There really is no need for excuses. As Dunfermline Athletic fans, staff and players have faced abject misery, the Pars team who lost to Airdrie United last Saturday has performed remarkably. Everyone in Dunfermline and DAFC fans all over the world can be proud of their efforts to overcome a 15-point penalty justifiably given as a result of earlier financial mismanagement and the club voluntarily entering administration.
The young players, mostly the under-20 squad who lost to Celtic in the Scottish Youth Cup Final last Wednesday, narrowly missed out on a chance to avoid the relegation play-offs when two late goals cost the Pars two points against newly-crowned champions Partick Thistle at Firhill and in the final home game a second chance to stay up for sure was lost. Chance after chance was missed in the first-half, including the Pars hitting the bar and the post. When Airdrie opened the scoring early in the second-half I felt the home side would have enough left in the tank to come back. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, the little bit of luck didn’t appear, and searching for it became an ever more unlikely quest as the Fifers ran out of steam.
As has been the case so often recently the players left everything on the field and looked both physically and mentally exhausted at the end. Josh Falkingham fell to the ground in anguish, his hands clasped to his face, only to be encouraged back up by the outstretched arm of a sympathetic opponent. Airdrie know how difficult it is to have a young team and stay up. They lost their own relegation battle earlier in the season and the Pars now need to win the play-offs to avoid joining them in SFL2 next season.
I suspect the few hardy souls supporting Airdrie were happy, but I don’t know about everyone else in East End Park on Saturday. Personally, I felt numb. I really couldn’t believe that the Pars’ heroic efforts had failed. At the start of the day, disappointment had seemed so unlikely, to me at least.
Congratulations to Cowdenbeath for securing their well-deserved SFL1 status next season, but I want to congratulate the Pars too on their magnificent attempt to avoid danger. It’s not over. This tumultuous season will now go on; for at least two more, or hopefully four more games.
Forfar Athletic will provide the opposition this Wednesday and again on Saturday. For all my optimism before the Airdrie game, I’m now pessimistic. It’s a fickle business being a football fan. I’ve not lost confidence in the players’ ability or their desire to play for the jersey. I just wonder if they can raise enough energy to compete and bounce back so quickly from what must have been a massive psychological blow.
Still, Jim Jefferies has rallied his players before. Sometimes adversity can help to bond teams and, importantly, bond fans. I suspect there will be a large and vocal away support in Forfar, as there was for the Pars at Firhill. It’s the home crowd this weekend that’s worrying me. I keep on calling for 6,000 Pars supporters to turn out at East End Park and we keep falling short. There’s no doubt it’s the economy. There just isn’t that much spare cash out there these days. Whatever the turnout on Saturday I hope the numbness I felt last weekend can be avoided. I want to feel like signing at the final whistle, not standing in stunned silence applauding the team as they leave the pitch on a low note. COYP!