Ryan Williamson scored his first senior goal on Saturday as Dunfermline strolled to victory against Dumbarton at East End Park.
Dunfermline made one change from the previous week, with Jean-Yves M’Voto picking up an injury during training on Friday, meaning captain Callum Morris started at the back. Dean Shiels took a seat on the bench in an otherwise unchanged 18-man squad for Allan Johnston’s Pars.
The Sons, who were already confirmed in the relegation play-offs, were without key men. Captain Andy Dowie was missing while Christian Nade also remains unavailable. Tom Walsh was another key figure sitting within the East End Park stands while Danny Handling, David Wilson; Grant Gallagher and Calum Gallagher dropped to the bench. Defender Aidan Wilson and midfielder Liam Burt – both on-loan from Graeme Murty’s Rangers – came into the starting line-up for Stevie Aitken with Iain Russell partnering Kevin Nisbet up front. The fifth and final change for Dumbarton saw former Dunfermline loanee Kyle Hutton deployed in the middle of the park for the part-time outfit.
The game started off quickly as Nicky Clark fired wide within the opening 20 seconds as Dunfermline showed their intent from the off. With a point required to confirm their place within the Premiership Promotion Play-Offs, the Fifers knew what was required on a glorious afternoon.
Then, with just under 10 minutes on the clock, Andy Ryan bustled his way forward and looked set to be in on goal against Jamie Ewings until captain Craig Barr obstructed the attacker. Referee Colin Steven was quick to show the red card to the Sons number 55, meaning the visitors would need to play 80 minutes a man light.
James Craigen hit the set-piece effort but it deflected off the wall and into the grateful arms of Ewings. Then, Aitken’s side almost took the lead as Nisbet done well down the left to wriggle his way into the area, only to see his effort pushed away by Robinson to deny the 10-men Sons.
Next, Ryan forced Ewings into a good stop, with the Dumbarton goalkeeper doing well to keep out for the former Airdrieonians strikers attempt on this occasion. However, he would be beaten shortly afterwards as Fraser Aird dinked a ball in from the left where he found Kallum Higginbotham who smashed it home from 8-yards on the volley to send a sigh of relief around East End Park.
By this point, Inverness had already taken the lead against Morton – with Caley Thistle knowing a win would be the only thing to potentially stop the Pars making the top four. Higginbotham’s venomous shot set the tone for the remainder of the first-half as the home side continued to bombard the Dumbarton penalty area in search of more goals to confirm their victory in this clash.
At this point, following Barr’s sending off, Dumbarton had been playing with 3 at the back but Aitken must have been concerned about how open his defence looked as he sacrificed attacker Russell to allow Grant Gallagher to come on at right-back, shifting David Smith across to the left and reverting to a more traditional 4.
This would be breached very quickly afterwards though as Englishman ‘Higgy’ wasn’t tracked as he strode in from the right to be picked out inside the area on the left; the winger kept himself calm to slot across goal and into the far corner to double Dunfermline’s advantage.
James Craigen blazed high over the bar before Ryan failed to capitalise on another great delivery by Aird, firing straight at Ewings with only the shot-stopper to beat from 6-yards out. Then, Lewis Martin saw his low-driven effort deflected behind, going past Ewing’s right upright before Higginbotham almost got his hat-trick, coming inches away from a late Goal of the Season contender, with the number 7 smashing a fantastic effort off the bar before the ball was cleared to safety.
Dunfermline wouldn’t be denied for long as the hosts rubbed salt into the wounds of the away club on the stroke of half-time, as Aird charged into the area on the left before curling one home from a tight-angle to condemn the small Sons support to another long day at the office for the Championship strugglers.
Jason Talbot replaced Lee Ashcroft at half-time, as Allan Johnston gave his full-back some well-needed game-time as the play-off’s approach. Martin would shift in one, allowing ex-Livingston man Talbot to fill-in in his more natural position of left-back.
The best chance at the beginning of the second period fell to Nicky Clark, with the hosts top-marksmen missing a golden opportunity to find a fourth goal for his side in this encounter. The striker nodded Aird’s teasing cross the wrong side of the post from close-range.
Joe Cardle came on for Higginbotham around the hour mark and it was he who set up Ryan Williamson for his first goal in the black and white of Dunfermline. In fact, the Pars full-back’s strike was the first of his senior career, as the Scotland Youth International picked up possession in front of goal before stabbing the ball into the unguarded net to see the stadium erupt with joy for a fans favourite.
By this point, Mark Stewart had replaced Nisbet but the former Raith Rovers strike couldn’t put his ex-Fife rivals to the sword as the Sons struggled to keep possession. Declan McManus was brought on for Clark to freshen things up, up-front, for the home side as their dominance continued.
