Dunfermline won for the first time in six matches as they jumped up to third in the SPFL Ladbrokes Championship after a 2-1 win over bottom of the league Brechin City at East End Park.
The hosts made one change from last week’s defeat away to St Mirren, with Michael Paton replacing Kallum Higginbotham. Darren Dods also made one alteration to his starting eleven following their last match, ironically which was also against St Mirren, with Willie Dyer dropping out through injury, being replaced by Aron Lynas.
It was the home side who started brighter with Dean Shiels hitting the side-netting early on as the Pars set the initiative in the opening stages. Nat Wedderburn then had a shot from 20-yards which was poor but ended up providing Nicky Clark with an opportunity but the Dunfermline top goalscorer failed to find the target this time around.
Kalvin Orsi saw his shot deflected which allowed Sean Murdoch to gather the bouncing ball comfortably enough inside the penalty area before Liam Watt had a blocked free-kick spin over the bar for a corner to the visitors.
It was Johnston’s men who took the lead, however, on 23 minutes as Declan McMaus grabbed his 10th goal of the season. Nat Wedderburn picked the ball up on the right before swinging in a left-footed cross to the back post. Clark was unmarked and simply headed the ball across goal for the on-rushing ex-Raith striker to fire past Smith to open the scoring.
Clark had another attempt off-target before Sean Crighton headed a free-kick over the bar. Euan Smith then burst forward from the middle of the park but his venomous effort was deflected behind for another set-piece to the Angus club.
Cardle dragged his shot across goal and wide before Clark tried his luck once again, but his header didn’t test Smith on this occasion. An open game which has saw Dunfermline push forward on many occasions without overly-troubling the back three of Brechin. Dods’ side have looked to break quickly and have had a few half-chances without Murdoch being called into too much action, either.
City captain Paul McLean was forced off at the interval after picking up an injury, meaning a reshuffle was required. Towering midfielder Euan Smith slotted into defence with Englishman James Dale coming on. However, Dunfermline were quick out of the blocks as they shot towards their own supporters in the second period.
Clark done well on the half-way line to make space for himself before finding Cardle; the winger burst forward into the space before setting up Paton who slammed the ball home from 15-yards out.
Orsi made way shortly after for Aberdeen-loanee Connor McLennan who was quick to impress. The teenager picked up the ball 30-yards from goal and after creating a yard for himself, unleashed an unstoppable effort which left Murdoch helpless as the ball found the goalkeeper’s top right-hand corner.
Clark tried to hit-back midway through the second-half but his 20-yard shot was straight at Smith. The momentum then swung to the away side as Watt forced Murdoch into a terrific save to keep the Pars ahead.
The hosts tried to get the match back into their favour as Shiels, Cardle and McManus were swapped out for Kallum Higginbotham, Fraser Aird and Andy Ryan. Dods committed his final substitution soon after as he brought on Finn Graham for Jordan Sinclair.
Johnston’s men were to end the game strongly as they stood firm defensively. Ryan cut the ball across goal and after flashing through the six-yard box, Higginbotham twisted and turned to try make an opening before his left-footed stabbed effort was cleared behind for a corner.
Then, as Brechin pushed forward deep into stoppage time, the Pars broke as Clark saw a shot tipped wide by Smith. Aird and Ryan kept the ball in the corner as the full-time whistle was blown in Fife.
A gutsy performance by the visitors after going 2-0 behind but it was too little too late. A strong opening 60 minutes was enough to see Dunfermline over the line, as Johnston’s men regained their place within the top four. For Dods and his charges, they remain rooted to the bottom of the table, on 3 points with 50% of the season now gone.
FULL-TIME: Dunfermline Athletic 2-1 Brechin City
Speaking to the Press after the match, Darren Dods said:
“In the first-half, whether it was down to us not having a game last week or not, we were off the pace a little bit in the opening 20 minutes and gave the initiative to Dunfermline. We lost a poor goal at the start of the second-half but after that we came right back into it and caused them problems. From my point of view, and having spoken to people who were in the stand, it was a stonewall penalty; his hands were on his head, the player knew what he had done, but, the referee is the only person here [who didn’t see it]. Hopefully he phones me up on Monday to apologise and say he got it wrong – whether he is man enough to do that or not, I don’t know. We definitely feel aggrieved but, to be fair, we gave them two goals of a start. We did put them under pressure, we had a lot of corners: you can see them making [personnel] changes and switching their system so we did have them camped in – they were just clearing it anywhere late on.
We just couldn’t find that second goal to bring us back into it. I felt we had the momentum, especially after Connor’s goal – it was some strike! When Euan Spark made that great run down the left, I thought that was it as speaking as a former player with 21 years experience, you know yourself when you have caught somebody and you say “aw naw!” whereas if you didn’t touch him and he was to go down, you’d be saying “I didn’t touch him ref!”; the referee never saw it and that is the way things go. We probably sat off them too much in the first-half but we are definitely improving each wee bit. If we can keep doing that week-in, week–out, as well as bringing a few players in during January, then hopefully we can get a good few results to start closing the gap on the teams above us. We take positives from the second-half – if we don’t sit off them then we can force them into mistakes; once we do win it we have pace through Isaac [Layne] and Connor to cause teams problems..”
1. Sean Murdoch
2. Ryan Williamson
5. Callum Morris (Captain)
6. Lee Ashcroft
14. Jason Talbot
15. Michael Paton
27. Dean Shiels (Kallum Higginbotham 78′)
8.. Nat Wedderburn
11. Joe Cardle (Fraser Aird 78′)
9. Declan McManus (Andy Ryan 79′)
10. Nicky Clark
20. Cammy Gill (GK)
3. Lewis Martin
4. Jean-Yves M’Voto
7. Kallum Higginbotham
16. Andy Ryan
17. Fraser Aird
23. Callum Smith
1. Graeme Smith
2. Paul McLean (Captain) (James Dale 45′)
20. Sean Crighton
4. Gary Fusco
14. Aron Lynas
15. Euan Spark
11. Liam Watt
29. Euan Smith
21. Jordan Sinclair (Finn Graham 77′)
10. Isaac Layne
18. Kalvin Orsi (Connor McLennan 55′)
19. Patrick O’Neil (GK)
6. James Dale
7. Ally Love
8. Finn Graham
9. Andy Jackson
12. Chris O’Neil
17. Connor McLennan
Referee: Greg Aitken