SPFL Championship: ST MIRREN 0 DUNFERMLINE 0: 11/03/17

Dunfermline were unchanged for the return to the Paisley 2021 Stadium with the same players occupying the bench as well. St Mirren manager Jack Ross made two changes from the side defeated 2-0 at Starks Park on Wednesday night. Gary Irvine and Josh Todd came in to take the places of Stelios Demetriou.

It was a fun me afternoon for football and for mid March the pitch lived up to its Greenhill name. It was the visitors in red shirts and white shots who kicked off attacking the goal at the south end.

First incident of note was a push up the left by Lewis Morgan and Kallum Higginbotham collected a third minute yellow card for his tackle on the Saintee. Fortunately free kick was defended but the home side earned a sixth minute corner on the right off Higginbotham and when that was delivered deep to Morgan his powerful drive from 20 yards out was deflected behind off Callum Morris for a corner on the left. That one was conclusively defended but it had been an encouraging start for the foot of the table club.

The Pars almost had the first success hitting on the break. Michael Moffat started the move in his own half, picking out Higginbotham on midway and he then switched the ball on for Paul McMullan who squared for Higgy to shoot but keeper Billy O`Brien blocked the shot.

Play immediately switched to the other end where Cameron Smith went through on goal but Sean Murdoch made the block and Morris cleaned up. There was then a tremendous chance for the Buddies when a cross from the right was cleared out only for Adam Eckersley to blast a fine effort on target from 25 yards out. Murdoch made an equally fine save to keep out the shot.

It was all St Mirren and a good exchange on the left put Stephen Mallon in for a fine strike from 18 yards and again Murdoch earned his oats. Gary Irvine was the first home player to be booked in 18 minutes for cutting down McMullan on the left touchline. When the free kick was swung in from the left Lee Ashcroft nodded the ball down but Eckersley cleared.

Jason Talbot`s cross won the Pars their first corner of the match in 24th minute but when that was played over from the right Nicky Clark`s effort at the near post went wide right. Then a 27th minute free kick 30 yards out saw Mallan`s shot deflected off the Pars man for a corner on the left that was to be overhit and wasted.

John Herron collected a yellow card in 29th minute after an altercation with Eckersley and Morgan. Higginbotham tried to gain ground for the free kick gained and might have seen yellow hard he not already had one. The setpiece was defended and St Mirren had the next chance as when Todd`s cross ran to Stephen McMinn but he was wildly off target to the left. The Fifers felt aggrieved after Irvine cut down McMullan in the box but there was to be no penalty.

As the interval approached St Mirren continued to cross balls into the box from both flanks but nothing to trouble the Fifers defence. The first half stats revealed ten St Mirren shots to Dunfermline`s four. 52% home possession but it is a game of two halves!

Half time: St Mirren 0 Dunfermline 0

Within 40 seconds of the restart Moffat fired a good chance just over the bar. The Pars initially started the half the better team and pushed up with some nice interchanges between Moffat and Higginbotham, then in 49th minute Morris was penalised as Morgan shot off target. Mallan had the opportunity from the free kick 25 yards out but struck that at the four man defensive wall.

Four minutes later a corner from the right and then a free kick from the right were defended and next Mallan whacked a shot at Wedderburn followed by an attempt by sub Rory Loy. When play switched to the other end McMullan saw his shot from the edge of the box tipped over by O`Brien. A further break by Saints then quickly set up Morgan but there were groans as his not so well connected shot went straight to Murdoch.

The 62nd minute was frantic as Morgan`s cross was headed clear by Geggan, Loy`s shot was beaten away by Murdoch and then a further Morgan cross was palmed away by Murdoch. St Mirren were trying hard but almost got caught out when McMullan got in to smash the ball on target and when O`Brien failed to take first time Irvine headed the ball back into his keeper`s hands.

Every match for St Mirren could now be termed a Cup tie and it certainly felt like it as both teams went at it with pace. Moffat made an opportunity but took one touch to many and Higginbotham`s free kick narrowly evaded Morris`s challenge at the far post.

Michael Paton replaced Kallum Higginbotham in 74 minutes as the Englishman was again denied a free kick by the referee. It was St Mirren who created the next chance, Morgan raced away from Geggan, crossed but neither Sutton or then Loy could get a decent connection as the Pars defence closed them down.

The home support rose the decibels for a St Mirren corner in 78 minutes but the Pars defended with Clark belting it away. There was a great chance when the Pars sub made the break out of defence. He picked out McMullan to his left and the winger then threaded the ball back diagonally into the Saints box for Paton but the keeper was out fast to deflected the shot behind for a corner.

Time was running out and Murdoch fisted away a Morgan cross before sub Stelios Demetriou tried to penetrate the Pars defence but it continued to hold out really well.

At the final whistle the 482 travelling fans were happy to clap their side off. The draw suited Dunfermline much more than it did St Mirren. Sixth place remains in tact but with Dumbarton defeating Raith Rovers 4-0 they close the gap to two points but having played one more match.

St Mirren extended their run of unbeaten home games to four and with second bottom Ayr United losing at home to Falkirk, the Buddies are a point closer.

ST MIRREN: Billy O`Brien: Gary Irvine, Gary Mackenzie, Harry Davis, Adam Eckersley: Stephen Mallan, Cameron Smith (Stelios Demetriou 80), Lewis Morgan, Stephen McGinn, Josh Todd (Rory Loy 54), John Sutton
SUBS NOT USED: Kyle Magennis, Jack Baird, Craig Storie, Pal Fjelde, Jamie Lanfield (GK).
YELLOW CARD: Irvine (18)

DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch: Andy Geggan (c), Callum Morris, Lee Ashcroft, Jason Talbot: Nat Wedderburn: Kallum Higginbotham (Michael Paton 74) John Herron, Paul McMullan: Nicky Clark, Michael Moffat.
SUBS NOT USED: Joe Cardle, Gavin Reilly, Rhys McCabe, Callum Fordyce, Lewis Spence, Cammy Gill (GK)
YELLOW CARD: Higginbotham (3), Herron (29), McMullan (79), Paton (81)

REFEREE: Stephen Finnie
WEATHER: Sunny intervals 11C

NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes Championship (home) v Ayr United, Saturday 18th March, kick off 3.00pm at East End Park

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