Dunfermline Athletic have come just a win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle away from securing their spot in this season’s SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership promotion playoffs after a convincing win over already-relegated Brechin City.
Dunfermline were missing the injured Tom Beadling, but the Sunderland loanee was replaced in the starting lineup by James Vincent, who was returning from injury himself. Captain Callum Morris missed out after pulling out during the warmup, seeing Jean-Yves M’Voto start while Dean Shiels returned to the substitutes bench. Sean Murdoch and Aaron Splaine remain out with long-term injuries.
Gary Fusco never recovered in time from his knock that he picked up against St Mirren 7 days earlier so Sean Crighton replaced him, with the former Livingston defender regaining his slot in the side after being suspended. Captain Paul McLean missed out due to suspension as Darren Dods’ side named only 6 substitutes, with two of them being goalkeepers.
The opener didn’t take long to come as the Pars opened the scoring within 90 seconds. Fraser Aird drilled in an out-swinging corner from the right which Lee Ashcroft bulleted home: the defender scoring for the second home match in a row.
Kallum Higginbotham had the next opportunity as the winger pinged a shot in towards goal but his left-footed attempt across goal was blocked on the line by Willie Dyer before the Angus club cleared their lines.
Aird was involved in the hosts second goal as well, as the Canadian international ran down the left before cutting inside and placing his strike perfectly into the top corner of Graeme Smith’s net as the ex-Rangers playmaker notched his third goal of the season for Allan Johnston’s men.
Then, Brechin made their first real foray forward, causing Lee Robinson to punch the ball clear for a corner: James Vincent slipped in the middle of the field, allowing James Dale to nick in before slipping Jordan Sinclair in on the right but the former Hibs youngster’s left-footed effort couldn’t reduce the deficit before the break.
The Fifers nearly got another, as full-back Lewis Martin dribbled forward before playing a low left-footed cross in, which James Craigen met, only for Smith to pull off a great block to keep the hopes of the visitors alive heading into the second 45 minutes.
Craigen came closest at the beginning of the second period after stand-in captain Nicky Clark saw a shot blocked. The midfielder latched onto the rebound but only shot into the side-netting despite the goal at his mercy.
Andy Ryan came on for the uncharacteristically quiet Declan McManus, but, it was at the other end in which saw the next chance. Isaac Layne held off M’Voto before swivelling and firing in a low effort which Robinson down superbly well to tip it onto the post: the Englishman getting a pinky to the ball to keep Dunfermline two goals ahead.
Substitue Ryan took any potential comeback out of the equation as the striker rose highest at the near post to head past Smith following Aird’s centre from the left.
The game wasn’t one which would stick in the memory of either set of supporters with the early goal taking a lot of edge out if the encounter. However, a fourth and final goal was to come via the penalty spot.
Armstrong broke into the area from the right and was sythed down by Aaron Lynas on the byeline. Higginbotham stepped up and coolly slotted the ball home, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way to round off a comfortable afternoon at East End Park for the home side.
Post-Match, Darren Dods said:
“We probably got off to the worst possible start, considering the form Dunfermline are in. We knew to give ourselves a chance, we had to start off well: we gave away a corner after a minute and slack marking has cost us; if you leave good players with space they will score goals and it was a great strike to be fair to Ashcroft.
We didn’t really get going in the first-half and that was the most disappointing thing. We changed a few things at half-time and kept going – the chance we did get in the first-half through Jordan Sinclair was a 3 v 2, these are the opportunities we need to take. With Isaac’s shot, that could give us a wee lift but it hits the post and then after the third goal, the heads go down. They are an honest bunch and you do feel for them: we just wish that one week, these wee breaks will go for us, but, we will keep trying.
We’ve got Dundee United Tuesday night and then Livingston on Saturday. 2 of our last 3 games are at home and that suits us, we have a better record this season at our own surroundings. They are a good side, are Dunfermline. They’ve always caused us problems, ever since I’ve been in the job; even in League One, we could never get close to them. If Dunfermline make the playoffs, I don’t see why they can’t be up there challenging for promotion to the Premiership.”
While, Allan Johnston commented:
“You are always happy at this stage in the season when you get there points. You can see how tight the league is, so, it was important that we didn’t slip up. These games are always difficult as you are expected to win against the bottom team. Football isn’t always as easy as that.
In the first-half, we had 4 or 5 good chances; their keeper made a couple of great saves. Robbo (Lee Robinson) pulled off a fantastic save in the second-half, but, we dominated the game and could have scored more goals.”
25. Lee Robinson
2. Ryan Williamson
4. Jean-Yves M’Voto
6. Lee Ashcroft
3. Lewis Martin
7. Kallum Higginbotham
26. James Vincent (Joe Cardle 74′)
28. James Craigen
17. Fraser Aird
9. Declan McManus (Andy Ryan 53′)
10. Nicky Clark (Daniel Armstrong 72′) (Captain)
20. Cammy Gill (GK)
8. Nat Wedderburn
11. Joe Cardle
12. Daniel Armstrong
14. Jason Talbot
16. Andy Ryan
27. Dean Shiels
1. Graeme Smith
15. Euan Spark
29. Euan Smith
20. Sean Crighton
3. Willie Dyer
6. James Dale
7. Callum Tapping
8. Finn Graham (Dylan Mackin 62′)
18. Kalvin Orsi (Aaron Lynas 62′)
10. Isaac Layne
21. Jordan Sinclair (Callumn Morrison 79′)
19. Patrick O’Neill (GK)
26. Scott Costello (GK)
11. Liam Watt
14. Aaron Lynas
16. Callumn Morrison
22. Dylan Mackin
Referee: John McKendrick