Ladbrokes Championship: Dundee United 1 Dunfermline 0: 12/01/19
Following the departure of Allan Johnston, this was the first game with Stevie Crawford in charge of the team.
Seventh placed Pars took the road and the miles to Dundee to face third placed United and in typical football coincidence, it placed Stevie in the opposing dugout to Robbie Neilson. The pair had formed a management partnership at Hearts in May 2014 and then in December 2016 on to MK Dons in League One. The meeting was intriguing but it would be about what the players did.
Stevie went with the same starting eleven that Allan Johnston selected to meet Alloa the previous Saturday. The only changes were on the bench where Aidan Connolly and Malaury Martin replaced the injured pair, Ryan Williamson and Lewis Martin.
Dundee United made one change to their starting eleven with new signing Cammy Smith taking the place of former Par Fraser Aird. Pars top goalscorer from last season, Nicky Clark returned to the bench for the Tannadice club.
The teams changed ends before Cammy Smith kick off for the home side attacking the goal in front of their own fans. First hope came after three minutes defender Rachid Bouhenna let Aidan Keena away down the left but when he successfully got the cross in Frederic Frans got the danger away.
Two minutes later a James Craigen delivery into the box created concern in the United box but when Kallum Higginbotham sent the ball in from the left Benjamin Siegrist held comfortably.
In the ninth minutes the pink left boot of Jackson Longridge pumped a free kick from just inside the Pars half into the United box where Myles Hippolyte laid a chance back for Keena but his low shot towards the right side of the goal was held by the big Swiss keeper.
Three minutes later Fifers keeper Lee Robinson had to made a save from a Stewart Murdoch header after Pavlov Safranko receiving the ball from a corner on the left, headed back across the six yard box. When Keena was flattened by Frans Dunfermline were awarded a 19th minute free kick 30 yards out. Higginbotham lofted the ball to the far side of the six yard box where Danny Devine headed back across goal only for Siegrist to hold.
There were several good forward moves from the visitors and they were unlucky when Hippolyteâ€™s ball in from the right was missed by Higginbotham due to a loss of footing. Next Devine accepted a loose clearance from Bouhenna to head the ball to the feet of Keena. The Irishman tried a snapshot from 30 yards out but was off target to the left.
James Vincent got caught on the edge of the centre circle so another free kick in 28th minute was taken short for Higginbotham to lob the ball onto the penalty box but the linesmanâ€™s flag went up to indicate an infringement due to an over enthusiastic urge to meet the cross.
United were not without threat and Pars defenders were reminded by McMullan who drilled his 32nd minute narrowly wide left. Back at the other end the Pars pressure led to a mistake in the United defence and Hippolyte sending a cut back from the right to Vincent in front of goal but the on loan player crashed his effort outside the right post.
Robinson made a good catch as United lobbed the ball in from the right before the Pars produced a superb chance from a 41st minute free kick that had earned Frans the first yellow card of the match. From 30 yards out Higginbotham sent the ball into open space on the left side of the United box. Devine raced in to head the ball on target but when turned away the flag went up as Hippolyte was deemed to be offside.
It had been a pretty even first half, the Pars had managed marginally more shots than their hosts and they had shown plenty of effort in the opening 45 minutes. After the teams had gone in from the break, deep in discussion Stevie Crawford and Greg Shields trailed them in.
Half time: Dundee United 0 Dunfermline 0
Former Celtic youth Aidan Nesbitt replaced Matty Smith for the second half and when Safranko charged down Devineâ€™s pass the United player scurried away down the left and despite Devineâ€™s pursuit go in a shot that Robinson parried away to his left.
United kept the Pars much quieter at the start of the second half with only a Higginbotham corner and an Ashcroft cross from the left creating any threat whatsoever for home defence. An injury to Murdoch stopped play on the hour.
In 62 minutes a strong Hippolyte run beat off the challenge from three defenders before hitting his shot at Frans. Callum Smith then became the first sub of the Crawford era coming on for Aidan Keena. At the midpoint of the half Hippolyte won a corner on the left but United cleared and then blocked Craigenâ€™s return.
Higginbotham forced his marker into a mistake but as the Pars man struggled to keep his footing the keeper came out to sweep up. Nicky Clark was then introduced, former Par for former Par in place of Paul McMullan.
After another stoppage that concluded with Murdoch having to call it a day and on the restart Clark fired just wide to the right from inside the area.
A double substitution for Dunfermline in 76 minutes saw Malaury Martin and Aidan Connolly taking the places of Joe Thomson and Kallum Higginbotham. It was a United sub however that broke the deadlock with just nine minutes remaining. A quickly taken free kick while the Dunfermline players were arguing with referee Alan Muir over the decision, sent Nesbitt down the left and it was his cross that CLARK met at the near post to glance the ball in. 1-0
Dunfermline responded with a long throw from Hippolyte that Frans headed away and Connolly worked hard to deliver crosses but to no avail. Robinson was on the edge of the centre circle to send an added time free kick forward but the home side defended that.
Despite a late Pars rally the game was to have no further scoring and the Fifers had to return down the M90 with nothing to show for their afternoonâ€™s efforts. No instant fix from the Pars new management team but good positive signs on the park.
DUNDEE UNITED: Benjamin Siegrist: Callum Booth, Frederic Frans, Rachid Bouhenna, Stewart Murdoch (Paul Watson 74), Paul McMullan (Nicky Clark 70), Fraser Fyvie, Sam Stanton, Cammy Smith, Pavol Safranko, Matt Smith (Aidan Nesbitt HT)
SUBS NOT USED: Billy King, Jamie Robson, Archie Thomas, Matej Rakovan (GK).
SCORERS: Clark (81)
YELLOW CARD: Frans (40)
DUNFERMLINE: Lee Robinson: James Craigen, Lee Ashcroft (c), Danny Devine, Jackson Longridge: Tom Beadling, Joe Thomson (Aidan Connolly 76), James Vincent: Myles Hippolyte, Aidan Keena (Callum Smith 64), Kallum Higginbotham (Malaury Martin 76).
SUBS NOT USED: Faissal El Bakhtaoui, Robbie Muirhead, Mark Durnan, Cammy Gill (GK)
YELLOW CARD: Hippolyte (77)
REFEREE: Alan Muir
WEATHER: Bright 9C
NEXT MATCH: William Hill Scottish Cup (away) v Raith Rovers, Saturday 19th January 2019, kick off 3.00pm at Starks Park.
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