SPFL Championship: DUMBARTON 0 DUNFERMLINE 2: 15/04/17
Easter Saturday saw Dunfermline travel to The Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium where it was seventh v sixth. While Dumbarton were out to record a win to leapfrog their opponents, the Pars arrived seeking three points that could, depending upon Ayr United and Raith Rovers results, secure their Championship status for another season.
Allan Johnston would have gone with his tried and tested starting eleven with Rhys McCabe continuing in midfield but Nicky Clark was out and Gavin Reilly came in for his first league start since 29th October coincidentally at Dumbarton. The home manager Stevie Aitken was able to go with the same starting eleven and that meant he fielded five on-loan players.
Both sides endured a cold wind fuelled with driving rain as they attempted to warm up. The sides changed ends before Dumbarton kicked off defending the river end. A foul on Michael Moffat by the home skipper Darren Barr handed the Pars a first minute free kick midway into the opposition half but the defence cleared Kallum Higginbotham`s delivery.
Next minute Dunfermline forced a corner on the left that was taken short to Paul McMullan who tried a shot but it was curling away from the far post all the way. The Sons first attempt came from a Lewis Vaughan free kick in a central position 35 yards out that he blasted into the car park.
Higginbotham and Moffat linked up to feed McMullan the ball on the edge of the box but his attempts to get in a shot were closed out. The same pair combined again on the right and this time Andy Geggan overlapped to send over a cross that Alan Martin easily held.
When Callum Morris squeezed out Vaughan the home side were awarded their first corner of the match. That was taken short and only resulted in another on the other side that Dunfermline successfully got away. Dumbarton continued to enjoy territorial advantage and Sam Stanton tried a 13th minute shot from 25 yards but was well wide left of target.
Dumbarton created a good opportunity three minutes later when the bounce of the ball deceived Lee Ashcroft and Stanton was able to cut back from the right byeline. Fortunately Vaughan sent the shot screaming over the bar. The on loan Rover was unlucky again with a 18th minute effort from wide right that looked like it was tipped over by Sean Murdoch. The official thought otherwise and awarded a goal kick much to the annoyance of the home support.
The Pars had been kept quiet for a spell but in 20 minutes McMullan`s cross was headed down by Moffat for McCabe on the edge of the box but his aim was wide. Stanton sent a shot narrowly outside Murdoch`s right hand post before Dunfermline replied winning two corners at the midway point of the half. From the second one, Higginbotham`s delivery was headed on target but the keeper tipped it over.
Two more corners followed for the Fifers with the closest being Nat Wedderburn whose well connected shot got deflected behind. Andy Stirling took the heat off his defence with a run and shot from 25 yards that Murdoch held.
The travelling support was roused into song as Moffat received a pass on the edge of the box and swept a good effort towards goal but narrowly wide. Then in 33rd minute there was a double let off for the Pars. Indecision in the visitors defence let Gregor Buchanan in but he lifted his shot on to the crossbar and then Vaughan`s follow up was stopped by the Pars keeper.
Buchanan collected a 37th minute yellow when he illegally halted Higginbotham`s progress during own the left but when the Pars man floated over the ball the wind caught it and blew it away from goal. McCabe was able to gather and shoot but his shot went wide left.
The wind worked in Geggan`s favour four minutes later when his cross could only be turned behind by David Smith and from that short taken corner McMullan fired a shot on target but Martin moved to his left to hold.
Both teams had further corners but the defences came out on top. 58% first half possession for the visitors and ten corners to Dumbarton`s three. No goals though.
Half time: Dumbarton 0 Dunfermline 0
Playing with the strengthening wind on their backs Dunfermline did not make the most impressive of starts to the second half and might have gone behind had Stirling made a better job of his 48th minute shot from in front of goal after Smith had cut back from the right byeline.
McMullan sent a cross through the home box and then after McCabe`s shot was deflected behind for a corner, Geggan met that when it came in from the right but his header went wide.
A 53rd minute long throw by McCabe was headed on by Morris and when Higginbotham got in a shot he too found the car park. Two minutes later some of the travelling support thought they had a goal to celebrate but after a fine penetrating run by McMullan his shot caught the sidenetting and ran along the back of the goal.
Dumbarton tried very hard to penetrate their opponents defence but Morris and Ashcroft seem to clean up. There was one dodgy moment when Murdoch came out for a cross that the wind was taking away from him. His team mates thankfully scrambled the ball away. A Higginbotham cross picked out Moffat but amongst shouts for hand ball the Sons cleared.
In 65 minutes Talbot was slipped the ball from McMullan on the left side of Dumbarton`s box but the full back slipped at the vital moment. Three minutes later Ashcroft blocked Vaughan`s progress and the home side had a free kick 20 yards out. From just beyond the right corner of the Pars penalty box Harvey despatched his attempt over the bar.
McCabe tried a shot from 40 yards but although he kept the ball down his shot went wide right. With twenty minutes remaining David Hopkirk then replaced Gavin Reilly quickly followed by the first Dumbarton substitution, Lewis Vaughan being replaced by the 32 year old Frenchman, Christian Nade.
The Pars continued to be closer to the Dumbarton goal but the home side always looked a danger on the counter. McCabe`s 76th minute free kick was defended and then when McMullan sent Hopkirk down the left his second bite at a cross was deflected behind for a corner. Nothing from this one however and next minute Murdoch found himself fisting away from a Dumbarton corner.
Rhys McCABE had looked the most likely to find the net and thankfully his persistence paid off in 80th minute. Dumbarton had defended as best they could but when the ball landed nicely for him the midfielder hit a low shot into the net. 0-1
The lead was extended to two goals five minutes later when HOPKIRK clinically stuck away McMullan`s cut back. 0-2
It certainly was the late show but the three points took Allan Johnston`s team into fifth place above Queen of the South on goal difference.
DUMBARTON: Alan Martin: David Smith, Gregor Buchanan, Darren Barr (c), Daniel Harvie: Andy Stirling, Stuart Carswell (Joe Nuttall 81), Ross McCrorie, Sam Stanton: Robert Thomson, Lewis Vaughan (Christian Nade 73).
SUBS NOT USED: Tom Lang, Callum Gallagher, Garry Fleming, Jamie Ewings (GK)
YELLOW CARD: Buchanan (37)
DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch: Andy Geggan (c), Callum Morris, Lee Ashcroft, Jason Talbot: Kallum Higginbotham, Nat Wedderburn, Rhys McCabe, Paul McMullan: Michael Moffat (Michael Paton 81), Gavin Reilly (David Hopkirk 70)
SUBS NOT USED: Ryan Williamson, Joe Cardle, Lewis Martin, Lewis Spence, David Hutton (GK)
SCORERS: McCabe (80), Hopkirk (85)
YELLOW CARD: Morris (35)
REFEREE: Alan Muir
WEATHER: Sunny Intervals 9C
NEXT MATCH: Labrokes Championship: (home) v Falkirk, Saturday 22nd April 2017, kick off 3.00pm at East End Park
Ladbrokes Championship: v Livingston, Saturday 21st October 2017, kick off 3.00pm