SPFL Championship: DUNFERMLINE 3 MORTON 1: 29/04/17
The last home match of the 2016-2017 season brought fourth placed Morton back to East End Park. The Greenock side had only a mathematical possibility of catching second placed Falkirk and realistically they face three matches, the final league fixture and two play off places against Dundee United.
Dunfermline were still chasing fifth place and with their rivals Queen of the South away to Falkirk, a Pars win and Queens defeat would virtually secure that barring a massive turnabout at Palmerston on the last day of the season.
Allan Johnston was forced into making three changes from the team defeated the previous week by Falkirk. Callum Morris` knee injury kept him out but Lewis Martin`s red card against the Bairns meant he sat it out as well. Instead it was Callum Fordyce who partnered Lee Ashcroft in central defence. Keeper Sean Murdoch was forced to come off after an hour of the last match, he was fit for this one but Andy Geggan wasn`t and his place went to Ryan Williamson. Michael Moffat returned in place of David Hopkirk.
Morton rested Aidan Nesbitt, Andy Murdoch, Thomas O`Ware and Ross Forbes. Jim Duffy brought in Scott Tiffoney, Lewis Strapp, Jamie Lindsay and Northern Ireland U21 internationalist, Jamie McDonagh.
The teams changed ends before Nicky Clark got the match underway with Dunfermline attacking the goal at the McCathie Stand end. It was the visitors that caused defenders the first serious action, Lee Ashcroft heading away a Michael Tidser free kick from the right that was bending goalwards in second minute.
But it was the home side that was to strike first in the next minute. A Moffat cut back from the right was met by Rhys McCabe who thrashed the ball on target from 20 yards out. Morton keeper Derek Gaston could not hold the powerful effort spilling out for CLARK to hit the crossbar and then follow up to poke the ball home. 1-0
Morton recovered from the early set back forcing Murdoch into action from several corners. In 15 minutes Clark headed away Tidser`s corner from the right and when Strapp gathered and embarked on goal he was fouled 28 yards out but Tidser`s effort from the free kick went over the crossbar.
McCabe blocked out Gary Oliver`s next attempt to get round on the right side and then when Tiffoney cut back from the left byeline Murdoch held Oliver`s flick on. Next prospect for the Fifers came in 24th minute when Paul McMullan fed Williamson on the right. The full back stretched out and reached the byeline ahead of Strapp but Gaston held the cross.
Play switched back to the other end and Ashcroft cleared after Murdoch had cut out a cross. Then the yellow kitted goalie made a good stop from Strapp who fired a low rocket of a shot from 25 yards. Lawrence Shankland`s long throw from near the right corner flag was dealt with but Ashcroft needed to concede a 29th minute corner on the right from Michael Doyle`s ball in towards the near post.
Morton continued to press with Fordyce and Wedderburn heading away through balls. Oliver was offside in 34th minute but it was one way at this stage. It was Williamson who made Gaston save next minute after Higginbotham played in Moffat who then threaded a pass to Williamson unusually high up the park.
Former Pars on loan player Lawrence SHANKLAND flicked in a cross to equalise just eight minutes from the break. 1-1
Ashcroft headed over from a Higginbotham corner then in 40th minute Williamson went up the wing again and cut the ball back. Moffat dummied for Clark who tried a shot but McCabe did successfully get in but the broke off the back of Lindsay. Dunfermline then threatened again when Fordyce`s pass was flicked on by Moffat to Clark on the edge of the box but the Morton defence blotted him out.
There was still time for Moffat to crash a shot at the feet of Kilday and at the other end for Oliver to feed Lindsay who swept his attempt wide left. Next a Williamson cross was held by Gaston and yet again play switched to the other end. This time Jason Talbot made a great header off his line as Michael Doyle sent an effort on target.
It had been a half where the visitors had enjoyed 58% possession, they had five corners to the Pars one. Both teams had managed six shots and so they turned around all square.
Half Time: Dunfermline 1 Morton 1
The `Ton forced a corner within 35 seconds of the restart and then another within two minutes after Clark had turned behind from a free kick 25 yards out towards the right. The first Dunfermline showing in front of goal was Fordyce from 20 yards, his shot was blocked but next minute, 51, Michael MOFFAT slid in to convert a Higginbotham cross from the right. 2-1
Michael Paton came on to sub for McMullan three minutes later and given that it might be his last match at East End Park as a Par, he received a well deserved standing ovation for his contribution this season.
On the hour Tiffoney fired over a corner from the left and Oliver was unlucky as he glanced his header wide of the far post. Tiffoney tried another on target shot three minutes later but Ashcroft did well to get his body in the way.
Williamson had another marauding run and this time he got in a left footed shot but to no avail. In 73 minutes the visitors withdrew their right back and put on Kudus Oyenuga. They had enjoyed a sizeable amount of possession yet again but had not worked Murdoch in any way.
Four minutes later Higginbotham backed into Strapp to earn Morton a free kick that newly introduced sub Jon Scullion fired into the two man wall. McCabe then showed great agility in clearing the next dangerous ball into the Pars box.
With eight minutes remaining Callum Smith replaced Nicky Clark and immediately the 17 year old was given a chance to harass Lamie but he cleared. Morton`s eleventh corner of the game was intercepted by Moffat`s head. Back to the other end and Smith fed the ball back to McCABE and from 25 yards out he crashed the ball into the Morton net with the help of a deflection. 3-1
The 86th minute goal finished the contest and the home side saw the victory through. Queen of the South drew 2-2 at the Falkirk stadium so a draw at Palmerston next Saturday would secure fifth place.
DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch: Ryan Williamson, Callum Fordyce (c), Lee Ashcroft, Jason Talbot: Kallum Higginbotham, Nat Wedderburn, Rhys McCabe, Paul McMullan (Michael Paton 54): Nicky Clark (Callum Smith 82), Michael Moffat (Gavin Reilly 86).
SUBS NOT USED: Stuart Morrison, Lewis Spence, Joe Cardle, David Hutton (GK).
SCORERS: Clark (3), Moffat (51), McCabe (85)
MORTON: Derek Gaston: Michael Doyle (Kudus Oyenuga 72), Lee Kilday (c), Ricki Lamie, Lewis Strapp: Jamie McDonagh, Jamie Lindsay, Michael Tidser, Scott Tiffoney: Lawrence Shankland, Gary Oliver (Jon Scullion 76).
SUBS NOT USED: Mark Russell, Ben Armour, John Mitchell, Luke Donnelly, Jamie McGowan (GK).
SCORERS: Shankland (37)
REFEREE: Euan Anderson
WEATHER: Cloudy 12C
NEXT MATCH: Ladbroke Championship: (away) v Queen of the South, Saturday 6th May 2017, kick off 3.00pm at Palmerston Park
Ladbrokes Championship: v Falkirk, Saturday 2nd January 2018, kick off 3.00pm