Semi-final now pay-at-gate after crowd fears

TOMORROW night's CIS Cup semi-final between Livingston and Dunfermline has been made a pay-at-the-gate game amid fears of an embarrassingly low attendance.

It is understood less than 5,000 tickets had been sold for the clash at Easter Road when yesterday's decision was taken. Just over 6,500 fans turned up for Livingston's semi-final with Dundee, also at Easter Road, when they won the tournament two years ago.

But with Dunfermline having sold only 1,700 tickets before yesterday, there were real concerns tomorrow's attendance could trouble the record books.

The game will be screened live on BBC 1 Scotland, a factor which is bound to have an effect on sales. Cash gates will now be in operation in each section of the stadium to allow fans to pay on the night.

Dunfermline will give their growing list of injured players up until kick-off tomorrow night to prove their fitness.

The Fifers were struggling already before they were dealt another blow on Saturday when Andy Tod limped out of the 3-1 defeat to Hibs with a hamstring strain and Lee Makel damaged a knee.

With the preferred strike partnership of Noel Hunt and Mark Burchill already doubtful after missing the trip to Easter Road and skipper Scott Thomson unavailable at the weekend because of a virus, Dunfermline are desperate for some good news from the treatment room today.

Long-term absentees Scott Morrison and Derek Young, who underwent a hernia operation last week, add to the number of first-team regulars who could miss out on the chance to take Dunfermline back to Hampden for a cup final, two seasons after reaching the Tennent's Scottish Cup final.

However, manager Jim Leishman, who saw Hunt provide a glimmer of hope when he shook off a groin strain to train yesterday, is prepared to wait as long as possible to ensure he has as strong a squad as possible at his disposal.

He said: "We'll have a better idea on Tuesday who's going to make it and who's not but we've got to give these players as long as they need if they are going to make it.

"Noel Hunt trained on Monday which was a boost, but the rest of the injured ones didn't and it's a bit of a concern for us.

"Mark Burchill and Scott Thomson missed the game at the weekend and Lee Makel and Andy Tod picked up injuries during the match. At this stage, we just don't know which of them is likely to make it but we're keeping our fingers crossed we might get two or three back.

"It's a big game for the club and we want to have our best players available to us for the match."

Leishman took his squad away from home to train at St Andrews yesterday as he looked to start the build-up to a match he himself is relishing.

He added: "We went over to St Andrews to give the boys a bit of a change of scene and it was a good session.

"We've had a couple of defeats in recent weeks, but there shouldn't be any problem lifting the players for this match. It's a semi-final, with a chance of getting into a final at Hampden."

• Dundee manager Alan Kernaghan says reports linking teenager Kevin McDonald with a move to Hearts are "speculation" but is not surprised by the attention the midfielder is receiving. Hearts were represented at Saturday's clash with Brechin City and saw the talented 17-year-old score in a 3-0 win.

Scouts from Liverpool and Leeds United were also at Glebe Park, while both halves of the Old Firm, Leicester City, Hibs and Dunfermline have also taken in Dundee's games this term.

"I know Hearts were at the game on Saturday, and there's been speculation linking him with other clubs," said Kernaghan. "But it's not just Kevin, there's also [Paul] Dixon and [Scott] Robertson that have been attracting interest and I can understand why. They have bright futures ahead of them."

FIXTURES (7.45 unless stated)

African Nations Cup

Group A: Egypt v Morocco (6.00); Libya v Ivory Coast (3.15).

Carling Cup

Semi-final, second leg: Arsenal (0) v Wigan (1).

Coca-Cola Football League

Championship: Plymouth v Leicester.

League One: Blackpool v Doncaster.

League Two: Mansfield v Chester; Notts County v Northampton; Stockport v Grimsby; Torquay v Rochdale.

LDV Vans Trophy

Northern Section. Semi-finals: Carlisle v Kidderminster; Macclesfield v Hereford.

Southern Section. Semi-finals: Cheltenham v Colchester; Swansea v Walsall.