U20s v St Mirren
This SPL U20s match against St Mirren was hastily re-arranged after being frozen off on Tuesday night. For the Thursday evening fixture coach John Potter had Shaun Byrne available returning from injury for his first match in five weeks. Players without a game for several weeks - Jack Bruce, Finn Graham and Scott Mercer all came into the Pars side.
St Mirren kicked off and certainly took a grip of the game right from the start. Jon Scullion and Lewis McLear created a chance in fifth minute, sending Jack Smith - the son of Pars legend Andy Smith - through on goal but Michal Hrivnak denied him with a good save.
The visitors were playing the game at a fast pace but Finn Graham countered that to show that Dunfermline were equally capable of fast responses. In 13 minutes Smith supplied Adam Brown with the ball just inside the Pars box but Hrivnak held the shot. The game stopped when Grant Munro required treatment and unable to continue he was subbed in 17 minutes by Andy Ritchie.
Saints had a chance of hitting the target when Graham fouled Brown 25 yards out but Hrivnak held Jon Scullion's free kick. At the other end Fayssal El Bahktaoui's shot from distance in 25 minutes was held by keeper Grant Adam. Pars kept up their attack with El Bahktaoui feeding Henderson on the top of the box but it was Allan Smith who got the shot in and again Adam saved.
Andy Ritchie pushed up and firstly delivered a cross that the keeper held and then received a pass from El Bahktaoui to get a shot in from 22 yards but unfortunately that flew over the bar. A 37th minute Saints free kick pumped in from the right was met by the head of Sean Kelly but he directed his effort well wide of the right goalpost.
Before the break both sides had attempts that cleared the crossbar; El Bahktaoui at one end and Scullion at the other. Dunfermline survived another free kick this time from deep down the left and a corner from the right so the teams turned around all square.
Half time: Dunfermline 0 St Mirren 0
Jordan Holt replaced Lee Mair in the Paisley club's defence at the restart and it was the visitors who were to open the scoring in the tenth minute of the second period. Kelly was forward to drill a powerful shot on target from the left corner of the penalty area and although Hrivnak turned away the tricky low effort, Mark WILLIAMS converted from close in when the ball was returned from the right. 0-1
Boosted by the goal St Mirren dominated for a while but then as the match went into its final quarter they were extremely lucky to remain with a full complement of players. Fayssal El Bahktaoui intercepted a pass on the edge of his own box and picked out Henderson on half way. He then fed a short pass to Smith who broke clear on goal, Williams was yellow carded for terminating the striker's run when he was clearly the last man.
Seven minutes later SMITH got his revenge driving into the box, fending off Holt to stick the ball past Adam. 1-1 with 15 minutes remaining. Another seven minutes past and the Pars were in the lead. Scott Mercer won a penalty on the right and HENDERSON stroked the ball home from the spot. 2-1
St Mirren then looked a shadow of the side that had dominated early in the game and it was well deserved when Smith slipped the ball to MERCER advancing in from the right for him to crash the ball home. 3-1
Three goals in the last fifteen minutes won the points for the home team. A great result for this young Dunfermline side and a good dress rehearsal for the bigger prize that will be contested when the two meet at East End Park on Sunday 24th March in the semi final of the SFA Youth Cup.
After the match Dunfermline coach, John Potter said:-
"They started the game very well for twenty minutes but then we looked dangerous around about the goal, maybe we should have had a penalty, we had a few shots but was quite happy to come in at 0-0 because I thought they were the slightly better team. Same again at the start of the second half but they got their goal and I thought that spurred us on.
"We changed it around and got Allan Smith and Blair Henderson right up through the middle. I thought it made a massive difference right away. We were the better team after that. We were on top of them; they were not playing the same and you could see that our energy levels were high.
"I was delighted with the performance; against teams like that you have to dig in deep and work hard. You have to take your chances and we did that. Tonight we played some players who haven't played all that often and Scott Campbell played his first game for 13 months. There are guys now who have given us a problem for the cup game. It is great for me to have a selection problem like that."
John was referring to others who are eligible for the SFA Youth Cup semi final. First team players such as Alex Whittle, Shaun Byrne, Chris Kane and Ross Millen could all return but it will depend upon who is required for the first team match against Dumbarton the previous day.
"Next up are Motherwell on Monday. We will have them in on Sunday, I know they are looking forward to the cup but the league is important. That's us up to fifth with a game in hand. We want to get as high as we can. Craig Dargo said tonight that we want to keep winning and winning because it becomes a habit. We are doing that just now."
DUNFERMLINE: Michael Hrivnak; Grant Munro (Andy Ritchie 17), Kerr Young, Lewis Martin, Jack Bruce; Scott Mercer, Shaun Byrne (Scott Campbell 72), Finn Graham, Fayssal El Bahktaoui (Ross Drummond 79); Blair Henderson, Allan Smith
SUBS NOT USED: Declan O'Kane; Lewis Spence, Scott Gray.
SCORERS: Smith (75), Henderson (82 pen.), Mercer (87).
ST MIRREN: Grant Adam; Mark Williams, Sean Kelly, Adam Brown, Lee Mair (Jordan Holt HT), Darren McGregor (Ross Meechan 62), Lewis McLear, Mo Yaqub, Jack Smith, Jon Scullion (Michael Fulton 86), Anton Brady.
SUBS NOT USED: Kieran Hughes (GK), Jordan Stewart, Declan Hughes.
SCORER: Williams (55)
YELLOW CARD: Williams (68)
MATCH PICTURES NEXT MATCH: (away) SPL U20 League v Motherwell
Monday 18th March 2013, kick off 7.00pm