Ladbrokes Championship: Falkirk 1 Dunfermline 1: 04/11/17

As they went into the 12th fixture of the league season the rivals seasons have been very different. Dunfermline were only three points behind league leaders St Mirren, Falkirk lay in ninth place with just Brechin City with less points. The Bairns were seeking their first league match at home while Dunfermline were seeking their first win in seven visits.

For this Derby match both managers made three changes to their starting elevens. Allan Johnston brought in Dean Shiels, Declan McManus and Joe Cardle meaning Aaron Splaine, Fraser Aird and Callum Smith dropped to the bench.

Paul Hartley went with new signing Louis Longridge, Paul Watson and Lee Miller in place of Tony Gallacher, James Craigen and Nathan Austin. Longridge was signed on emergency loan from Hamilton in midweek and for Miller it was just the third start of the season for the former Aberdeen player.

Those who made the ultimate sacrifice of their life in war were remembered in a very fitting and moving ceremony prior to kick off. The players emerged with a member of the Armed Forces at their sides and formed an arc around the centre circle. After the playing of the Last Post a minute`s silence was observed before Dunfermline Chairman Ross McArthur and his Falkirk counterpart, Margaret Lang, laid wreaths at the Falkirk gate on the centre circle.

Falkirk kicked off attacking the goal in front of a large travelling support of 1256 and the stadium was a cauldron right from the kick off, every challenge was fiercely contested and the fans at both ends were extremely vocal claiming their advantage at every tackle.

Kallum Higginbotham drove forward and having rode several challenges was then penalised as his progress was halted 25 yards out. Keeper Robbie Thomson just won the race to clear as McManus was given a chance to make an early breakthrough.

Dunfermline made the most of the opening ten minutes, clearly enough to worry Paul Hartley who got an early talking to from referee Craig Thomson. He was right to be concerned because in 12 minutes Higginbotham got over a cross than Cardle connected with but his effort was just over the crossbar from 16 yards out.

Next minute left back Jordan McGhee picked up the first booking of the afternoon for cutting down Higginbotham 15 yards out on the right. The fouled took the free kick but Falkirk cleared despite the added difficulty of looking into the low sun. Both keepers then had on-target shots to hold. First Sean Murdoch dived low to hold a Longridge drive and then Thomson held a 25 yard effort from McManus.

The incidents kept coming with Nat Wedderburn using all his frame to avert Watson from the ball as a Falkirk corner came in from the right. It was Wedderburn who conceding the next corner midway through the half but he was the one who met the cross.

Longridge fouled Higginbotham just inside the Falkirk half, the free kick sent Ryan Williamson to the byeline. The cross could not be made but Nicky Clark latched on to the ball on the right side of the Bairns box. He was going away from goal when 17 year old Cieran Dunne cut the Pars striker down. A penalty was given and with a slow run up HIGGINBOTHAM found the net to the keeper`s right. 0-1

The opposition set out to restore the parity and when Longridge looked like getting in on the left, Higginbotham chopped the Falkirk man down earning himself a yellow card. The free kick was adequately defended but the atmosphere was heated as both teams kept up the offensive.

Watson sliced a clearance over his own bar and Thomson had to fist away Higginbotham`s delivery. McKee and Shiels got a lecture from referee Thomson on 39 minutes before Longridge wriggled his way in from the right to dispatch a good attempt from 25 yards out that Murdoch had to tip over his bar. The keeper failed to get to the cross as intended but Shiels hooked the ball clear.

It had been quite a first half. Great entertainment with a fast flowing football match that had the crowd roused for most of it. The hosts had slightly more possession but the Fifers thoroughly deserved their interval lead.

Half time: Falkirk 0 Dunfermline 1

On the resumption it did not take long to rekindle the heat. A fine move out of his own half by Shiels fed Higginbotham the ball on the edge of the Falkirk box and the Pars man then laced the ball through for the in running McManus but Falkirk blocked the cross. Play switched quickly to the other end and Murdoch was successful with an interception 35 yards out.

