February 1971: Ex-Beatle George Harrison was number 1 in the UK charts with My Sweet Lord, the nation's favourite tv programme was The Benny Hill Show, while a litre of petrol cost 9p. Life in Britain in 1971 was changing, modernising, with decimal currency introduced in February that year, but with hardship a concern for many: unemployment levels were higher than at any time since World War 2 ended. In sport, Arsenal won the Double (League title plus FA Cup) an achievement matched in Scotland by Celtic. Dunfermline, meanwhile, were enduring their worst League campaign in over 10 years. Today we look at a game from that season, against our opponents this Saturday, Dundee United.
DUNFERMLINE 3, DUNDEE UNITED 1
SATURDAY 27 FEBRUARY 1971
Hard times had fallen on Dunfermline Athletic. The highs of the 1960s had swiftly been replaced by a dramatic decline in fortune as the 1970s began. Warning signs had been there in the 1969/70 season, when the Pars finished in ninth position, their lowest placing in 9 years. Season 1970/71 began with no victories in the opening 16 League games. In mid-December, the long overdue win finally came, 4-1 against Airdrie, which started something of a mini-revival: the following week, Ayr were defeated 5-0 By the time they faced Dundee United on 27 February, the Pars had won 4 out of 8 games, pulling away from the relegation places.
Dunfermline lined up against Dundee United with a few survivors of the 60s golden era still in the team - John Lunn, Jim Fraser, Alex Edwards, Barrie Mitchell, Pat Gardner and Hugh Robertson. It was Mitchell who opened the scoring, getting on the end of a Joe McBride cross in the 10th minute and shooting home past United keeper Hamish McAlpine. It looked as though that lead would be taken into the half time break but an error from John Cushley allowed United's Alan Devlin to equalise in the 44th minute.
Five minutes into the second half, Joe McBride put Dunfermline back in front after some good link up play between Alex Edwards and Hugh Robertson. McBride was a prolific goalscorer throughout his career (226 goals in 338 games) and was denied a place in Celtic history when injury prevented him playing in the European Cup winning team of 1967, after he had scored 36 times before Christmas in the 1966/67 season. He continued to score goals to the end of his career, with Dunfermline being his second last club, retiring aged 34 in 1972 after a final season at Clyde.
The Pars went 3-1 ahead in the 65th minute. Billy McLaren's shot was saved by McAlpine and then tapped into the net by Hugh Robertson from a few yards out. Robertson then had a chance to make it 4-1 from the penalty spot but he was wildly inaccurate with the kick, the ball going high over the bar. It mattered little as the Pars ended the game comfortable winners.
Unfortunately the good run of form ended with that victory. The remaining 9 League games saw the team win just 1 more game, avoiding relegation on the old 'goal average' rule. The following season, 1971/72, they were to finish last and were relegated.
Pars line-up v Dundee United (background image - Joe McBride):
Thanks to 'Auld Boab' for his help with this article.