It was an easy afternoon for Dunfermline as the Championship leaders brushed aside Highland League outfit Buckie Thistle in the Irn-Bru Cup Second Round.
Buckie faced a league match mid-week prior to yesterday’s match and that meant the part-timers made a few changes to freshen up their line-up. Christopher Angus and Jay Cheyne entered the starting eleven from the Rothes match while John McLeod dropped to the bench. Cieran McLean was not included in the squad with the home side naming one less sub on the bench than was permitted.
The Pars also only had 6 subs on their bench after David Hopkirk pulled out on the morning of the match with illness. Conner Duthie was suspended while Callum Smith was in Serbia with the Scotland Under-19’s. Dean Shiels and Jason Talbot didn’t make the long trip up north meaning Allan Johnston’s side also only named 17 players in their match day squad.
Buckie entered the field of play wearing their green and white hooped tops while for the second week running, Dunfermline donned their away colours of the black and red stripes. With Callum Morris on the bench, goalkeeper Sean Murdoch was presented with the Captain’s Armband in a sunny Buckie while Kevin Fraser – winner of goal of the round in the first round – was the man who led out the home side on Saturday afternoon.
The Pars started the brighter and Daniel Bell was first to make a save in the opening moments when he turned a shot over the bar from Andy Ryan, with the former Airdrieonians striker seeing his effort from the edge of the are come close to opening the scoring.
It wasn’t long though until the full-timers did find the back of the net – Cardle was set free down the left and with no challenge coming in from full-back Andrew Skinner, the winger swung the ball in for an unmarked Clark to nod home for his 6th gosl of the season.
Strike partner Ryan was denied for a second time, with Bell coming to the rescue once more. A mazy run down the left saw the forward slalom in to the area but after riding challenges from Skinner and Anderson, the goalkeeper done enough to close down the angle and deny the Pars man who has scored three goals already since he moved to East End Park this summer.
Lewis Martin had a shot saved from a similar angle to that of Ryan as Bell showed himself up once again for being one of the best keepers in the Highland League. Nicky Clark fired a free-kick wide from the Dunfermline right before Aaron Splaine stood over a similar scenario from the left hand side.
As Bell set up his wall, everyone in the ground expected a curling effort from Splaine but the midfielder fooled everyone; the former Kilmarnock man floated the ball into the back post and with the Buckie defence not expecting a cross, it allowed Lee Ashcroft to peel free to the back post. His header across goal gave Clark another simple tap in to make it seven for the season – six coming from headers.
The away side got a quick-fire third to put the game beyond all doubt. In the 39th minute, Canadian internationalist Fraser Aird – playing at right-back in this cup tie – swung in a delivery from the right which was met by Ryan and it was third time lucky for the striker, who netted his 4th of the campaign to draw level in the scoring charts with team-mate Declan McManus, with both players 3 goals behind Nicky Clark and 4 behind top scorer Joe Cardle respectively as the Fifers notched up their 31st goal of the competitive season already.
Scott Lochhead had the final chance of the first-half but the youngster was denied by the impressive Bell in the Buckie goal it had been an easy first period for the Pars while the Highland League side already looked as if they had given up.
Kallum Higginbotham came on for Joe Cardle at half-time in a tactical change while the home side remained with the same starting 11, with Graeme Stewart hoping for a reaction from his side.
The Pars were in control though and Allan Johnston’s men who looked the likelier to score again as the game went on. Jean-Yves M’Voto had a header over while Nicky Clark had a shot blocked before Splaine had the best opportunity of the second half: the midfielder burst into the box and hit a right-footed effort; Bell’s block landed straight back to the 20-year-old who smashed the bar with a venomous left-footed drive which smashed the crossbar. It really should’ve been four but the game was rarely in doubt for the Championship league leaders.
This was emphasised further with just over 25 minutes remaining. Sean Murdoch made way for Cameron Gill to make his first ever senior appearances, as he came on between the sticks for the final minutes of the match.
John McLeod fired over Buckie’s first real attempt at goal, without ever troubling Gill, while, at the other end, it was Daniel Bell who once again made a terrific save to deny the away side. Andy Ryan was set through on goal but was denied his second of the match by the goalkeeper who was the most impressive Buckie player on the pitch, on the day.
Gill was forced to work when Kevin Fraser hit the home sides only shot on target while two poor free-kicks, by substitute Drew Copeland as well as from the number eleven, Sam Urquhart, saw the Highlanders chance of a consolation fade away.
As referee Mike Roncone blew for full-time, it was a dominant display by Dunfermline. After last season’s 5-3 Scottish Cup victory, the Championship side looked to have improved and learnt their lessons, as they made Saturday’s win look easier than some may have expected. With no injuries seemingly picked up, players getting valuable game time; another three goals and another clean sheet saw Allan Johnston leave Victoria Park with a smile on his face, while his opposite number knew that they were well beaten by a better team.
FULL TIME: Buckie Thistle 0-3 Dunfermline Athletic
Stuart Taylor (Callum Murray 81′)
Kevin Fraser (Captain)
Jay Cheyne (Drew Copeland 75′)
Steven Ross (John McLeod 67′)
Darren Strong (GK)
Sean Murdoch (Captain) (Cameron Gill 64′)
Joe Cardle (Kallum Higginbotham 45′)
Andy Ryan (Declan McManus 80′)
Cameron Gill (GK)
Referee: Mike Roncone