Dunfermline 2 Airdrie 1Saturday, 4th May 1996
Dunfermline Athletic became First Division champions in the final fixture of the 1995-96 season.
At last Dunfermline Athletic became First Division champions in the final fixture of the 1995-96 season. After failing at the final hurdle in the previous three seasons, the Pars held off the challenge of Dundee United and Morton in a nail biting finish to the season and in doing so claimed the automatic promotion place. Dundee United would play Partick Thistle home and away in the play-off spot for the final place in next season’s top ten.
East End Park resembled a scene from the glory days with the old ground bulging at the seams and the terraces a sea of black and white scarf‘s. This was the crunch game and kick off was held up for thirteen minutes to allow fans in, swelling the crowd capacity to over 13,000. Dunfermline’s biggest ever First Division crowd.
Despite the turbulent ups and downs of the season Dunfermline Athletic had soared to the top due to an unshakable determination which has acted as a crutch through an emotionally crippling season.
There was a moving moment at the start of the match when Dunfermline supporters club officials presented athletic chairman of Roy Woodrow with a portrait in oils of the late Norrie McCathie.
Following the tremendous win at Tannadice the previous week, there were high expectations from the home crowd. Craig Robertson led out the team to Tina Turner’s Simply the Best but from the start the Lanarkshire side seemed determined to gate crash the Pars party.
After their huddle the Pars kicked off towards the Cowdenbeath end but they were under the cosh early on and only a desperate lunge from Andy Tod stopped Paul Harvey latching onto an incisive Peter Hetherston pass in the third minute.
When Craig Robertson weakly cleared a corner Harvey blazed in a drive that forced keeper Ian Westwater to swoop to at his new post. Two minutes later the home fans’ hearts were in their mouths as the gifted Harvey jinked clear 25 yards out and sent a superb opportunist chip which Westwater gleefully scooped up after it came back off the bar.
Bert Paton’s side needed someone to smash away the anxiety and Andy Smith clearly fired up against his old side, dived to head a Brian Rice corner but his efforts was brilliantly saved by Andy Rhodes. Just when it seemed as if they would be overcome by the edginess of it all, Dunfermline soared in front in 29 minutes.
Marc Miller provided the ammo with a curling free kick from the right and SMITH launched himself full length into the six yard box to thunder home a header and cause the stadium to erupt with joy. It was his 10th goal in 21 games for the Pars and the crowning moment for a player who has won over the Pars fans after a stint as their sworn enemy in Airdrie colours.
Typically Airdrie roared back from that jolt and Paddy Connelly’s cross from the right was knocked on by John Davies and Kenny Black’s searing shot was a scorer until Ivo Den Bieman snaked out a boot and diverted it clear.
Half time: Dunfermline 1 Airdrie 0
A second goal was needed to quell the tension and it almost came twice in 60 dramatic seconds after the break.
Derek Fleming’s corners had Airdrie in all sorts of toil as Smith saw his effort deflect just past off Hetherston before Tod’s header from the second kick floated inches past.
News from Cappielow constantly filtered through to leave the Pars fretting but all the worst nightmares came true in the 55th minute. Jimmy Boyle pumped a 60 yard ball forward to leave Den Bieman backtracking as Connelly raced clear. Big Ivo slipped and let the former Dundee United striker speed in on goal and he calmly forced the ball back to HETHERSTON who slammed a side footed shot in off the underside of the bar. 1-1
But the Pars almost edged the head again in the 61st minute when a solo run from the club’s Player of the Year Allan Moore ended with a toe poke that rattled off the legs of Rhodes. Then Robertson created a chance for Hamish French and his shot from the edge of the box grazed the right post.
The rollercoasters of emotions Dunfermline fans were riding then soared again as news came through that Marko Rajamaki had equalised for Morton. Just seconds later in 71st minute there was ecstasy for the long suffering Pars support as Moore raced clear on to a Smith pass, only to be felled by former Dunfermline keeper Rhodes.
It was a stonewall penalty and MILLAR kept his head amidst the mayhem to drive the ball low into the left hand corner with Rhodes diving to the other side. That saw off an Airdrie side who would never turned up to be bit players.
Radios told the bench and terracing that it was all over at Greenock. Morton and Dundee United had played out a 1-1 draw. The three points were not needed anymore and because of the delayed kick off a ridiculous time still to play. The fans had started to celebrate long before referee Mike McCurry brought it to an end and it was then time to celebrate on the pitch. Oh how it was deserved - one club can only take so much grief!
At last it was party time for the Pars with Manager that Paton finally achieving his holy grail the First Division championship.
The dark clouds that had descended on East End Park since the untimely death of Norrie McCathie and the departure to Celtic of Jackie McNamara finally lifted. A helicopter carrying the league championship trophy buzzed through the blue sky line above the ground before landing at Rosyth and being whisked to East End Park.
It was all too much for the new Pars mascot Sammy the Tammy who had to be carried off in a stretcher. Having been inside the suit from well before kick off the wait for the trophy saw the human inside - Graeme Robertson - flake out with the heat.
SUBS NOT USED: Guido van de Kamp (GK)
SCORERS: Smith (29), Millar (71 pen.)
AIRDRIE: Andy Rhodes: Sandy Stewart, Anthony Smith, Jimmy Sandison, Tommy McIntyre, John Davies (John McClelland), Jimmy Boyle, Kenny Black (Marvyn Wilson), Paddy Connolly, Peter Hetherston, Paul Harvey
SUBS NOT USED:
SCORERS: Hetherston (55)
REFEREE: Mike McCurry
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