Dunfermline 1-2 Hearts: Pars plunged deeper into the mire
In THESE columns on Saturday, Dunfermline manager Jim Jefferies opined that whoever is relegated from the SPL “deserves their fate, I’m afraid. League tables don’t lie.”
They assuredly don’t, and as of this morning, the veracity of the situation is that Jefferies’ team will almost certainly drop out of the SPL as they are now seven points in arrears of second-bottom side Hibs with just five games to play.
The most telling fact of all is that their home form remains deplorable. They still haven’t won a league match on their own turf this season after losing 2-1 to a Hearts side that really only played for 45 minutes.
Hibs’ draw with Motherwell yesterday did not affect Jefferies’ calculations too much. He thinks that for Dunfermline to survive they will still have to win three games more than Hibs in the five remaining fixtures.
Speaking as ESPN’s studio guest for yesterday’s Easter Road clash, the Dunfermline manager said: “If Hibs had won, we would have had to win four of our games. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than it could have been when they were leading 1-0. That point doesn’t make a huge difference. We are in the same situation as before, needing three victories (more than them), so it’s not too disastrous.
“There’s three games before we play Hibs, and it’s now all the bottom six teams having to play each other. Every game’s tough, but it would have been a lot worse if Hibs had won, so we’ll keep hanging in and fighting till its mathematically impossible. They are still in the best position and I’d rather be in their position than ours, but you never know in football.”
Jefferies had suggested that beating his old club on Saturday would put pressure on Hibs before their home game against Motherwell, and for the first 45 minutes on Saturday it seemed that Dunfermline might achieve their manager’s objective. Good on Jefferies for busting the myth peddled by so many managers in these days of disparate kick-off times that their players are not affected by rivals’ prior results. Of course, Hibs might have wobbled yesterday had Dunfermline won, but the converse is equally true – Dunfermline’s own reverse was surely a fillip to Hibs.
Since we will never return to those halcyon days of every game starting at 3pm on a Saturday, differing start times, and even match days, will continue in the SPL. But that’s not going to be bothering Dunfermline next season, as they won’t be in it. The defeat that almost certainly signals relegation for the Fifers came because the Dunfermline defence did not up their game to deal with Hearts’ improvement immediately after the break. At half-time, after 45 dismal minutes, Dunfermline were in the ascendancy, their best chance a volley from Andy Kirk that dropped just over Jamie MacDonald’s bar.
With Dunfermline’s confidence at home always fragile, in a five-minute spell of lost concentration early in the second half Hearts were allowed to score twice as a result of defensive mix-ups.
Dunfermline failed to deal with a ball which bounced around the penalty box to Gary Glen, who smacked a low angled shot past goalkeeper Chris Smith, who only seconds before had brilliantly saved a goalbound shot by Rudi Skacel. The second goal less than five minutes later saw a pressurised Alex Keddie head past his own stranded goalkeeper, and despite a late consolation when substitute Joe Cardle’s shot deflected in off Marius Zaliukas, Dunfermline could not fashion an equaliser.
Smith, who could not really be faulted for either goal, said: “Unfortunately we haven’t got the three points today, but we are still confident we can do it.
“We have still got to play Hibs, and there’s five games after the split in all, so there’s no tossing in the towel now – it’s not in the boys’ make-up.”
For Hearts, Glen came in for the injured Craig Beattie and led the line well, while Jamie Hamill and Ian Black were always busy, although the latter picked up yet another booking for a crude lunge at Kyle Hutton. Nonetheless, it was a profitable weekend for Hearts, who gained ground on each of the three teams above them in the battle for the European places.
First-team coach Gary Locke did the media duties in place of manager Paolo Sergio, saying: “We felt at half-time that we didn’t do ourselves justice in the first half. We were a lot happier in the second half, and now we have a big week ahead.”
Indeed, that Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic is looming, and with Locke confirming that Andy Webster and Beattie will be back in training in midweek, Hearts should be at nearly full strength.
A fortnight’s break for Dunfermline will help repair their injury list, but it seems likely that Jefferies and his men have run out of time.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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