Hamish French Post MatchSunday, 13th Nov 2011
U19 coach praises his team's fighting spirit as his ten men came back from a goal down to defeat St Johnstone.
U19 Coach Hamish French was delighted after his ten man team progressed into the last 16 as they knocked St Johnstone out of the SFA Youth Cup at East End Park on Sunday:-
"In the first half both teams looked a bit nervous with a lot of stray passses. We didn't play as well as we hoped, didn't get options on the ball as we had hoped so that was disappointing. Definitely in the second half we saw the workrate, the attitude, the will to win and fight for each other."
As can so often happen when a team is reduced to ten men the resolve and determination can overcome the adversity. Right back Ross Millen was shown a second yellow card in 35th minute. Like most coaches Hamish claimed that he did not see what had caused referee David McGeachie to send the son of the former St Mirren central defender for an early bath:-
" I didn't think that there was much in the first booking either but it always puts a full back under pressure if he has done. The second one the referee said that he threw an elbow which I don't think he did. There was no injury to the player, the player wasn't claiming anything so it was maybe unlucky. When you go go down to ten men, as you can see from the second half performance, you definitely have something to fight for."
The U19 management team had their choices to make at half time. Would they go three at the back and hope to survive in defence or should they continue with a back four and hope to hit on the break or from a setpiece? They chose to withdraw a striker - Chris Hackland - and re-instate a back four by bringing on Jamie Birnie to fulfil the role that Millen was doing.
"Luckily it worked " laughed Hamish "it was the right decision in the end so that's pleasing from my point of view. Chris had done well in the first half and had caused them problems but we just felt that was the right switch to make."
It didn't look too good for the Fifers however when nine minutes into the second half St Johnstone went ahead. Hamish continued:-
"That was the danger with them having an extra man in the middle of the park, disappointing from our point of view because it came right down the middle of the park. Except for the wee scrambles at the end, that was probably the only chance we gave them.
"Then it was pleasing that we got the energy. We asked the wide players especially to go and help Blair Henderson as much as they could. Ross Drummond on one side and Scott Mercer on the other showed great energy to get up and support as much as they could."
Drummond's equaliser came as the match entered its final quarter and gave the team belief that the impossible was not out of the question.
"Shaun Byrne's awareness was good. He might have taken it on himself but Ross had the easier finish. Blair's finish for the goal was fantastic. He beat off maybe three defenders who were odds on favourites to win the tackle but Blair showed great skill and strength to put his shot away and over the goalie. Scott Mercer could have actually got it won earlier on but was unlucky to hit it over the bar.
"It showed the fighting spirit as well when Andy (Ritchie) got in the block on the edge of the box in the last couple of minutes when they had men over. Andy slid in and took the full force of the shot."
It was a long final seven minutes in the Pars dugout as they watched St Johnstone pile everyone forward in the hope of saving the cup tie:-
"It certainly was but if you work hard you will get your rewards in the end. The team spirit was great and it was a good team effort."
Dunfermline Athletic's name goes into the hat then for the last 16 draw. Already through are holders Celtic, Hibs who defeated Hearts on Saturday after extra time in front of a crowd of over 2000 at Easter Road, Aberdeen, St Mirren, Falkirk, Hamilton, Morton, Stenhousemuir and Dundee United who defeated Rangers at Ibrox after extra time.
Match Report: Dunfermline U19 2 St Johnstone U19 1Match Pictures
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