SPFL Championship: DUNFERMLINE 1 FALKIRK 2: 22/04/17
Dunfermline were comfortably ahead before a hotly disputed decision to award Falkirk a penalty changed the whole momentum and ultimate outcome of this game.
The third last league fixture of the season pitched Dunfermline against their long time rivals, Falkirk at East End Park. The visitors arrived sitting second in the league and in the best possible position for the play offs. Their objective was to maintain that second spot but the Pars slimmest chance of making the play offs themselves meant that they had to win this Derby match.
Dunfermline manager Allan Johnston made two changes from the starting eleven at Dumbarton the previous Saturday, Nicky Clark and David Hopkirk selected ahead of Michael Moffat and Gavin Reilly.
Falkirk were unchanged from their draw against St Mirren and they lined up to play into the sun as Clark got the match underway. First chance came the Pars way right on three minutes when an Andy Geggan cross into the box was headed goalwards by Clark but Robbie Thomson held with comparative ease.
Jason Talbot headed away a Luke Leahy cross and then Craig Sibbald was on the end of a delivery from the right but sent his header into the hands of the Pars keeper, Sean Murdoch.
Luca Gasparotto cleared a cross in from Clark before in 13 minutes a good run by Paul McMullan to the right corner of the Falkirk box saw him cut the ball across the penalty box for Clark to head on target. Thomson was at full stretch to his right to hold.
Misplaced and intercepted passes cost Dunfermline possession and for a spell Falkirk took the ball into the final third but they too failed to capitalise on their play. A break from Hopkirk set up Clark from the cut back but he delayed his release and got closed down, as did McMullan in his attempt to latch on to the second ball. In the same attack Hopkirk did release a 21st minute shot and there were appeals for hand ball as it seemed to break off Gasparotto.
Miller and Leahy linked up on the left to force a 27th minute corner but Clark headed away when James Craigan sent the set piece in. McMullan broke on the counter and there were groans as he was closed out before he could lay the ball off for Clark in front of goal.
Sibbald`s late tackle on Geggan earned the Falkirk no.10 a lecture but the free kick did not cause the Bairns any difficulty. Then with ten minutes to the interval Dunfermline took the lead when CLARK from inside the box on the right, swept the ball across And in at the far post. 1-0
Once ahead the Fifers looked confident and very capable of adding another. Hopkirk was offside as McCabe chipped the ball over the Bairns defence, and then there was a slick move involving Higginbotham, Clark and Geggan but the skipper`s final touch just took the ball too far and a goal kick followed.
In 39 minutes McMullan sprinted towards the right corner flag to cut the ball back for Higginbotham but his effort was rising all the way and cleared the bar. Mark Kerr collected the match`s first yellow card for a crude tackle on Geggan before a McCabe shot was headed back out to Higginbotham whose shot was again high.
Falkirk tried a shot from distance with Sibbald`s attempt being held by Murdoch. So the Pars went in with the narrowest of half time leads. Only one corner a piece in the first half and six Pars shots to Falkirk`s four.
Half time: Dunfermline 1 Falkirk 0
The second half commenced fairly quietly but within eight minutes East End Park was a cauldron of controversy. Murdoch dived forward to palm behind a fairly tame low and bouncing shot from outside the box on the right side. As the keeper successfully pushed away the ball sub Myles Hippolyte went over the keeper and was awarded a penalty. That brought an extremely strong reaction from the Pars players who clearly felt the decision an injustice.
Murdoch and Higginbotham were yellow carded for their protests before Aaron MUIRHEAD stepped up to send his 55th minute penalty low to the keeper`s left. 1-1
With injuries, Murdoch and Morris were both replaced before the restart by David Hutton and Lewis Martin but the 21 year old defender was shown a red card within three minutes. The subs challenge on Baird on the edge of the box was deemed enough for the increasingly unpopular Mr Duncan to produce red.
Nat Wedderburn dropped back to centre half as Craigen immediately hit the left post. Falkirk and their vocal travelling support behind the Fifers goal were well up for a second goal and they were duly delivered that in 70th minute when a Leahy cross from the left picked out AUSTIN who rose to head the ball into the Fifers net. 1-2
Two minutes later Geggan rose high to get on the end of a cross and unluckily sent his header over the Falkirk bar. Dunfermlne stepped up their pressure on the visitors goal with Hopkirk hammering a shot on target from 15 yards that felled Leahy and then Ashcroft headed wide in 76 minutes. Thomson stopped another well struck effort from Hopkirk in 83 minutes.
The ten men tried hard to get it back on level terms but there was to be no late equaliser. The final whistle was greeted with a barrage of boos for the match officials who spent a considerable time dismissing the attempts of Allan Johnston and his players to discuss his decisions.
The defeat removed any chance of making the play offs but Dunfermline remain in sixth place equal on points with Queen of the South. St Mirren`s defeat at Tannadice also removes any possibility of being dragged into a play off at the bottom.
DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch (David Hutton 55): Andy Geggan (c), Callum Morris (Lewis Martin 55), Lee Ashcroft, Jason Talbot: Kallum Higginbotham, Nat Wedderburn, Rhys McCabe, Paul McMullan: Nicky Clark, David Hopkirk
SUBS NOT USED: Michael Paton, Michael Moffat, Gavin Reilly, Ryan Williamson, Joe Cardle.
SCORERS: Clark (35)
YELLOW CARD: Murdoch (53), Higginbotham (53), Hopkirk (88)
RED CARD: Martin (58)
FALKIRK: Robbie Thomson: Aaron Muirhead, Luca Gasparetto, Peter Grant, Luke Leahy: Tom Taiwo (Joseph McKee 83), James Craigen, Craig Sibbald, Mark Kerr (c) (Myles Hippolyte 51): John Baird, Lee Miller (Nathan Austin 67)
SUBS NOT USED: Fraser Aird, Bob McHugh, Lewis Kidd, Daniel Rogers (GK)
SCORERS: Muirhead (54 pen.), Austin (70)
YELLOW CARD: Kerr (40), Muirhead (75)
REFEREE: Gavin Duncan
WEATHER: Bright 13C
NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes Championship (home) v Morton, Saturday 29th April, kick off 3.00pm at East End Park
50/50 half time draw ticket was worth £1000. Congratulations to the winner with ticket number 92739
Ladbrokes Championship: v Falkirk, Tuesday 2nd January 2018, kick off 3.00pm