Falkirk battled back from a goal down to salvage a draw against rivals Dunfermline on a feisty afternoon at The Falkirk Stadium.
Before the match, both sides remembered the ultimate sacrifice of our Armed Forces in a well-organised and fitting tribute, which included the playing of The Last Post as well as a minute’s silence.
Falkirk included new signing Louis Longridge in their Starting XI after he signed on an emergency loan from Hamilton earlier on this week. Lee Miller and Paul Watson also regained their places in the first eleven.
Dunfermline brought back in experienced trio of Declan McManus, Dean Shiels and Joe Cardle in place of Callum Smith, Aaron Splaine and Fraser Aird.
The Pars started brightly with Joe Cardle firing over before Declan McManus saw his shot from 20 yards saved by Robbie Thomson.
Sandwiched in between this was a similar effort to McManus’ shot moments later by Louis Longridge who forced Sean Murdoch into a smart save.
Then, midway through the opening period, Falkirk youngster Cieran Dunne – making only his fourth first team appearance – was penalised after he brought down Nicky Clark inside the area.
Former Bairns fans favourite Kallum Higginbotham stepped up and slotted the ball home to Robbie Thomson’s right hand side, with the former Cowdenbeath goalkeeper diving the wrong way.
The joy of scoring in front of his former sides supporters seemed to rile up the Englishman, who was almost immediately booked. After evading two challenges down the Falkirk left, Higginbotham made it third time lucky with a strong shoulder barge on Longridge, with referee Craig Thomson showing the yellow card to the Dunfermline goalscorer.
Allan Johnston’s men defended strongly in the opening 45 minutes and it was only the lively Longridge who caused the Pars defence problems. Another long-range effort was travelling towards goal before keeper Murdoch made another smart save to tip the ball over the crossbar.
The pace and directness of Cieran Dunne was causing the visitors problems and he broke through minutes into the second period, which left Murdoch exposed. The goalkeeper charged out of his area and made a vital tackle 30 yards from his own goal to deny the teenager.
Next, it turned into the tale of two halves for Higginbotham with the winger being sent off. After his joy of scoring in the first half, the 28-year-old was penalised for what appeared to be infringing Joe McKee in the middle of the park as both rose for a high ball.
Rory Loy came on for McKee just moments later but it was a defender who got the Bairns back on level terms. Jordan McGhee, playing out of position at left-back, took a long-range free kick from his side of the park and the ball went across Murdoch and into the net.
The ball was predominately in the visitors half and home manager Paul Hartley went for broke with James Craigen coming on for Conrad Balatoni while Myles Hippolyte was replaced by striker Nathan Austin.
Dunfermline counteracted this by bringing on defender Jean-Yves M’Voto while Fraser Aird came on for Nicky Clark to try give the Pars some more energy and fresh legs.
Similarly to the first half, Falkirk didn’t threaten too much and Dunfermline defended strongly. As the game entered the final few seconds of injury time, Lee Miller and then Longridgea again had chances inside the area before bedlam ensued again.
Dean Shiels was fouled in the middle of the park but it was the visitors who got another man sent to the dressing room early. Declan McManus forced Thomson into more paperwork after pushing over a Bairns player during a melee of both sides players.
With the impetus with Hartley’s men, they pushed everybody forward and it was Austin who almost became a hero.
The former East Fife striker, from Kennoway, nodded a cross down and the ball hit the inside of the post before Murdoch gathered the loose ball. The referee had already blown for a free kick and when Murdoch restarted play, the match was brought to a close.
FULL TIME: Falkirk 1-1 Dunfermline Athletic
1. Robbie Thomson
4. Aaron Muirhead
21. Conrad Balatoni (James Craigen 75′)
44. Paul Watson
3. Jordan McGhee
6. Joe McKee (Rory Loy 63′)
8. Mark Kerr (Captain)
35. Cieran Dunne
14. Louis Longridge
11. Myles Hippolyte (Nathan Austin 81′)
18. Lee Miller
31. Robbie Mutch (GK)
9. Nathan Austin
15. Luca Gasparotto
17. Alex Harris
20. Kevin O’Hara
28. James Craigen
33. Rory Loy
1. Sean Murdoch
2. Ryan Williamson
5. Callum Morris (Captain)
6. Lee Ashcroft
14. Jason Talbot
7. Kallum Higginbotham
27. Dean Shiels
8. Nat Wedderburn
11. Joe Cardle (Jean-Yves M’Voto 82′)
9. Declan McManus
10. Nicky Clark (Fraser Aird 86′)
20. Cammy Gill (GK)
3. Lewis Martin
4. Jean-Yves M’Voto
13. Aaron Splaine
16. Andy Ryan
17. Fraser Aird
23. Callum Smith
Referee: Craig Thomson