Nicky Clark collected his second match-ball of the season on Tuesday evening as Dunfermline Athletic ran out 3-0 winners against winless Brechin City.
The Glebe Park club have not win a game in the Championship this term, but, were boosted by the return of experienced goalkeeper. However, City were without strikers Isaac Layne and Andy Jackson as well as defenders Ryan McGeever and Kostadin Gadzhalov. Two goalkeepers were named on the bench with youngster Sam Costello making up the numbers for Darren Dods” men.
Allan Johnston had an almost fully-fit squad to choose from. Andy Ryan had returned from injury and claimed a place on the bench in place of Dean Shiels while the starting eleven remained the sane for the third match running. Sean Murdoch and Michael Paton remain out long-term; Joe Cardle was also unavailable after being unable to shake off his foot injury.
It was a dry but cold night in Angus.
Brechin started off brightly, winning a corner within a minute, which they nearly scored from. Dylan Mackin got a touch on the delivery, but, Lee Robinson was alert enough to smother the ball on the goal line.
Next, Declan McManus saw a header go straight at Graeme Smith as the game flowed from end-to-end. However, the opener wasn’t far away with McManus at the heart of it.
The striker picked the ball up and drove at the City defence; he slipped in Nicky Clark who flashed a shot across goal from 15-yards out, on the right side of the penalty area, to put the Pars in feont early on.
Things went from bad to worse for Dods’ side immediately though as Dunfermline won the ball back from Brechin’s restart, which allowed Clark to head for goal: theex-Rangets front-man showed composure as he slotted it home from the centre of the box to make it 2-0 with less than 10 minutes on the clock.
It was almost a third for Johnston’s men soon after as Lewis Martin weaved forward down the left before unleashing a right-footed effort which Smith palmed away – McManus met the follow-up but his effort from a difficult angle hit the side-netting.
Clark was denied a hat-trick by Smith as Dunfermline seemed I’m control but midway through the first-half, Robinson was called into action again as he stooped low to block Kalvin Orsi’s effort on the line following a Willie Dyer corner.
Liam Watt was next to try his luck from 20-yards but his right footed curling effort was well clutched by the Sunderland-born shot stopper. Then, on 24 minutes, Dods made his first substitution of the evening with Euan Spark leaving the field, to be replaced by Sean Crighton.
The hosts kept on pushing for a way back into the match with Dyer and then Callum Tapping forcing Robinson into action once more. James Craigen fired wide before McManus dragged his effort past the post too.
The former Fleetwood Town striker had the last shot of the opening period as he hit the bar from close range, meaning at the break the visitors would lead by 2 goals courtesy of Clark.
The substitutes kept warm during the half-time interval.
The second half was slow to get started as neither side created any chances of note up until the 54th minute. Tom Beadling flighted over a terrific ball for Clark who peeled to the back-post, with the Pars top goalscorer slotting his left-footed attempt into the net to guarantee himself the match-ball come full-time.
Clark looked for a fourth but was off target on this occasion before Craigen saw a right-footed free-kick turned around the post by Smith. Dunfermline then made a double change with 25 minutes remaining: Nicky Clark and Declan McManus made way for Andy Ryan and Daniel Armstrong up front.
The second-half was devoid of many chances due to the game being over with over half an hour left on the clock. Jordan Sinclair replaced Liam Watt while club captain Paul McLean came on for Gary Fusco. Fraser Aird entered the fray for the visitors, taking the place of Dundee-loanee James Vincent.
Sandwiched in-between those switches was a chance for Dunfermline. Armstrong was in on goal but he couldn’t grab his first senior strike as the youngster sliced his shot wide of target from 10-yards.
With 79 minutes played, it looked as though Brechin would get a consolation as former Dunfermline youth Finn Graham made a lung-bursting run into the box, down the right-hand side, but he flashed his shot across goal and out for a goal-kick.
Substitute Aird cut inside but he couldn’t find the net with his deflected effort landing in the arms of Smith while Tapping saw his attempt dribble wide.
Sinclair had the last effort of the evening, deep into stoppage-time, but his long distanced strike couldn’t catch out Robinson as the ex-Hibs youngster fired over the crossbar.
3 goals and 3 points for the Pars as Brechin remain winless in the Championship.
It was a fairly routine win in the end for Allan Johnston’s men. The two early goals gave the Fifers a nice cushion and they saw the match out fairly comfortably. It keeps Dunfermline’s promotion playoff hopes alive as they go a point behind Greenock Morton with 7 matches remaining this term.
For Brechin, they didn’t play too badly but their lack of quality, overall – at both ends of the park – is evident, which has ultimately cost Dods’ side picking up more points than they currently have. Relegation back to League One is inevitable and that fact could become reality as quickly as Saturday; a loss to Morton at Cappielow would see the Championship side, at best, stay 23 points begins but with only 21 points remailing.
A crowd of 511 saw Tuesday’s clash at Glebe Park.
FULL-TIME: Brechin City 0-3 Dunfermline Athletic
1. Graeme Smith
29. Euan Smith
4. Gary Fusco (Paul McLean 78′)
3. Willie Dyer
15. Euan Spark (Sean Crighton 24′)
6. James Dale
11. Liam Watt (Jordan Sinclair 73′)
7. Callum Tapping
8. Finn Graham
18. Kalvin Orsi
22. Dylan Mackin
19. Patrick O’Neil (GK)
26. Scott Costello (GK)
2. Paul McLean
14. Aron Lynas
16. Calumn Morrison
20. Sean Crighton
27. Jordan Sinclair
25. Lee Robinson
2. Ryan Williamson
5. Callum Morris
6. Lee Ashcroft
3. Lewis Martin
26. James Vincent (Fraser Aird 73′)
31. Tom Beadling
7. Kallum Higginbotham
9. Declan McManus (Andy Ryan 64′)
10. Nicky Clark (Daniel Armstrong 64′)
28. James Craigen
20. Cammy Gill (GK)
4. Jean-Yves M’Voto
8. Nat Wedderburn
12. Daniel Armstrong
14. Jason Talbot
16. Andy Ryan
17. Fraser Aird
Referee: Barry Cook