SPL v Livingston


Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League Attendance: 5092

Kick Off: 15:00 Referee: Calum Murray

Weather: Windy 7C Rain Second Half

The Boxing Day crowd were disappointed with the festive fayre served out by these two teams who are both struggling to win points this season. With only four wins each this SPL season it was no surprise to anyone that there were no goals and no victory at East End Park.

As goalless draws go this was one of the poorest. The match lacked any great passing moves. There were far too many long balls that neither attack could do anything with. The windy conditions did not help and the increasingly difficult East End Park artificial surface is now subject of fairly open criticism from the Dunfermline players.

After all the doubts and speculation over the injuries and well being of players Davie Hay was able to replace the injured Scott Thomson with Aaron Labonte and Billy Mehmet returned displacing Noel Hunt to the bench for this crucial SPL match against fellow foot of the table strugglers Livingston.

A healthy sized festive crowd dragged themselves along to East End Park in freezing conditions and it was the Pars who kicked off by attacking the East Stand and both sides had a determined look about them as the match began in a scrappy fashion writes Ross Hart.

The home support was lifted early on by the trickery of Billy Mehmet, who’s neat turn on the left hand side to elude to Livingston defenders enabled him to fire over a cross, but the visitors managed to clear the danger. The first effort at goal came on the fifth minute after some good passing play saw Gary Mason slip the ball to Mehmet, who’s shot from the edge of the penalty area was blocked and cleared by the Livingston rearguard.

Dunfermline won their first corner after seven minutes but Barry Nicholson’s delivery was headed out of danger, which would prove to be a recurring theme throughout the afternoon. The cold, windy conditions didn’t help the flow of the game as both teams struggled to create any clear-cut chances. Colin Meldrum had to be alert after ten minutes to punch away Barry Nicholson’s cross from the right as Mehmet attacked it, which resulted in Livi defender Manu Dorado picking up a head knock.

Billy Mehmet was looking fairly lively and he had the next effort at goal in the 18th minute. A long clearance from the back was flicked into his path by Andy Tod, but Mehmet’s shot was pulled well past the left hand post. Mason was the next player to have a go at goal two minutes later, but his volley from a cleared free kick flew over the crossbar.

The match was devoid of any clear cut openings at this stage but Burton O’Brien had a forceful run from just over the halfway line in the 25th minute, eluding a few Pars challenges before he was eventually tackled inside the penalty area by Mason. The Pars were finding it difficult to make that final telling pass as Gary Dempsey chipped a free-kick into the box which sailed out of play after 33 minutes, despite Tod’s attempts to keep it in play.

There was a scare for the home side six minutes before the break, as ex Par Jim Hamilton won a header at the back post following a cross from the right, was in turn headed on by James McPake to Stephen Adam whose header across goal was easily gathered by Derek Stillie. The Athletic did manage to get an effort on target after 40 minutes; Dempsey’s 30 yard free-kick being saved comfortably by Colin Meldrum in the Livingston goal. Another half chance came the Pars’ way just a minute or so later, with Mehmet slipping the ball through to Tod, but a last ditch tackle by Gus Bahoken saved the day for the Lions.

Another Dempsey free-kick was played towards the back post, where Scott Wilson arrived but just failed to connect with the ball as it sailed out for a goal kick. The best chance of the half fell the way of the visitors just a minute before half time. O’Brien swung in a cross from the right hand side and Oscar Rubio was left unmarked in the centre of the box but fortunately for the Pars the ball ended up wide of the goal. The half-time whistle was greeted by jeers from the East End crowd, not impressed by what they had witnessed.

Livingston kicked off for the second half in deteriorating conditions with swirling wind and rain, the game continued in the same vein as it had in the first half, although Livingston did look the brighter at the start of the second period, and they had another decent chance to score in the 48th minute. O’Brien’s corner found McPake unmarked six yards out, and his header was saved by Stillie. Richard Gough’s men continued to take the game to Dunfermline though they should have gone a goal down on 51 minutes as the Pars created their best chance of the match. The hard-working Mehmet delivered a cross from the left and found Tod unmarked at the far post but he could only head the ball wide right of target.

Davie Hay made the first change of the match in the 58th minute, bringing Thomas Butler on to replace Gary Dempsey. The Lions had another chance on the hour mark, when David McNamee’s deep cross found Hamilton at the back post, but he could only head it high and wide of the right hand post. Darren Young was next to have a go for the Fifers, his 25 yard strike being pushed around the post by Meldrum following some neat possession play by the home team, which was followed two minutes later by Livi’s Rubio picking up the first booking of the match for a foul on Mehmet.

Former Par, Jason Dair, was the first Livi player to be brought off, being replaced by Craig Easton on 66 minutes, and a minute later Adam fired a shot well wide from the edge of the box for the visitors. Mehmet had another chance for the home side a couple of minutes later; Tod blocked a clearance from the Livingston defence and the ball fell for Mehmet, who rounded Meldrum but he was forced into a tight angle and he couldn’t get enough power into his shot, which was comfortably dealt with by Livingston as it headed towards the goal.

Richard Gough replaced Adam with Scott McLaughlin on 70 minutes as the Pars were reduced to half chances, with a Young free kick being blocked on 73 minutes before young full back Greg Ross fired the ball well wide of target. Butler then had a forceful run down the left, getting away from three Livi players before playing the ball to Mehmet at the edge of the box, whose shot was deflected and dropped just wide of the target, but referee Murray didn’t award the Athletic a corner.

The crowd’s frustrations were growing when a Ross ball into the box went straight through to Meldrum, and Noel Hunt replaced Young with 10 minutes left. Butler created another good chance for the Pars, his low, driven cross from the left went right across the six yard box, with no Pars player there to tap the ball home. The final 5 minutes saw a Mehmet header cleared and a shot from Livi sub McLaughlin blocked by Andrius Skerla. The full-time whistle was met by boos and jeers by the home supporters, with some even taking their frustration out on the manager.

This was a very disappointing match and performance from the Pars, not helped by the poor weather conditions. The result leaves Dunfermline still in the pack at the bottom, and makes Saturday’s home match with Dundee all the more crucial. Aaron Labonte and Scott Wilson both looked assured at the back, while Butler made an impact when he came on.

So no Christmas cheer for the Pars fans; one point gained in five matches, but the fans will be hoping for a late present and the perfect start to 2005 when Dundee visit on New Year’s Day.

It wasn`t an easy job to nominate a Pars Man of the Match but it seemed most appropriate that the RAC AutoWindscreens award went to Andy Tod, if for no other reason than he got engaged on Christmas Day and will marry Zoe in June.

DUNFERMLINE: Stillie; Ross, Skerla, Wilson, Labonte; Nicholson, Darren Young (Hunt 80), Mason, Dempsey (Butler 58); Tod, Mehmet

SUBS NOT USED: Langfield, Bradley, Campbell, Scullion, Wilson

Strip: Home White and Black

LIVINGSTON: Meldrum; McNamee, Rubio, Dorado, Bahoken; Lovell, O`Brien, Dair (Easton 66), McPake (Libbra 78); Hamilton, Adam (McLaughlin 70)

SUBS NOT USED: Fleming, Harding, Snodgrass, Brittain

Livingston Yellow Cards: Rubio (64), Bahoken (78)

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