever-tiring Craig Brewster. With the game all so tamely petering out to a drab finish, the veteran striker uncharacteristically passed up a golden opportunity to score the Pars first away goal of the league campaign. After receiving an Andy Tod knock-down, Brewster found himself in acres of space only to see his twelve-yard drive blocked by MacKenzie in the home side’s goal. It was to prove to be the last act of what was, without any shadow of a doubt, one of the Pars worst performances in recent years, the Perth European nightmare included!
To describe the Pars performance as dire would, quite frankly, be harsh on the word dire. Whether it was down to a lack of communication, a lack of confidence, or simply a lack of interest – the latter, at times, appearing all-too evident – the Pars just never looked like performing against a team which boasts Jim Hamilton as their top marksman. Depressing, isn’t it!
Throughout the team, there appeared to be a lack of drive or imagination with the Pars players so often looking to play the ball square or back the way. The service to the front two – Donnelly and Brewster – was, on the whole, woeful – service which, once again, frequently bypassed the midfield. With long ball after long ball being launched towards the Livi defender’s heads, you could have been forgiven for thinking it was the Paton/Campbell dream team occupying the Pars dug-out once again. A level of sympathy must be awarded to the Pars two strikers however, with both turning in fairly decent performances despite being starved of service. Donnelly seemed to be troubling the home side’s defence with his pace and movement before being unceremoniously hooked for big ‘Toddy’ – yet another tactical masterstroke –, and Brewster, despite approaching forty, chased almost every lost cause and misplaced pass.
The Pars midfield, with the exception of Thomas Butler, was a different story altogether, with the likes of Darren Young, and more surprisingly, Barry Nicholson turning in very poor performances. The Pars midfielders far too frequently finished runner-up in the challenge, and were, more often than not, second to every ball. The Pars back four were just as poor, with Wilson and Thomson in particular standing off and inviting the Livi players to, all too often, test Stillie in the Pars goal. Scott Wilson – majestic against Hibs only two weeks ago – looked a shadow of himself, turning in an error-strewn performance.
Can it possibly be that all us Pars fans are such brilliant tactical wizards that we can, all so clearly, see what is wrong with the side and Hay and his stooges fail to? The long ball system can’t work, it won’t work and it only looks at home on ITV’s ‘Football First’ programme, a programme the Pars players could so easily be starring in come this time next year! With the fixture list reading; Dundee (A), Rangers (H), and Dundee Utd (A), Pars supporters, and Davie Hay’s, futures look decidedly bleak.
With the passing of each week appearing to consign the Pars further and further into a relegation struggle, it could well be about time to dig out those roadmaps for Love Street and Broadwood once again!
Man Of The Match – DEREK STILLIE – Just shades it from Butler thanks to his excellent shot-stopping which, once again, kept the score down.
PARS – Stillie 8, Shields 5, Wilson 4, Skerla 5, Thomson 4, Butler 7, Darren Young 4, (Derek Young 60) 5, Nicholson 4, Dempsey 4, (Mason 28) 5, Donnelly 7, (Tod 83) 6, Brewster 6.
SUBS NOT USED – Langfield, Labonte, Mehmet, Ross.