A spirited display with a new formation but another Tannadice defeat
Nicky Clark was an unexpected absentee in a depleted squad that featured just 5 players on the bench. Allan Johnston changed the team formation to 4-1-4-1 with Big Nat in defensive midfield, Lewis Martin in centre midfield and Declan McManus as a lone striker.
MINUTES THAT MATTERED:
13' United striker Scott McDonald delayed a shot inside the penalty box when presented with a great chance to open the scoring
15' GOAL Kallum Higginbotham tried to shield the ball out of play on the by-line but it was kept in by United who played it across to their right. Jason Talbot then conceded a free kick which was, predictably, converted by Scott Fraser
17' Declan McManus led a breakaway and played the ball across goal where it was met by Higgibotham who put the chance wide
42' GOAL Higginbotham and Wedderburn both allowed Scott Fraser to advance into the box unchallenged after a United throw-in on the Pars' right. Fraser took advantage to shoot past Murdoch and make the score 2-0
55' Higginbotham, who had been booked 5 minutes earlier, was substituted after a completely inept display
75' GOAL Fraser Aird, who had replaced Higginbotham, made a superb run which ended in him being fouled inside the penalty box. Declan McManus scored with the spot kick to bring Dunfermline back into the game
Another defeat at the home of Dundee United but this was not the meek capitulation that we have seen so often and were probably fearing again. Poor defending in the first half saw the team go 2-0 behind but an improved second half, led by Michael Paton and sub Fraser Aird, almost led to what would have been a deserved point. Defeat is never satisfactory but there was a steely determination within the team that has been missing in recent weeks. There was a rare change in formation - would Nicky Clark have played up front on his own had he been available? Was the change to 4-1-4-1 planned all along? Whatever, the change made a difference and although it was unusual to see Lewis Martin in centre midfield, the extra physical presence and athleticism meant that there was no soft centre in the Dunfermline line-up.
Michael Paton was the team's best performer - the best passer of the ball in the squad, all he lacks is a burst of pace otherwise he would be in the division above. Sadly, Kallum Higginbotham had another poor game, and as noted in the "minutes that mattered" above, he had a role in both United goals and was, generally, very poor. His replacement Fraser Aird was a huge improvement on the right midfield and his run that won the penalty kick, plus several other good passages of play, will surely see him included from the start next week.
Sean Murdoch lost yet another free kick goal, another shot on his stronger left side that beat the wall and the Pars keeper. At this stage, almost every opposition free kick is a goal and we appear unable to prevent ordinary Championship players from looking like Zico in these situations.
The squad needs a refresh in certain areas but the manager will be pleased with the impact of Paton and Aird, who have barely featured this season but who look like a better option than certain "regulars".
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