Declan McManus replaced the injured Andy Ryan in the only change to Tuesday's starting 11. On the bench, Jean Yves M'Voto and Michael Paton were included with Ryan missing out and Conner Duthie not included. The other subs were as per the first leg.
A game that should have been won comfortably ended in a defeat that was incredibly hard to take; while chances were missed, United's substitute keeper made a crucial save, and for the second game running in this play-off double header we hit the bar. The first half was as good a performance as any Pars side have given in years. We completely dominated the game and went in at half time 1-0 ahead after Declan McManus converted a Fraser Aird cross after 14 minutes.
The pivotal moment of the game came in the 35th minute when McManus was put clean through on goal. A striker's instinct will always be to shoot but had McManus made a simple sideways pass to Aird, the winger would have had a tap-in to put Dunfermline 2-0 up. Instead, McManus shot and Mehmet saved the effort.
Seconds before half time Nicky Clark's bullet-header crashed off the bar - another moment that was to prove crucial later in the game.
United had barely threatened the Pars goal during the first half and made a half time change, with tall striker Thomas Mikkelsen replacing Wee Paul McMullan. Their more direct approach paid off with an equaliser after 57 minutes. Scott McDonald, once again allowed to co-referee the game, latched onto a Mikkelsen header from a corner and turned the ball in. The goal was met by disbelief by the Pars players and fans, but up the other end of the pitch, United keeper Mehmet celebrated by somersaulting and then injuring himself in the process. He had to be substituted and replaced by Harry Lewis.
Lewis was immediately called into action, making a great save from a Clark header.
United went ahead in the 70th minute when Sam Stanton ran through and put the ball past Robinson. A good goal from a United standpoint but where was the Pars midfield and central defence?
With 16 minutes remaining, Allan Johnston made the type of substitution that could have proved to be a masterstroke but instead caused the team to lose its shape. Jean Yves M'Voto was brought on to play up front, with Kallum Higginbotham being substituted. This also meant Fraser Aird moving into a midfield 3, when he was having a productive game wide left. Meanwhile, any width was now supplied by fullbacks Ryan Williamson and Lewis Martin (a converted centre half). M'Voto made no impact on the game and the team were less effective, with one of its most creative players withdrawn and less quality in wide areas.
Tiredness was also a huge factor as the game went on. Playing 35 minutes with 10 men on Tuesday with the same players who started tonight's game (McManus had already replaced Ryan on Tuesday when Lee Ashcroft was sent off) had clearly taken a toll on the team. There can be no suggestion of lack of bottle - there were other factors that led to the defeat, all described above, but lack of bottle was not one of them.
This was a sad way to end a period of games where the team have performed to a high level and given great hope for the future. Were we ready for the Premiership? Probably not, but that would have been a task for the manager in the summer. We were certainly far better than United over the 2 legs but ultimately they progressed and we were left to rue bad luck, missed chances and perhaps having played one game too many in a hectic schedule of games to end the season.
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