It was a third 0-0 draw for Dunfermline in just over a month as the Pars’ promotion playoff push becomes harder following Saturday’s drab goalless encounter with fourth placed Morton.
Allan Johnston stuck with the same starting eleven that took to the field against Inverness just 4 says earlier. Andy Ryan missed out through injury while Scott Lochhead dropped out. Jean-Yves M’Voto returned to the bench following a hamstring strain and Jason Talbot returned from suspension to take a seat alongside the substitutes. Big players such as Joe Cardle, Sean Murdoch and Michael Paton missed out the playoff hopefuls Athletic.
Jim Duffy also had injuries issues with his Ton squad. Jai Quitongo and Ross Forbes continue to miss out alongside Robert Thomson while Lee Kilday was unavailable as he recovers from a season-long injury layoff. Michael Doyle returned from suspension with mark Russell dropping to the bench. Rhuaridh Langan missed out completely.
Thomas O’Ware won the toss for the visitors and he chose to shoot towards the away support in the first half at a bitterly cold East End Park. The Ton, in their tartan red strip were under pressure from the off though.
Dunfermline’s strike-force linked well early on but Nicky Clark’s low shot to the left of goalkeeper Derek Gaston was well pushed away by the shot-stopper.
Jack Iredale crashed in an effort from the left after the hosts had cleared a low Frank Ross delivery but the Aussie defender never managed to hit the target from 20-yards as it flew harmlessly wide of Lee Robinson’s goal.
Johnston’s side were dominating posession but struggling to get shots away and they were almost punished when Ross was played in down the left: the Pars defence were stretched as Robinson narrowed the angle at his near post; the on-loan Aberdeen midfielder sclaffed his shot which went wide of the former Ton keepers goal.
Tom Beadling saw a shot blocked as the Sunderland loanee looked for his second goal since arriving in Fife during the January Transfer Window.
Gary Oliver was lovely up front for Duffy’s visitors but he was unable to get Morton’s first shot on target as he blazed over the bar from just outside the penalty box. Declan McManus fired into the side-netting from just inside the penalty area on the left as a stuffy game reached the half-way mark, with only Clark’s shot within 30 seconds the only shot on target so far as fourth versus fifth cancelled each other out.
There were no changes at the break for either side as the Greenock club kicked off, attacking the Norrie McCathie Stand in the final period of this encounter.
McManus started the second-half as he ended the first 45 minutes, but his shot from 20-yards drifted wide of Gaston’s right-hand post.
Similarly to the opening of the match, a shot within the first minute by the home side was then proceeded by a period of nothing of note occurring.
The next shot came with less than half an hour remaining as Beadling headed behind a Higginbotham delivery from the right as Dunfermline continued to dominate the ball without carving out too many opportunities.
The opener looked possible when a scramble in the box saw the ball eventually fall to McManus but he couldn’t concert from 15-yards as full-back Doyle flung himself in the way to deflect the ball past the post for a corner. From the resultant delivery, Gaston failed to claim James Craigen’s set-piece while Dunfermline skipper Callum Morris returned from the right with his cross almost catching everyone out as the sleeve-less Gaston gathered on the line.
It wasn’t a day for shorts and a T-shirt but the hosts were ensuring the keeper wasn’t shivering too much as they continued to pour forward during frequent snow showers.
Higginbotham drifted inside from the right and his venemous left-footed effort was palmed into the path of McManus by Gaston but the keeper made amends saving the weak follow-up as the striker tried to catch out the shot-stopper with a first-time right-footed attempt from 10-yards out.
A flurry of substitutions happened around the 75th minute. Firstly, Gary Fraser was brought on for Ross, with Scott Tiffoney now occupying the left. Fraser Aird and Daniel Armstrong – on the other hand & was brought on for Craigen and Clark.
Sandwiched in between these switches, the Ton got away with one as Beadling was played in down the right; the versatile Englishman got a shot away which crashed off the bar as Johnston’s side continued to push for the opener that looked like being the winner.
Teenager Armstrong shimmied his way into the area but the on-loan Wolves winger couldn’t find the net as his powerful strike rattled the post.
His shot fell to McManus, but, the ex-Fleetwood attacker couldn’t fool Gaston with the follow-up as his near post shot was smothered by the former Albion Rovers shot-stopper.
Duffy’s men had defeated Dunfermline with late goals in three of their four previous meetings this season while Dunfermline had taken the lead in 3 of those 4 encounters, too, but a chilly afternoon wasn’t to be warmed up with a goal as Andrew Dallas brought the match to an end.
Speaking to the press post-match, Allan Johnston said:
“I thought in the first-half, there wasn’t that much between the two teams. We probably played the better football and got into really good areas. It was just that final pass that let us down. We had a couple of half-chances that we were unlucky not to score from. They looked a threat too with the pace and movement they have upfront. Second half, I thought we totally controlled it and should have won the game. We need to be more clinical.”
Duffy agreed the Fifers were the better side on the afternoon.
“I am delighted with a point; it was horrendous conditions for players to play in, to be honest. There was a swirling wind a players hate playing in those types of things. They don’t mind the cold but the wind…I think Dunfermline had the majority of the game: they hit the woodwork and Gats has made a couple of saves – our determination and organisation got us a point. The attitude of the players were terrific. It wasn’t a classic game by any stretch of the imagination, but, at this stage of the season and in these conditions, to get a clean sheet and to go away with a point, I’m delighted.”
FULL-TIME: Dunfermline Athletic 0-0 Greenock Morton
25. Lee Robinson
2. Ryan Williams on
5. Callum Morris (Captain)
6. Lee Ashcroft
3. Lewis Martin
7. Kallum Higginbotham
26. James Vincent
31. Tom Beadling
28. James Craigen (Fraser Aird 76′)
10. Nicky Clark (Daniel Armstrong 76′)
9. Declan McManus
20. Cammy Gill (GK)
4. Jean-Yves M’Voto
8. Nat Wedderburn
12. Daniel Armstrong
14. Jason Talbot
17. Fraser Aird
27. Dean Shiels
1. Derek Gaston
6. Michael Doyle
4. Tam O’Ware (Captain)
5. Ricki Lamie
26. Jack Iredale
12. Michael Tidser
3. Andy Murdoch
14. Gary Harkins
25. Frank Ross (Gary Fraser 74′)
15. Scott Tiffoney
7. Gary Oliver
20. Conor Brennan (GK)
11. Bob McHugh
16. Lewis Strapp
17. Mark Russell
18. John Baird
19. Luca Gasparotto
23. Gary Fraser
Referee: Andrew Dallas