Substitute Talbot slashed a shot wide from 20-yards on the left before McManus screwed his shot off-target as he knocked the ball across the face of goal after some persistence at the near-post. The final chance of note in the match also fell to McManus, with the forward firing towards goal, only to see Ewings superbly turn the ball behind for a corner.
In the end, it was a comfortable afternoon for Johnston’s men who go into the Premiership Promotion Play-Off’s with a lot of momentum while Aitken’s side will need to try and re-group ahead of their League One Play-Off showdown against Arbroath this midweek.
Speaking after the game, Williamson said:
“I’ve been saying I’d score for a while: against Brechin a couple of weeks ago I said “I am going to score today”. When I was walking off the park at half-time, Sandy [Clark – Assistant Manager] and the manager walked over, but, I said “don’t worry, I will score in the second-half!”
Coming out for the second-half, I said the exact same thing to Higgy and it was never in doubt, really! It was a great feeling – as you can tell from my celebration! I have waited a while so hopefully it isn’t another 111 games before the next one! The boys have been asking me for a while what I would do; would I take my top off? I didn’t really know what to do considering it was my first goal since Under-20’s football. It was a great feeling seeing it hit the net and then it was just a case of running off and throwing my hands up in the air!
I am 22 and it has come after five years of first-team football. I have got there eventually, that is all that matters. If Sir Alex Ferguson can come along on Tuesday night again, that would be good; he is the lucky omen! Hopefully he can put my name forward at Manchester United!”
To read Ryan’s full post-match reaction, you can find it, here:
In contrast to the ecstasy felt by the Dunfermline players and management staff, Dumbarton boss Stevie Aitken shared his side’s frustration of a difficult 90 minutes in West Fife.
“We came with a game-plan and we wanted to come here and attack, so we started off with 2 strikers. I thought for the first few minutes, we looked lively – the sending off is obviously a talking point for me as it kills the game as a contest. For me, it is a coming together: I am not saying it is a free-kick, but, it is that rule of last man. He is 30-yards from goal; I am definitely going to appeal it, there is no doubt about that. It was going to be hard for the players since then and they stuck at it. In the second-half, we battled away well, but, coming here today, we knew everything was about preparing well for the play-offs, so, getting the red card wasn’t planned. Some times [reprieves] are given, some times they aren’t, but, it is the referee who has spoken to his linesman and he is 30-yards away, which tells me he is not sure and that disappoints me.
I think on Monday morning, we will [lodge an appeal]. We haven’t done it before but we certainly will be doing it. Ayr done it last week with Lawrence Shankland… I don’t know the process for it all and I will need to look into that, but, we will certainly be appealing [Craig Barr’s] sending off come Monday morning, then we will see where it takes us. When we started the season, we wanted to make sure first and foremost we don’t finish bottom of the league and then secondly you are hoping there is at least one full-time team you can reel in: unfortunately, the league was too strong this year. Falkirk and Inverness threw a lot of money in to it – I think Falkirk disbanded their youth policy and put [that money] into the first-team, so, that made things difficult to try and catch these clubs. We knew it’d be a tough year and play-offs were probably our target; we are in it. Arbroath are a good side. Dick Campbell is a good manager, I know him well, but, we are the Championship side and the onus is on to try and get through and that is what we will be aiming to do.”
FULL-TIME: Dunfermline Athletic 4-0 Dumbarton
25. Lee Robinson
2. Ryan Williamso
5. Callum Morris (Captain)
6. Lee Ashcroft (Jason Talbot 45′)
3. Lewis Martin
7. Kallum Higginbotham (Joe Cardle 61′)
26. James Vincent
28. James Craigen
17. Fraser Aird
10. Nicky Clark (Declan McManus 66′)
16. Andy Ryan
20. Cammy Gill (GK)
8. Nat Wedderburn
9. Declan McManus
11. Joe Cardle
12. Daniel Armstrong
14. Jason Talbot
27. Dean Shiels
19. Jamie Ewings
2. David Smith
30. Aidan Wilson
55. Craig Barr (Captain)
15. Dougie Hill
31. Liam Burt (Danny Handling 75′)
6. Stuart Carswell
14. Kyle Hutton
25. Andy Stirling
23. Iain Russell (Grant Gallagher 23′)
24. Kevin Nisbet (Mark Stewart 61′)
1. Scott Gallacher (GK)
5. Grant Gallagher
7. Calum Gallagher
8. David Wilson
9. Mark Stewart
20. Dimitris Frozylias
21. Danny Handling
Referee: Colin Steven