Saints 4-4 Dunfermline
Report of match 21st April 2012
Reporter Stuart Gillespie
Only Saints could score four goals at home against the team bottom of the table and still not win, Steven Thompson bagging his first league hat-trick in a crazy game against Dunfermline.
To say we should have won this would be an understatement. We scored early, were never behind and twice found ourselves with a two goal lead - yet still managed to throw it away. We switched off after Nigel Hasselbaink's early opener, woke up when Dunfermline equalised and seemed in control - each Dunfermline goal sparking us back into action. But when they pulled one back so soon after Thommohawk's hat-trick you just knew we'd concede a fourth - and it duly arrived a few minutes from time.
Despite all that I'm not actually that annoyed. I was expecting a dour game and little goal mouth action. I wondered if our players would be up for it or already thinking about their holidays and we'd gift Dunfermline a much needed win. Instead we were treated to a thriller and saw some spectacular goals. Perhaps it's because we've nothing to play for other than seventh place that I'm not too upset - this result ensuring that even the most fantastic of Dunfermline comebacks won't send us down. We should have won but it's not the end of the world and will hopefully remind Danny Lennon we need to do some work on the defence as well as the attack for next season.
Marc McAusland shrugged off the virus that has kept him out of training all week to start, meaning Darren McGregor had to be content with a place on the bench yet again. There were still two changes though, Graham Carey and Jim Goodwin coming in for Steven Thomson and the suspended Jeroen Tesselaar. With Dougie Imrie, Paul McGowan, Steven Thompson and Nigel Hasselbaink all starting it was a fairly attacking Saints side. Curiously Dunfermline left Andy Kirk and Joe Cardle riding pine but still had talented players like Kyle Hutton, Mark Kerr, Jordan McMillan and set-piece specialist Martin Hardie. Former Buddies Chris Smith and Gary Mason also started.
During our break I wrote about how many early goals we're conceding and how few we're scoring - and it seems someone was paying attention. With less than four minutes gone Paul McGowan slid a pass through to Nigel Hasselbaink, who admittedly looked a good half yard offside. With Dunfermline half expecting the flag to go up, Nigel played on and absolutely skinned Alex Keddie before slotting the ball home. The perfect message to send out to people who were worried we were going to chuck it now we had nothing to play for.
Dougie Imrie had half a chance to extend the lead when he got onto the end of Carey's corner but headed wide before Dunfermline had their first chance, taking advantage of some poor defending before Kyle Hutton saw his shot blocked by Lee Mair. Next time he found his route to goal unhindered after the Pars had cut us open with worrying ease but he pulled his shot wide when he should at least have hit the target. Steven Thompson should also have done better when he got onto the end of Carey's free-kick but headed over from the edge of the six yard box.
Quite what had gone wrong with us was anyone's guess - maybe after getting that goal we'd decided it was holiday time after all. Dunfermline were getting plenty of time and space and David Graham was desperately unlucky not to equalise, seeing his shot fly past Craig Samson before smacking the post and bounce clear. Even Keddie fancied his chances but thankfully sent his free header well wide of goal. Maybe we didn't like the rain, which was once again lashing down. At least it wasn't hail.
We could only cling on for so long without being punished so it was no surprise to see Dunfermline draw level midway through the half. Once again we backed off and backed off and McMillan eventually decided he'd been more than fair in waiting for a challenge so ran in from the right and brilliantly curled the ball past Samson, the Saints keeper only able to get a hand to it. We were lucky it was only the equaliser and Kerr nearly put the Pars in front only to shoot straight at Samson. He failed to hold the ball but the flag went up for offside as Hardie raced to get to the rebound.
That finally seemed to wake us from our slumber and we wasted a glorious chance to re-take the lead. Carey rode a number of challenges before getting deep and sending in a cross that found McGowan. His header back across goal bounced and then hit the bar, Thompson being caught completely unawares and only sclaffing the rebound wide. Had the roles been reversed you'd have fancied the Thommohawk to score from the cross. Andy Dowie took pity on us after that miss and tried to help out, his looping header almost sailing over Smith before he stuck out a hand to grab it.
Iain Brines had been making some odd decisions for both sides early on (so just your typical SFA official) and he made another, McMillan incredibly lucky only to be booked for a shocking tackle on Imrie over at the corner flag. We were beginning to force the issue although had to resort to long range shots - Kenny McLean's going straight at Smith, Carey sending a free-kick just wide before Imrie and McGowan also went close from range.
Those of us wondering what would have happened if it had been Thompson on the end of Carey's cross rather than McGowan were given our answer two minutes from the break. Our messing about looked as if it would cost us a decent position as we opted to pass or take a touch rather than shoot. Fortunately, someone managed to get the ball out to Carey who immediately fired it into the penalty box where Thompson had got the better of the Dunfermline defence to head home. Despite there being less than five minutes until the break we almost repeated our early trick of switching off, giving Mason a chance that he shot straight at Samson. McGowan then had another go from range that once again went narrowly wide.
McMillan was hooked at the break - Jim Jefferies perhaps worried he'd pick up a second yellow - with Cardle on in his place. That was the least of Dunfermline's worries two minutes after the restart as Imrie somehow managed to dodge a couple of dodgy challenges before crossing for Thompson. It seemed as if the cross had been over hit but, despite being closely marked, Thompson was able to readjust himself and head past the helpless Smith into the top corner. A great cross from a great header as Thompson continued his recent run of goalscoring form.
Game over then? Well no - and you should know that by now when you're talking about Saints! It looked as if we'd go on and bag a fourth but instead we allowed Dunfermline to open us up again, Hardie and Graham allowed to take the proverbial out of the defence before Graham found himself through on goal and finished coolly to reduce the deficit. Imrie showed there was still some fight in the Saints team when he absolutely clattered Kerr and got booked - the right decision considering the precedent had been set with McMillan's lunge in the first half. The officials continued their interesting performance when they gave a Saints goal-kick instead of a Dunfermline corner, Jefferies less than impressed and getting a chat from Brines for his trouble.
The Dunfermline fans smelled blood - and continued to smell it after an absolutely mental five minutes. Slack play from Cardle allowed David van Zanten to pounce and snatch the ball before charging forward a few yards and playing in Thompson. The big striker took a touch before - appropriately enough for the day's weather - thundering the ball into the top corner to complete a well deserved hat-trick. That should have been enough to see us through, Thompson heading Carey's cross wide soon after, but minutes later we were a bit too adventurous and were caught badly when Graham slid the ball through to Liam Buchanan, who took a few strides before promptly sticking the ball in the top corner from 25 yards. The same player should have equalised a few minutes later when a ball found him just outside the box but his first touch was awful and Mair hammered the ball clear.
With all that out of the way we made some changes, Gary Teale and Thomas Reilly replacing Imrie and Hasselbaink - not the changes you'd expect when you're only a goal up! Marc McAusland continued his attempts to emulate Kirk Broadfoot with an even better charge forward - so good he had only himself and Keddie between the goal. Unfortunately Keddie then barged him off it and was booked before Buchanan was replaced by Andy Barrowman and Kirk came on for Mason. It proved a good move as a couple of minutes from time Cardle fired in a cross and Kirk appeared from nowhere to head past Samson and earn the Pars a potentially priceless point. They weren't happy with that though and were desperate for all three, Kirk nearly snatching them when Hardie flicked the ball on but he got his angles all wrong and smacked the ball over the bar.
A disappointing end but you can't argue with goals from start to finish from what was supposed to be a meaningless game. Ironically the one day we managed to bang in the goals was also the day we decided to ship a load!
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