Dundee United have moved just a point behind St Mirren at the top of the SPFL Ladbrokes Championship after defeating Allan Johnston’s Pars at East End Park.
Dunfermline kept the same line=up as last weekend’s win against Brechin with top scorer Joe Cardle remaining out with a hamstring injury. Michael Paton and Jean-Yves M’Voto also missed out for the Fifers who were top of the table before Saturday’s clash.
United came into the match with a defensive crisis. Injuries to Lewis Toshney, Paul Quinn and Tam Scobbie meant they were left with only 4 fit defenders; a sickness bug hit the Arabs late last week and that forced Stewart Murdoch to miss the game through sickness while Jamie Robson and Mark Durnan both played despite also having the bug the night before the game. Willo Flood was brought in to the side in the unfamiliar role of right-back to make up the numbers with no other defenders available.
It was an open game without any clear chances being created in the opening quarter of the match. It took until 29 minutes for either side to have a shot at goal. Declan McManus done well on the edge of the box to find himself space but his effort was weak and comfortably gathered by Harry Lewis in the Tangerines goal..
A quick and short free-kick by Kallum Higginbotham on the right saw him play in Ryan Williamson at the edge of the box. The newly-called-up Scotland Under-21’s full-back was forced onto his weaker foot and the swing with his left leg went high and over the bar.
United had hardly been in the Pars box and the first time they did, it was a goal. A fast counter attack saw Paul McMullan play in Jamie Robson down the left – the full-back’s cross was palmed away by keeper Sean Murdoch but the ball was to land kindly for Fraser Fyvie 12 yards out to smash the ball home for the opener on 35 minutes after the midfielder was left unmarked and unchallenged.
East End Park was enraged on 42 minutes when Scott McDonald hit the deck under an innocuous challenge from Lee Ashcroft, with a free-kick being given by referee Don Robertson. James Keatings flighted the ball into the area for William Edjenguele to nod down for the Aussie to score to compound matters further. A hint of offside, which wasn’t given by the referee, didn’t help the feeling of anger by the home support as Ray McKinnon’s men found themselves two goals ahead heading into the break.
It could have, and probably should have, been game over before the half-time whistle went however when the Arabs missed a fantastic opportunity to make it three. Former Dunfermline winger Paul McMullan charged into the area only to be stopped by a last-gasp tackle from Jason Talbot but the ball broke kindly to Billy King at the edge of the area: the winger’s shot looped over the head of the helpless Murdoch but the Pars were saved by the crossbar on this occasion.
At the start of the second half, the ineffectual David Hopkirk was replaced by Callum Smith as Dunfermline pushed striker Declan McManus out on to the left-wing to try find a route back into the match. It was United who got the next goal though, just 8 minutes into the second half.
James Keatings saw a free-kick in a dangerous area blocked by the 6-man Dunfermline wall but the rebound was to eventually find its way to Fyvie who was once again all alone; he was to take advantage, as well, as he rifled home a thunderous strike from all of 25-yards to beat Murdoch all ends up and seal the 3 points for McKinnon’s injury and illness ravaged side.
Aaron Splaine replaced Dean Shiels as Allan Johnston looked to find a way back into the match with United now dominating. The Fife side began to find their feet again, albeit not overly-troubling Lewis. Nicky Clark fired over before Callum Smith had a shot deflected wide – the 17-year-old wasn’t to be denied for long though with the striker netting his third of the campaign to give the East End Park faithful a consolation on a disappointing day for the hosts. Smith headed home from close range to deny Southampton loanee Harry Lewis a clean-sheet with 77 minutes on the clock but there was no fightback from the Fifers.
FULL TIME: Dunfermline Athletic 3-1 Dundee United
1. Sean Murdoch
2. Ryan Williamson
5. Callum Morris (Captain)
6. Lee Ashcroft
14. Jason Talbot
.7. Kallum Higginbotham
27. Dean Shiels (Aaron Splaine 65′)
8. Nat Wedderburn
12. David Hopkirk (Callum Smith 45′)
9. Declan McManus (Andy Ryan 82′)
10. Nicky Clark
20. Cammy Gill (GK)
3. Lewis Martin
13. Aaron Splaine
16. Andy Ryan
17. Fraser Aird
19. Scott Lochhead
23. Callum Smith
25. Harry Lewis
16. Willo Flood
4. Mark Durnan
14. William Edjenguele
17. Jamie Robson
11. Billy King
20. Jordie Briels
23. Fraser Fyvie
7. Paul McMullan
8. Scott McDonald (Patrick N’Koyi 93′)
19. James Keatings (Sam Stanton 77′)
21. Deniz Mehmet (GK)
9. Patrick N’Koyi
10. Scott Fraser
12. Sam Stanton
18. Scott Allardyce
24. Matthew Smith
42. Jake Davidson
Referee: Don Robertson