Nicky Clark was Dunfermline’s hero on Saturday afternoon with a late equaliser which rescued a point for the Pars at home to Dumbarton in the SPFL Ladbrokes Championship.
Both sides were to make changes from their previous matches, although Dunfermline’s were mainly enforced through injury. Aaron Splaine broke his leg in a Fife Cup tie against Burntisland Shipyard during the week before Andy Ryan picked up an ankle injury during Friday’s training session. Callum Smith came in for the striker while Splaine was replaced on the bench by Declan McManus, who returned for Allan Johnston’s side after suspension. Also returning to the squad after sitting out Tuesday’s encounter against Morton was Kallum Higginbotham and he was instantly put in to the action, replacing fellow winger Joe Cardle.
For the Sons, Stevie Aitken brought in Chris McLaughlin at left-back after the former Ross County man returned from injury. Dougie Hill was the unfortunate man to miss out as he was dropped to the bench. Also returning was on-loan Staggie Greg Morrison, with the young striker replacing another loanee, Alistair Roy of Hearts, who also found a seat on the bench for this match.
It was the Pars who started brightest and within 60 seconds had fired in the first shot of the match. Fraser Aird tried his luck from way out but via a deflection the ball landed kindly for goalkeeper Scott Gallacher to gather.
Kallum Higginbotham slammed a free-kick wide of target with the daisy-cutter not troubling Gallacher on this occasion. On nine minutes, the Fifers’ fans were out of their seats – only to be disappointed. Williamson crossed the ball in from the right and it looked a certain goal as Smith’s shot was goal-bound. However, a last-ditch block by on-loan Celtic full-back Sam Wardrop saved the Sons early on.
Aitken’s men then began to cause trouble themselves: the ever-impressive Tom Walsh had a shot from 25-yards go over the bar while Morrison flashed a cross-cum-shot across the face of goal but nobody was there for Dumbarton to tap the ball home for the opener.
Aird had another chance from outside the area after a corner wasn’t fully cleared but his right-footed effort was high and wide before Mark Stewart couldn’t make things count at the other end as the attackers effort looped over Murdoch’s crossbar.
No changes were made at half-time but the scoreline was to change pretty quickly. Tom Walsh was to fire the Sons ahead after slamming home past Murdoch from 25-yards. The winger drifted in field and after picking up the ball in the centre of the park, his left-footed shot put the part-timers in front.
The Pars quickly hit back as Callum Morris equalised just four minutes later. The Dunfermline captain went forward for a free-kick which was swung in to the edge of the penalty box; Lee Ashcroft rose to flick on, with the Englishman taking a touch on his chest before swivelling and prodding the ball into the far corner to bring the game back level again.
Seconds prior to Morris’ equaliser, Michael Paton and Joe Cardle were brought on for Dean Shiels and Kallum Higginbotham as Johnston showed his hand first in this scrappy league affair.
Dimitris Froxylias came on for Greg Morrison with just under half an hour to go and the Cypriot made an immediate impact. The winger, who had a trial with Dunfermline in the summer, cut inside Talbot before unleashing an unstoppable effort, leaving Murdoch with no chance, as the ball flew into the goalkeeper’s top right-hand corner.
Johnston threw another striker on, with Declan McManus replacing Canadian international Fraser Aird. Williamson crossed for Clark shortly after but the striker nodded wide of target as the home fans grew restless.
Christian Nade came on for Calum Gallagher late on to try and give the Sons some fresh impetus up front to put the game beyond all doubt. Tom Walsh had another crack at goal from the left as Dumbarton broke forward on the counter-attack but Murdoch was to gather that effort in his six-yard box as time ticked on. Chris Johnston came on for the injured Walsh but he wasn’t to make any late impact as the drama continued.
With the home fans flooding for the exits, they were stopped in their tracks as one-last chance was produced. Dumbarton couldn’t clear at the edge of the area as the ball squirmed its way through to Callum Smith; in the box on the right-hand side, the 18-year-old saw his shot saved by Gallacher before Cardle miss the ball as he tried to score from the rebound.
The attack continued as Smith picked up the loose ball, with the striker chipping in a delivery to the back post for the unmarked Clark to head the ball home to salvage a point for the Pars.
Dumbarton were well worthy of at least a point with an under-performing Dunfermline scraping the most that they deserved out of this game. In the end, a draw was probably a fair result, but it will feel like a loss for Aitken and his men.
FULL-TIME: Dunfermline Athletic 2-2 Dumbarton
1. Sean Murdoch
2. Ryan Williamson
5. Callum Morris (Captain)
6. Lee Ashcroft
14. Jason Talbot
7. Kallum Higginbotham (Joe Cardle 55’)
27. Dean Shiels (Michael Paton 55’)
8. Nat Wedderburn
17. Fraser Aird (Declan McManus 71’)
23. Callum Smith
10. Nicky Clark
20. Cammy Gill (GK)
3. Lewis Martin
4. Jean-Yves M’Voto
9. Declan McManus
11. Joe Cardle
15. Michael Paton
1. Scott Gallacher
12. Sam Wardrop
55. Craig Barr
4.. Andy Dowie (Captain)
3. Chris McLaughlin
7. Calum Gallagher (Christian Nade 74’)
14. Kyle Hutton
6. Stuart Carswell
10. Tom Walsh (Chris Johnston 84’)
9. Mark Stewart
16. Greg Morrison (Dimitris Froxylias 66’)
19. Jamie Ewings (GK)
11. Chris Johnston
15. Dougie Hill
16. Kyle Prior
17. Alistair Roy
20. Dimitris Froxylias
27. Christian Nade
Referee: Nick Walsh