Ladbrokes Championship: St Mirren 2 Dunfermline 0: 10/03/18

The Pars returned to action after a weather induced break. For his last visit to Renfrewshire this season, manager Allan Johnston made one change to the team that had achieved two successive goal-less draws with Daniel Armstrong coming in to provide some more natural width at the expense of Andy Ryan. The home manager also made one change, with Danny Mullen starting instead of the highly regarded Lewis Morgan.

Stephen McGinn won the toss and elected to attack the goal in front of the 400 or so Pars fans housed in the North Stand. Early exchanges were even – Armstrong got his first touch in the second minute when he latched on to a pass from James Vincent, but he couldn’t find the target with his hurried shot.

Nicky Clark too failed to trouble Craig Sansom when a nice passing move concluded with the Pars skipper sweeping a shot past the near post. At the other end Pars keeper Lee Robinson just about managed to punch clear a dangerous corner as the home side enjoyed a possessional advantage.

Robinson was again in the action in 13 minutes, making a comfortable save from a Mullen snapshot after Gavin Reilly had tumbled under pressure from Jean-Yves M’Voto. However, he was baulked as he tried to clear from hand, and as he struggled to reclaim the loose ball, referee Nick Walsh took sympathy and awarded the Pars keeper a free-kick.

The Pars may have received another break in 17 minutes. Again Mullen was involved, falling on the ball under a challenge from Jason Talbot just inside the penalty area. As the Dunfermline left-back tried to extricate the ball, the referee’s whistle went – not a penalty, but a free-kick for St Mirren at the corner of the box and a yellow card for Talbot. Kyle Magennis’s subsequent shot sailed high over the bar.

St Mirren were much closer a couple of minutes later – a sliced shot from distance from McGinn took a deflection and nearly wrong-footed Robinson but he did well to change direction and tip the ball over the bar.

The Pars’ passing was off – they were struggling to find their men, and more than once, the ball needlessly ended up out of play. A rare good move involving Vincent and Craigen in 24 minutes saw Clark test Sansom at his near-post but the home keeper made a fine save.

It was looking as if it would take a flash of genius, or, more likely, a mistake to break the deadlock. We came closest with the latter - there were hearts in mouths when Sansom took his eye off a pass-back and allowed the ball to bounce over his foot, but he managed to stop it before it got close to the goal, and with the referee poised to blow for half-time Reilly tried to surprise the visitors with a snap-shot but Lee Ashcroft was still concentrating and blocked the goal-bound effort with his body.

Half time: St Mirren 0 Dunfermline 0

Ryan Williamson had a shaky start to the second period, conceding possession twice early on, first when trying to play his way out of defence, and then when trying to get forward at the half-way line, but each time his fellow defenders were able to provide cover.

No changes had been made, but with Joe Cardle warming up behind the goal as his likely replacement, Armstrong got on the end of a fine, threaded pass, and in turn picked out Craigen in space in the box. He should surely have done better than crash his shot off one of the poles which were holding the goal-net up.

Sure enough, that was Armstong’s last involvement in the game as the switch was duly made when play was stopped with the Pars having a free-kick on the half-way line. From this free-kick St Mirren took the chance to break, and things looked even more dangerous for the Pars when Ashcroft slipped, but Cammy Smith wasted the opportunity in firing all the way across goal.

Next Reilly came close with a turn and shot, and Mullen drew a save when a deep ball found him unmarked at the far post. Down at the other end McManus and MacKenzie chased a long ball over the top. The latter did well to get his header close enough for his keeper to grab when it seemed McManus was going to be in, but the whistle had gone anyway for a foul.

It looked as if the Pars had survived another scare when Mullen missed from close range, but it transpired he had been fouled by Talbot. The referee pointed to the penalty spot, and patiently waited for the prone full-back to receive treatment from Kenny Murray before showing him the red-card. In the meantime he had also booked Lee Robinson. Harry DAVIS also kept his cool, blasting the spot-kick straight down the middle as the keeper went to the taker’s right. 1-0

Lewis Martin came on at left-back for Craigen as the Pars rejigged things. However, worse was to follow two minutes later when the Saints doubled their lead. A corner from the left was headed clear by M’Voto, but only as far as Liam SMITH who crashed a low shot into the bottom right hand corner of the net from the edge of the box.2-0

It was time to gamble – in a surprising move, Morris replaced McManus as the Pars went to three at the back, but it made little difference – in fact Morris was a little lucky only to receive a yellow card for an over-enthusiastic tackle soon after he had come on.

The Buddies took the opportunity to make three late changes of their own, and the Pars day was summed up when Ashcroft sent Martin down the left late on, but Clark could only miskick the resultant cross from 12 yards out.
ST MIRREN: Craig Samson: Liam Smith, Gary MacKenzie, Harry Davis, Adam Eckersley: Stephen McGinn, Kyle Magennis (Ian McShane 87), Ryan Flynn, Cammy Smith, Danny Mullen (Jack Baird 80), Gavin Reilly (Myles Hippolyte 85).
SUBS NOT USED: Mark Hill, Stelios Dimetriou, John Sutton, Ross Stewart (GK).
SCORERS: Davis (69 pen.), L Smith (72)

DUNFERMLINE: Lee Robinson: Ryan Williamson, Jean-Yves M`Voto, Lee Ashcroft, Jason Talbot: James Craigen (Lewis Martin 71), Tom Beadling, James Vincent, Dan Armstrong (Joe Cardle 57), Declan McManus (Callum Morris 74), Nicky Clark.
SUBS NOT USED: Nat Wedderburn, Kallum Higginbotham, Andy Ryan, Cammy Gill (GK)
YELLOW CARD: Talbot (17), Robinson (69)
RED CARD: Talbot (68)

REFEREE: Nick Walsh

NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes Championship (home) v Inverness Caley Thistle, Tuesday 13th March, kick off 7.45pm at East End Park.

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