Higginbotham and Aird sink former club Falkirk as Dunfermline close in on the playoffs

It was two former Falkirk wingers that put the Bairns to the sword on Saturday afternoon as Dunfermline came out on top of this frantic Championship clash.

The hosts came into the match on the back of a 2-2 draw away to Queen of the South on Tuesday. Ryan Blair and Lewis Kidd dropped to the bench with defender Paul Watson and forward Louis Longridge coming in to replace the midfield duo.

Allan Johnston, on the other hand, stuck with the same starting eleven which ground out a 1-0 win over Livingston midweek. However, the Pars were boosted by the return of Jean-Yves M’Voto from injury, replacing Conner Duthie amongst the substitutes. Joe Cardle also made his comeback in the 18-man squad in place of Dean Shiels.

Dunfermline started off with a fast tempo, in which saw Fraser Aird have a dig at goal from range within 15 seconds, albeit it drifted well wide of target in the end.

It was Paul Hartley’s side who had the first clear chance of the match, as Craig Sibbald slipped Tommy Robson in down the left: his cutback found Andrew nelson whose effort was deflected as it landed in the grateful arms of Lee Robinson on the goal-line.

Declan McManus crossed the ball in from the right channel which Watson cut out at the near post, only for the ball to fall to Williamson, however, the full-back’s attempt from a tight angle hit the side-netting of Conor Hazard’s goal.

Longridge saw a shot block as he cut in from the left while McManus tried a speculative effort from way out, but, his free-kick was straight at Hazard; it was simple pickings for the on-loan Celtic keeper in the end.

Next, the opening goal was scored. The visitors played the ball around nicely, with left-back Lewis Martin – in an advanced area – passing the ball in-field for Kallum Higginbotham. The ex-Falkirk man struck from 20-yards with a deflection leaving Hazard rooted to the spot as the ball flashed into the back of the net.

The Fifers continued to press forward, with Canadian international Aird looping a delivery in for Nicky Clark at the back-post: the former Rangers striker headed the ball towards goal but Hazard tipped it round the post for a corner.

The final two chances of the half saw headers flash past the post. An Aird corner on the left found captain Callum Morris but his header went wide before the Englishman conceded a free-kick on Falkirk’s left. Longridge swung the ball in for captain Aaron Muirhead but the former Annan man was unsuccessful with his shot at goal, as well as his appeal for a penalty which referee Don Robertson waved away.

An early second-half effort by James Craigen was blasted wide, as the Pars pushed early on. Shooting towards their own supporters, it was quickly 2-0 with only three minutes on the click in the final period.

McManus shot across goal and despite the effort not necessarily going on target, it wasn’t to matter with the hosts all at sea; Aird and Clark were both lurking at the far post with winger Aird tapping home against the side he played for just 12 months ago.

Hartley gambled when hr brought attacker Alex Harris on for centre-back Peter Grant. Then, Falkirk forced a corner which led to a fantastic save by Robinson as he tipped a Jordan McGhee header over his own crossbar.

The visitors began to drop off slightly as Johnston’s men held on to their two goal advantage. Muirhead came close as he volleyed towards goal, leaving Robinson helpless, but the ball narrowly went the wrong side of the post.

Craigen had another opportunity but he sliced his effort wide. The midfielder was then shifted to the left as Nat Wedderburn replaced Aird.

With the game stretched, both sides were now creating chances. Sub Harris dragged a great opportunity wide before Clark saw another headed chance go a begging at the other end.

On 79 minutes and The Falkirk Stadium became buoyant again as Clark fouled McGhee inside the area. Muirhead stepped up to send Robinson the wrong way as he reduced the deficit to one.

Lewis Kidd had replaced Sean Welsh in the middle by now while towering French defender M’Voto was brought on as Dunfermline looked to see the game out.

Clark had a chance on the breakaway but the Pars’ top goalscorer couldn’t get a third to kill the encounter as he knocked the ball into the side-net. It wasn’t to come back and rue the away side though as their hosts failed to create any notable chances late-on.

FULL-TIME: Falkirk 1-2 Dunfermline Athletic

Team Line-Ups;

Falkirk

18. Conor Hazard

4. Aaron Muirhead (Captain)

5. Peter Grant (Alex Harris 55′)

44. Paul Watson

3. Jordan McGhee

45. Sean Welsh (Lewis Kidd 75′)

10. Craig Sibbald

42. Tommy Robson

43. Andrew Nelson (Kevin O’Hara 88′)

22. Alex Jakubiak

14. Louis Longridge

Subs:

1. Robbie Thomson (GK)

2. Lewis Kidd

7. Tom Taiwo

16. Reghan Tumilty

17. Alex Harris

20. Kevin O’Hara

2.1 Ryan Blair

Dunfermline

25. Lee Robinson

2. Ryan Williamson

5. Callum Morris (Captain)

6. Lee Ashcroft

3. Lewis Martin

7. Kallum Higginbotham (Jean-Yves M’Voto 85′)

31. Tom Beadling (Joe Cardle 90′)

28. James Craigen

17. Fraser Aird (Nat Wedderburn 65′)

9. Declan McManus

1.0 Nicky Clark

Subs:

20. Cammy Gill (GK)

4. Jean-Yves M’Voto

8. Nat Wedderburn

11. Joe Cardle

12. Daniel Armstrong

14. Jason Talbot

16. Andy Ryan

Referee: Don Robertson

Attendance: 5,784

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