Stirling Albion 2 Dunfermline 3Tuesday, 25th Mar 2008
Pars 2-1 down at half time but Harper hattrick does the business at Forthbank.
STIRLING ALBION 2 DUNFERMLINE 3
Twice behind to the bottom of the table team, Dunfermline came storming back to win by the odd goal in five courtesy of a Kevin Harper hattrick. There were four changes in Jim McIntyre's team; Greg Shields (stomach bug), Stephen Glass (suspended) and Calum Woods (ankle) dropped out. Alex Burke was relegated to the bench meaning starts for Scott Thomson, Darren Young, Kevin Harper and Scott Muirhead. Allan Moore's side showed just one change from the one that lost narrowly to Hamilton - David McKenna taking the place of Colin Cramb.
Dunfermline kicked off in still but cold conditions and forced a corner and Muirhead managed a shot after playing a 1-2 off Stevie Crawford. Things were soon to go badly wrong however.
Darren Young was booked for the virtually the first foul of the game and from the free kick midway inside the Pars half, Stirling got the ball forward into the visitors penalty box. The ball was clearly handled by Thomson after it hit his shoulder and rolled down his arm and referee David Somers pointed to the spot. The 11th minute penalty was despatched from Chris AITKEN's right foot into the left corner of the net giving Gallacher little chance.
The Fifers came sweeping back and when Myles Hogarth failed to hold a Harper cross, Mark Burchill poked the ball away from the green shirted stopper but Paul Nugent intercepted as the ball trundled towards the line.
A counterattack on 14 minutes led by Scott Muirhead looked promising. His pass set up Crawford for a cross from the left that Harper returned and Craw had lots of time to pick his spot. Perhaps too much time since Hogarth closed the gap and Stevie shot was parried against the right post.
There were 24 minutes on the clock when Harper's cross was defended only as far as Nick Phinn but he was wide with the snapshot from 20 yards. Next a better opportunity sat up for the youngster but this time Erik Paartulu raced out and his back took the brunt of the well struck shot.
Dunfermline did not have much longer to wait for their well deserved equaliser. The simplest of build ups in 26 minutes found Kevin HARPER with time and he slotted in from 12 yards. It came from a cross field pass from Scott Morrison to Harper, chip into Burchill who headed down towards Harper. The wee man drew his man and shot low passed the keeper for a well earned equaliser.
The chances were all coming Dunfermline's way. A Crawford cross was turned back for Harper but his attempt was beaten away. Then in 36 minutes, Morrison fed Simmons and the former Jambo made ground up the left playing the ball off Muirhead, before releasing a shot from close in that the keeper's legs kept out.
Referee Somers then chose to ignore strong claims for a Pars penalty when Crawford was pushed by Paartulu in the box as he attempted to finish another Harper ball into the danger zone. Ironically it was Stirling who got the break. From the centre circle a diagonal ball was dummied by Steven BELL only for the recipient to slip the ball back into his path on the right side of the Pars box. The Dunfermline destined player despatched the ball passed Gallacher and in off the far post to give Stirling the lead again with just four minutes to the break.
Their advantage was nearly greater when Bell laid the ball off to McKenna and he popped a shot from 35 yards that just cleared the bar. Aitken also had a shot from distance that fell wide left. The Pars bench delayed the half time whistle as McIntyre and McCabe received a lecture but after a half where they had created plenty good chances Dunfermline went in 2-1 down.
Half Time: Stirling Albion 2 Dunfermline 1
The Binos were out of the traps sharper when play resumed with Thomson heading clear an early corner. Dunfermline made a poor job of trying to penetrate the home defence, causing the increasingly frustrated travelling support to complain vociferously.
A swift move from Phinn to Harper almost answered the critics but the final ball to Burchill was cut out and there was to be no shot. Phinn was sacked by Craig Malloy earning the Stirling man a yellow but still the Pars lacked ideas.
Sixty two minutes came and a free kick was headed over his own crossbar by Simmons but Gallacher firmly punched away the corner when it came in from the left. Jay Rodriguez took advantage of a slip up by Pars sub Alex Burke to send through McKenna. He beat the offside trap but thankfully couldn't finish.
With Clyde two up at McDiarmid Park, Stirling were trying their hardest to win the three points. The desire was there to be sharper to the ball, they were winning lots of 50/50 balls and managed to dispossess Dunfermline far too easily.
Jim McIntyre came on for the injured Burchill with quarter of an hour to go and within a minute he had made the breakthrough. A smartly taken long throw deep down the left from Morrison was flicked on by the player/manager and the ball fell nicely for Kevin HARPER to avoid full back Devine and hammer home low to the keeper's right.
In 82 minutes Stephen Simmons was unmarked 30 yards out when Phinn's pass set him up for a good low drive that Hogarth needed two attempts to hold as he dived to his right. The winning goal was only three minutes away. Crawford latched on to a long ball from Morrison deep left to run in on Hogarth but he took too long to shoot and the ball was forced right to HARPER. The Oldham born Par showed the way, smacking the ball home for his hat-trick.
Minutes later Simmons drove a fierce shot on to the roof of the net and Morrison tried a shot that was deflected behind for a corner. McIntyre hit the post and then Craw had the luxury of missing another chance. The Pars finished comfortably in control but one had to wonder just why it took so long to get in this position.
STIRLING ALBION: Myles Hogarth; Paul Nugent, Ryan McKay (Stewart Devine 28), Erik Paartulu, Chris Aitken, Steven Bell, Lawrie Ellis, Jay Rodriguez, Craig Malloy, David McKenna (Colin Cramb 86), Nathan Taggart.
SUBS: A Trialist, Derek Lilley, Scott Christie (GK)
SCORER: Aitken (11 pen.)
YELLOW CARD: Malloy (56)
DUNFERMLINE: Paul Gallacher; Darren Young, Scott Wilson (c), Scott Thomson, Scott Morrison; Kevin Harper, Nick Phinn, Stephen Simmons, Scott Muirhead (Alex Burke 64); Mark Burchill (Jim McIntyre 75), Stevie Crawford.
SUBS: Sean Murdoch (GK), Iain Williamson, Paul Willis.
SCORER: Harper (26, 76, 85)
YELLOW CARD: Young (10), Harper (52)
REFEREE: David Somers
WEATHER: Fine 5?C
NEXT MATCH: SFL (away) v St Johnstone, Saturday 29th March 2008, kick off 3.00pm