Dunfermline fielded a strong line-up in the latest SPFL Development League match at East End Park on Monday evening. Over-age players Sean Murdoch, Kallum Higginbotham, Michael Moffat and Joe Cardle all played the full 90 minutes. It was Murdoch's first game since his wrist injury and he looked confident and assured. For the 3 experienced out-field players, this was either an exercise in maintaining fitness with a view to Saturday's first team game, or a sign that they will not be involved at the weekend and were instead played in the Under 20s to give them game time that they have lacked in recent weeks.
As with all the Under 20s games I have seen this season (including pre-season games, this was the seventh), the team played attractive football, rarely resorting to long clearances, playing the ball on the ground and linking up well through quick passing movements. The defenders are all good footballers, and in 17 year old Paul Allan, currently with Fife Elite but eligible to play for DAFC Under 20s, the team has an excellent centre-half who lacks height but is a very good reader of the game, overcoming his lack of height by anticipating play, stepping in front of the striker and winning challenges through intelligence and not just physical strength.
Two Pars goals were disallowed in the first half: after 11 minutes, Ciaran Lafferty challenged for the ball and it broke to Cardle, who shot past Thistle keeper Cullen, only for the referee to give Thistle a foul for Lafferty's challenge; and in the 17th minute Lafferty himself scored but was ruled offside, which looked highly doubtful. In the second half, the linesman called an offside incorrectly following a tremendous Higginbotham pass which put Lafferty clean through on goal. Dunfermline then had 2 penalty appeals turned down, both for handball. If the first appeal was debatable (possibly ball to hand), the second was a clear penalty as the Thistle defender put his hand in the air to save a goal-bound shot.
The game's only goal, in the 41st minute, was a scrappy effort, scored by Callum Wilson. Murdoch got a hand to the Thistle player's shot but couldn't prevent it from crossing the goal line. Thistle also created further chances, and with greater accuracy might have extended their lead.
The Moff had a typical game: lots of great link-up play, but an obvious reluctance to shoot, always preferring to lay it off to a team mate when presented with a sight of goal. Kallum Higginbotham did not impose himself enough generally on the game, but showed glimpses of his talent with the quality of some of his passes. Joe Cardle put in a lot of effort for very little reward.
Murdoch must now be in contention for a start on Saturday. The other over age players may have to settle for a place on the bench against St Mirren, although opinions will vary as to whether that is best for the team or not.
Team line up below, plus match photo gallery.
Subs used: Johnny Galloway, James Thomas and Callum Smith, replacing Reece Duncan, Ciaran Lafferty and Evan Horne.
Photo gallery: All photos by Pars Review. To see full size photos, please click on images and then move through the gallery using side arrow or by clicking each photo.