Joe McKee was allowed a 53rd minute shot from the edge of the box and fortunately he was high. Shiels was penalised for a tackle on Kerr and when the free kick was cleared but Higginbotham`s attempt to win the ball only earned him another yellow card and a red followed. Down to ten men, it was going to be a long 35 minutes for the Fifers.

Falkirk`s tails certainly went up, Dunne tried a shot that went woefully wide right. Longridge went down softly in the box under a challenge from Morris but the Pars were being forced to play in their own half. Shiels was next to be shown a yellow card as he blocked Dunne`s progress. A free kick was awarded 30 yards out on the left side but was not taken until Rory Loy came on for Joe McKee. Jordan McGHEE stepped up and drove the 63rd minute setpiece into the right corner of the Dunfermline net. 1-1

A 73rd minute free kick allowed Shiels to introduce a threat to the Bairns defence. He picked out McManus on the left of the box and despite the attention of three opponents he got in a cross but Clark could only force a corner. Watson was first to that and Cardle would earn a caution for his swish at a Falkirk player as they broke.

As the match entered its final quarter of an hour it looked very much a question of whether the Pars could hold out. Murdoch was out bravely to dive at the feet of Miller as he lined up for a shot from close in. Play was all in the Pars half and a two times the ball pinged around uncomfortably.

The Fifers defended an 81st minute corner before Falkirk withdrew Myles Hippolyte and brought on Nathan Austin. At the same time Jean-Yves M`Voto replaced Joe Cardle and then four minutes later Fraser Aird came on for Nicky Clark. The substitutions definitely cooled the Bairns attack and the next chance did not come until 88th minute when Loy skied his shot from 18 yards.

Murdoch saved an 89th minute shot on the angle from Longridge after a good pass from Loy. A 90th corner was headed away as the Fifers support cheered their side on.

Given it was Bonfire Night weekend the fireworks were certainly launched in the finale. Aaron Muirhead was shown a 92nd minute yellow and then the Pars were reduced to nine men as McManus was shown a red card after pushing his opponent.

Aird was shown yellow before Falkirk were denied a last minute winner as the ball came off the inside of the post. It was the 94th minute when Austin`s header looked destined to go in but came back out into the arms of Murdoch.

The match changed with the sending off of Higginbotham. For most of the remainder of the match it was backs to the wall but it was their increasingly concerning indiscipline really cost the Pars their first win at Falkirk in more than six years.

FALKIRK: Robbie Thomson: Aaron Muirhead, Paul Watson, Conrad Balatoni (James Craigen 74), Jordan McGhee: Joe McKee (Rory Loy 63), Louis Longridge, Mark Kerr, Cieran Dunne: Lee Miller, Myles Hippolyte (Nathan Austin 82).
SUBS NOT USED: Alex Harris, Luca Gasparotto, Kevin O`Hara, Robbie Mutch (GK).
SCORERS: McGhee (64)
YELLOW CARD: McGhee (13), Muirhead (90+2), Loy (90+5)

DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch: Ryan Williamson, Callum Morris (c), Lee Ashcroft, Jason Talbot: Kallum Higginbotham, Nat Wedderburn, Dean Shiels, Joe Cardle (Jean-Yves M`Voto 82): Declan McManus, Nicky Clark (Fraser Aird 86).
SUBS NOT USED: Aaron Splaine, Callum Smith, Andy Ryan, Lewis Martin, Cammy Gill (GK).
SCORERS: Higginbotham (28 pen.)
YELLOW CARD: Higginbotham (30), Shiels (63), Cardle (74), McManus (84), Aird (90+3), M`Voto (90+5)
RED CARD: Higginbotham (55), McManus (90+2)

REFEREE: Craig Thomson

NEXT MATCH: William Hill Scottish Cup (away) v Queens Park, Saturday 18th November 2017, 3.00pm kick off at Hampden Park

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