Dunfermline Athletic

2011: Ross County 0 Dunfermline 1

Memorable Match #22
IRN BRU First Division
Tuesday 29th March 2011

A league season it is said is not a sprint but a marathon but Dunfermline had got off to a great start in 2010-2011 IRN BRU First Division season. By the time they came to March however it did look as though they might be faltering.

They had gone into the New Year match against Raith Rovers as league leaders and a four point advantage. But a 2-1 defeat at Starks Park followed by a defeat at Firhill meant they started March in second place.

March would be a big month with eight league matches to be played and it started off badly with the first home defeat of the season against Morton. There were wins away to Falkirk and at home against Stirling Albion but by the time they made the midweek trip to Dingwall on 29th March they had drawn all three of their previous Tuesday night fixtures.

The trip to face Jimmy Calderwood’s Ross County proved to be a key moment in the marathon. The campaign was beginning to look like it had met a painful encounter with the proverbial wall until Jim McIntyre’s team registered the Pars only the second ever win in Dingwall.

The trip to the Highlands came eleven days early for this match brought forward because of Ross County`s presence in the Challenge Cup Final.  David Graham and Calum Woods with a foot injury, dropped out of the eleven that drew with Partick Thistle on Saturday.  Andy Dowie and Joe Cardle came in.  On the bench was Trialist Jake Hyde for the Pars having scored against Dunfermline for Dundee the previous Tuesday.

It was a match of few chances but Jim McIntyre would praise his goalkeeper Chris Smith for keeping out Andrew Barrowman.

Liam Buchanan was unlucky in 40 minutes to be closed out at the near post after Joe Cardle and Martin Hardie had created the chance on the left. For both sides though it was continually a story of off target and blocked shots.

Into added time and in the first minute there was a glorious chance for an away win. Hardie from his own half sent the ball forward for Hyde who laid the ball in front Cardle.  The swift move set up the 83rd minute sub Pat Clarke but he guided the ball to the far post where Graham just missed the opportunity as the ball flashed past.

Then Cardle was given the chance from a free kick on the left 15 yards out. The game was in its third minute of added time when the perfect delivery was met by Martin HARDIE who headed home from the centre of the six yard box.  No time for any response, the full time whistle meant the Pars hit the top of the table, two points clear of Raith Rovers. 

Jim McIntyre was delighted with his side`s late, late winner:-
"It didn`t leave any time for the opposition to come back when you score that late.  We thought we had missed our chance when we missed the great one just before it, we thought our fate was sealed and it was going to be a draw.  I was really proud of the players, they just kept going.

"Ozzie played his captain`s part to get forward to get the free kick.  Big Hardie was planning to take it before he was told to get into the box by a couple of the players because they know how dangerous he is. He got his head on a great delivery."

When you have just scored the goal that puts your team top of the league, you would think that you might at least look happy. Instead Martin Hardie pushed away Andy Dowie and look decidedly non plussed. Was this because he had just been bumped off free kick duty?

No, Martin claimed that his delay in taking up his position for Joe Cardle’s 93rd minute free kick was not because he wanted to take it, it was just a decoy! He told this website at the time:-

"Nobody knew it was a decoy apart from myself. Nobody picked me up when I went into the box. I just got myself right in the middle of the goal and the big boy who was on me up all through the game didn’t pick me up. I managed to get my head on it to score the goal.

"I jarred my back on Monday in training and it was a bit stiff during the game. Obviously I know that guys want to jump on you when you score but I was warning them off because of my sore back. I was fighting them off but it just shows you how much of a team sprit we have - it doesn`t matter who scores but when somebody does score we are all there celebrating."

It was Martin’s height that proved to be so important and naturally he was delighted on a personal level that he has scored five goals in the last five games. He added:-

“It is not about playing silky football but about grafting hard. We did that at Dingwall and looking back at the result it could prove to be a big result for us."

Prophetic words of course as the Pars went on to win all five of their remaining league games to win the title by ten points. It was not as plain sailing as it sounds. It did take an even more famous Hardie boy strike in the home match against Raith Rovers to send the Pars towards the winning line.

ROSS COUNTY: Michael McGovern; Gary Miller, Scott Boyd, Jonathan Flynn, Marc Fitzpatrick; Richard Brittain, Paul Lawson, Iain Vigurs (Stuart Kettlewell 62), Steven Milne; Martin Gardyne (Garry Wood 84), Andrew Barrowman
SUBS NOT USED: Jason Marr, Paul Di Giacomo, Joe Malin (GK)

DUNFERMLINE: Chris Smith; Andy Dowie, Kevin Rutkiewicz, Alex Keddie, Austin McCann (c); Alex Burke (Trialist 77); Martin Hardie, Gary Mason; Joe Cardle, Liam Buchanan (Pat Clarke 83), Steven McDougall (David Graham 64).
SUBS NOT USED: Chris Higgins, Greg Paterson (GK).
SCORER: Hardie (93)
YELLOW CARD: Keddie (34)

REFEREE: David Somers
WEATHER: Drizzle 10C

NEXT MATCH: (away) SFL First Division v Cowdenbeath
Saturday 2nd April 2011, kick off 3:00pm

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