It has been a pleasure to have had long-time Pars fan, Sammer, as guest writer on Throwback for the past 6 weeks, during which he gave his own first-hand account of games he attended from the period 1964 to 1973. Here, in his final article, he looks back on a Pars v Dundee United game from December 1973.
Dateline: 22nd December, 1973
Match: Dunfermline 2, Dundee United 3
Charts: Merry Xmas Everyone
This was one of these Dark Days of the 1970s The Tories like to frighten voters with in their
Party Political Broadcasts. The match, played on a murky, winter afternoon kicked off at 2pm since use of floodlights was being restricted during the run-up to the Three Day Week.
The miners were about to go on official strike. People were stocking up on candles in case of
power cuts. With a sharp wind howling towards the Halbeath End, on a pitch made sodden
with torrential rain, this had all the ingredients for a miserable day out.
Forget the propaganda- this was a Xmas cracker. Before kick-off, Slade’s Xmas anthem blared out from the tannoy, its stomping, defiant beat a reminder of our pagan duty to eat, get drunk and be merry whatever else, and both supporters and teams joined in the spirit.
Dundee United were a well-liked team since their emergence in the early 1960s, played decent football and were capable of beating anyone on their day. Under Jim McLean, a manager whose face was as dreich as the weather, the team had developed a more serious approach but the Tannadice supporters retained a gift for self-mockery:
We’re up to our knees in tangerine blood
Surrender or we’ll cry
Dundee United lined up with: McAlpine, Rolland, Kopel, Copland, D.Smith, W.Smith, Payne, Knox, Gray, Fleming, Traynor.
Both sides settled early to play attractive football. Dunfermline had the gale force wind first
half and were a side who liked to hit the strikers early. If left back Jim Wallace was a trifle
ponderous in defence, he could move play 40 yards downfield with one mighty strike of his left boot; his main problem today was trying not to overshoot strikers Mackie and Shaw. With Campbell and Scott energetic in midfield Pars pressed their wind advantage and Shaw used his height to open the scoring from an in-swinging Sinclair corner. Captain Kinninmonth was an experienced midfield general who had netted a belting volley against Rangers, Leishman looked willing, while new keeper Karlsen seemed to fill the goal. When Mackie received a pass on the left side of the box he used the wind beautifully to bend a shot high and wide of McAlpine into the far corner. Mackie was a penalty box predator and had forged a good partnership with the bounding, loping Shaw who enjoyed taking the ball past defenders.
That corner for Shaw’s opener had come from a backward pass from Graeme Payne and was
possibly the only negative move Dundee United had made all of the first half, their quick, short passing game highly effective against the strong wind. Payne at the time was considered a better prospect than Gordon Strachan as a right sided midfield winger, catching the eye with his intelligent use of the ball. The other teenager, striker Andy Gary, pulled back a goal on the half time whistle when he got his head to a weak cross from the left and somehow squeezed the ball home at the near post. 2-1 to the Pars.
The second half was more a procession than a contest. Keeping the ball on the ground, United out-passed the Pars to such an extent that the match was played almost entirely in Dunfermline’s half. There were a host of experienced professionals in this Dundee United side and they knew how to play to the conditions. Doug and Walter Smith, Jackie Copland and Archie Knox, realising that Wallace’s long flighted balls would be redundant against such a strong wind, compressed the play with the result that the few Pars attacks which materialised were ruled offside. Fleming and Traynor, two ex-Hearts signings, were a
revelation as they swapped passes at will down the left flank, completely bamboozling
Thomson and Leishman who looked like men in search of a white flag. United’s fluorescent
tangerine strip was very progressive for the time and might have helped in the gathering
gloom, although in all seriousness this was a well-drilled team who looked like they could
have found each other wearing sunglasses in the dark.
Fleming and Traynor exchanged passes at least twice before Traynor slipped inside and
steered a hard, low centre into the box. Fleming had timed his run to perfection and rapped
home a firm sidefoot, with his poncy white boots, past the exposed Karlsen. A beautifully
engineered goal and the winner was almost as impressive. Traynor and Fleming combined
yet again with the winger turning Leishman inside out before cutting a low, left-foot cross
into the danger zone. Gray announced himself as a genuine No 9 with a brave, sliding finish
to hold off McCallum and slide the ball below Karlsen’s smothering dive. The Tangerine
Terror tagline was starting to be justified, for this team had just drawn 3-3 at Parkhead and
Gray would score four against Dumbarton the following week. In April 1974 Dundee United
would contest their first ever Scottish Cup Final, losing to Celtic.
For Dunfermline, the end of the season had a silver lining. Manager Miller’s attacking policy
owed more to the influence of Cunningham rather than Stein, producing results like a 5-1
win at Dens Park followed by a 5-1 loss to Dundee at home later in the season. Our position
was looking grim come the run-in, although there remained a positive vibe amongst the
supporters which was vindicated by events. Three away games remained but against all odds
the Pars went to Easter Road and salvaged a draw, with Leishman defending in the spirit of Roy Barry and Geir Karlsen making an astonishing save in the final minute by touching an
Alan Gordon header on to the post. Next up were the bruisers of Dumbarton at Boghead, a
team managed by Alex Wright containing John Cushley, John Bourke, Tom McAdam and
Colin McAdam. A Bring your own Band Aid sort of clash which was lost 0-1 and seemed to
seal our fate. The final fixture at Tannadice was a bad omen given the final day relegation in
April 1972, but George Miller had a vision. Literally. He fell asleep in front of his coal fire and dreamt that Graham Shaw would score the goal which kept the Pars in the First Division.
And that is exactly what happened! A 1-0 victory saw DAFC retain their spot in the 18 team
top league on goal difference.
Whether George Miller ever had a vision again is unknown, but the Scottish League certainly did and planned reconstruction of the divisions for season 1975-76. This was bad news for Dunfermline who in season 1974/75 survived by one point in the old Division 1, but missed out on the new top 10 team league. It was to take another 15 years before the Pars returned to the top division, under stalwart defender turned manager Jim Leishman.
Once again, my thanks to Sammer for the articles he has written for Throwback on Pars Review, and to Auld Boab for his articles in the weeks before Sammer. If you would like to contribute to Throwback, please contact me here, or via the Pars Review Facebook or Twitter pages (links below).
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