Dunfermline's debt to plastic grows

Dunfermline Athletic 0 Heart of Midlothian 0
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Only a club in serious financial peril would consider turning to plastic as an answer. Dunfermline may have banked a cheque from Uefa for ripping up their pitch for an artificial one, but it might cost them a place in Europe.

A fifth draw in 13 home games since East End Park became a guinea pig for Uefa's synthetic-surface experiment could be the most damaging of all for Jimmy Calderwood's team, as it allowed Hearts to maintain a nine-point gap in the race for third place in the Scottish Premier League.

That result could see the Edinburgh club return to the Uefa Cup for a second successive season. By then, they will be playing their games at Murrayfield if a deal goes through to sell their Tyne-castle Stadium, but the irony is that even if Dunfermline do claw back the deficit they will not be able to use East End Park - because Uefa will not allow their competitions to be staged on such surfaces.

Yesterday's goalless encounter was hardly a glowing endorsement for the scheme backed by European football's governing body. However, the players should not take it to heart; even Jean-Pierre Papin and Ian Rush could not find the net when they were here to launch the scheme last September.

Dunfermline, though, are chasing every penny these days. The Fife club are barely a step ahead of the administrators, some £7m in debt, and had to ask players to take a pay cut two weeks ago.

The 8,421 customers who paid to watch this would have been entitled to a price cut too. Dunfermline deserved to win, being the more adventurous, while Hearts came for a point. "I think [Hearts' manager] Craig Levein will be happier than me," said Calderwood.

Dunfermline were severely curtailed by the absence of their strike force, Craig Brewster and Steve Crawford, but young Noel Hunt bravely tried to fill their shoes. The Irishman rifled an early volley just over and then Derek Young whipped an identical effort wide from Hunt's knockdown after the half-hour.

The second half was more exciting and Dunfermline did not lack endeavour. Barry Nicholson almost broke the deadlock in the 57th minute with a clever hook shot from Andrius Skerla's set-up that flew narrowly wide.

Sixty seconds later, a swift Dunfermline break saw Derek Young roll a pass into the path of Greg Shields and his low shot cannoned off the post from 20 yards with the goalkeeper, Colin Gordon, beaten. However, when Scott Thomson missed from close range in the dying minutes, Dunfermline knew their chance to draw Hearts closer had slipped away.

"It was pretty uninspiring stuff," said Levein. "I think the players were aware of the need not to lose here. I'm probably the happier manager because we have taken a point away and Jimmy has dropped two at home."