Today we look back at a game from January 2008 between the Pars and our opponents this weekend, Morton. Player-manager Jim McIntyre named himself in the Dunfermline starting line-up. Morton's team included Jim McAlister and Chris Millar, both now back at the club for a second spell and likely to face us this weekend.
DUNFERMLINE ATHLETIC 2, MORTON 0
SCOTTISH FIRST DIVISION
SATURDAY 26 JANUARY 2008
The season had begun with a newly-relegated Pars team installed as favourites to win the First Division and make a quick return to the Premier League. By early winter, the team were in the bottom half of the division, suffering a sequence of defeats that lead to the dismissal of manager Stephen Kenny in early December 2007. Jim McIntyre was initially appointed as caretaker manager but after 4 weeks his position was made permanent. Dunfermline went into this game having lost to St Johnstone the week before, ending a 7 game unbeaten start to McIntyre's time in charge.
A crowd of 3594 were at East End Park to see a match that started slowly, with the first goal attempt coming after 14 minutes when Kevin Harper's shot was saved by McGurn. Two minutes later, Stephen Glass crossed for Scott Thomson to head a chance just wide. Dunfermline were dominating as the first half progressed. Mark Burchill was the next Pars player to come close when his header from a Danny Murphy cross was held by McGurn. Murphy was a left back who played 13 games in a short Pars career on loan from Motherwell. A month after this game, his loan deal ended and he returned to his home country, Ireland, to play for Cork City.
The Pars continued to put pressure on the Morton defence with McIntyre and then Jim Hamilton both coming close top opening the scoring. Hamilton was playing in an unfamiliar left wing role but was able to support the attack when required.
The first half ended goalless with Dunfermline well ahead in possession and goal attempts.
The Pars' dominance continued after the break. In the 49th minute Burchill's goalbound shot was blocked by Morton defender Ryan Harding. Two minutes later, Dunfermline took a long overdue lead when Stephen Simmons volleyed home from 10 yards from a Murphy cross.
Simmons almost scored his and Dunfermline's second after 61 minutes but his shot was cleared off the line. In the 70th minute, a rare Morton attack almost lead to an equaliser when Jim McAlister charged down a Stephen Glass clearance and forced Pars keeper Paul Gallacher to react quickly to prevent the Morton player from shooting.
Dunfermline made it 2-0 with 6 minutes remaining with a well-worked goal. Substitute Stevie Crawford passed to fellow sub Nick Phinn, who found Burchill , whose pass to Glass saw the midfielder take a touch and then shoot home via the right post. The ball was clearly over the line when Morton tried to convince referee Eddie Smith that they had cleared it. The referee was not fooled and the goal stood, correctly.
The win was to be just one of 2 Pars victories between late January and the third week in March. The season ended strongly with just one defeat in the final 6 games. The team finished fifth, earning 38 points from McIntyre's 22 games as manager compared to the 13 points from 14 games under Kenny. The improvement in form is perhaps best illustrated by taking the average points gained under McIntyre (1.73) and when multiplied by the full 36 game season, would have seen the Pars finish third. Kenny's average points per game (0.93) would have ended in a ninth place finish and a relegation play-off.
Pars line-up v Morton (player in background image - Mark Burchill):
23 years ago today, I walked into a newsagent on my way to work, the same routine I had every day back then. It was a Monday and that weekend I had been at Love Street, Paisley, where I watched the Pars lose 2-1 to St Mirren. It had been a disappointing day, the result a blow to our promotion hopes, and the game was still on my mind when I left home for work, knowing that my work colleagues would remind me of the score during the morning tea break.
In the mid 1990s, the internet had yet to become the main source of people's news. If you hadn't been listening to the radio, or made a point of listening to the scheduled news updates on tv and radio (or at a push, read Teletext), you relied on the day's newspapers for your source of what had been happening. That morning, January 8, 1996, I was surprised to see the face and name of my football team's captain on most of the front pages. As I moved closer, surprise turned to shock and disbelief. Norrie McCathie, Dunfermline Athletic's captain, had been found dead in his home, along with his girlfriend. He was 34 years old.
Norrie had already been at East End Park for 10 years by the time I started supporting Dunfermline. Signed by Pat Stanton from Cowdenbeath in 1981, Norrie had been a midfielder and it was there he featured in his first couple of seasons with the Pars, usually wearing number 8. It wasn't until the arrival of Jim Leishman that Norrie was converted into a central defender, switching roles and shirt number, from then on the club's number 4 and the cornerstone of everything that developed in the Leishman era. Together with his great friend John Watson, Norrie became the on-field driving force that every manager craves for. The heart of a lion, the determination to succeed, to never, ever give up: qualities that would see Norrie retain his place in the Pars defence as managers came and went. They all kept Norrie in that number 4 shirt: after Leishman, Ian Munro, then Jocky Scott; then, in another golden period to rival Leishman's era, the 1990s revival under Bert Paton, who would be Norrie's final manager.
Norrie was everything that his legend suggests: a leader, first and foremost. He was a decent footballer who made up for anything he lacked with his fantastic attitude. A man who made Dunfermline his home and owned businesses (partnered with his friend John Watson) in the town. Rarely has someone been so part of the fabric and the identity of a town. Every single time he lead out the team, I believed in him. I knew this guy was the real deal and I loved what he represented.
The Paton years saw Dunfermline battle for promotion to the Premier League but often miss out agonisingly in the period before a top 4 finish gave you a second chance in play-offs. How Norrie would have loved to have lifted the trophy, as his deputy Craig Robertson did, in May 1996. After his passing, his number 4 shirt was retired for the season, but the spirit of Dunfermline Athletic stayed strong. Bert and Dick were a tremendous management duo, while senior players including Craig Robertson and Ian Westwater took over the onfield leadership and lead the club to the title and promotion. Those of us who were at Tannadice in the penultimate League game could almost feel Norrie's presence - battling with 10 men to a 1-0 win that set us up for a last-day victory at home to clinch the title. When Westie caught the ball right under the bar at the end, under great pressure from Dundee United's players, we cheered as if a goal had been scored. His team mates all congratulated him. In amongst them, the biggest pat on the back might have come from an unseen number 4, there in spirit, making sure his boys got the job done, still the captain, forever the captain.
Above: the Norrie McCathie Stand holds up number 4 with Pars stripes either side to mark the 20th anniversary of Norrie's death, in January 2016. Below: the players line-up in a specially commissioned 1995/96 away kit, the final Pars kit worn by Norrie, before the game against Cowdenbeath, January 2016.