Ladbrokes Championship: Dunfermline 1 Inverness Caley Th 0: 13/03/18
After four successive away games Dunfermline Athletic returned to East End Park for their first home match since 26th January.
Manager Allan Johnston made three enforced changes to the Pars starting eleven. Jason Talbot was suspended having seen red at Paisley on Saturday. Dan Armstrong was back on the bench and Jean-Yves M`Voto was out with a hamstring injury so there were starts for Lewis Martin, Callum Morris and Kallum Higginbotham. Joe Cardle was unavailable due to sustaining an ankle injury in training.
Inverness came into the match having not played competitively since the 24th February, following a 2-0 home defeat to Greenock Morton. John Robertson’s side were missing the injured duo of Coll Donaldson and Nathan Austin, while Riccardo Calder was also unavailable. A mix-up with the team-sheet saw Cameron Harper start rather than Brad McKay, while Carl Tremarco and Jake Mulraney returned to the starting eleven. Canadian internationalist Charlie Trafford dropped down on to the bench.
Kevin Clancy led the teams out, with the Pars in their traditional home colours of the black and white, with Inverness wearing their first-choice kit, too. Dunfermline kicked off, shooting towards the empty Cowdenbeath end.
It was a lively opening by the hosts, with Tom Beadling driving forward and letting fly within 30 seconds. His shot cannoned off youngster Harper, who deflected the ball behind for an early corner to the home side.
Higginbotham drilled in a low corner towards the near post, with Lee Ashcroft flicking the ball on, but it harmlessly looped over the bar and out for a goal-kick.
In the fifth minute, Iain Vigurs took out Higginbotham on the edge of the box, as the winger cut inside from the right. Many players surrounded the ball discussing which option to take, as Harper received treatment from the visiting medical staff. The call was taken to take the teenager off, replacing him with ex-Pars defender, Brad McKay.
After the stoppage had ended, James CRAIGEN curled home the opener with a terrific left-footed shot which flew past Mark Ridgers as it nestled into the back of the Caley Thistle net. The former Falkirk midfielder, scoring his first goal for Dunfermline, helped the Fife side make the most of their early dominance with a fantastic swerving effort into the left-hand corner of the net. 1-0
In the following ten minutes, the game became very scrappy, as both sides snuffed each other out. There were 6 fouls in this period, with Higginbotham at the centre of most of them, with the Englishman being penalised by referee Kevin Clancy on numerous occasions.
However, on 16 minutes, Declan McManus got the break of the ball in the middle of the park as the striker burst into the space ahead of him. the ex-Raith striker had partner Nicky Clark waiting inside the area but chose to go alone, seeing his right-footed attempt blocked out for a corner off of Gary Warren.
Higginbotham swung the ball into the box from the right on 28 minutes, with the ball to the back-post being met by Colin Seedorf, who took no risks with Craigen lurking round the back as the ball got turned away for a corner. Craigen took the set-piece himself, with Morris rising highest to get a header on goal but the effort didn’t trouble Ridgers on this occasion.
More fouls followed as the match became bogged down in a midfield tussle, with neither side showing enough quality to create many clear goalscoring chances. Lee Robinson was yet to make a save while Ridgers was also quiet at the opposite end of the park.
It was a frustrating game to watch but the Pars fans were happy to hear Clancy’s whistle for the break, as they hoped the interval would inspire their side to kick on for a second goal. The Highlanders, on the other hand, would be hoping for much better in the second period, with their side not registering a shot on goal or a corner within the opening 45 minutes, despite having the bulk of possession.
Half time: Dunfermline 1 Inverness Caley Thistle 0
Caley Thistle looked more interested when they got the second half underway and early on Robinson had to hold an on target shot for Doran that lacked power. It was 52 minutes before Rodgers was called into serious action turning a well struck drive from Craigen around his right hand post.
Higginbotham delivered the corner and when the ball went back out Craigen crashed an effort over the bar and into the McCathie Stand. At the other end a Chalmers free kick in 58 minutes was sent into the penalty spot area but the Highlanders were blown up for over enthusiastic challenges.
Three minutes later Craigen tried another snapshot from outside the box but was off target. Next Morris did well to win the ball ahead of Oakley in front of goal after Inverness had put together a good move from Vigurs through Polworth to Mulraney wide right.
Williamson put together a couple of his trademark runs but Caley cleared he first and then forced him behind the second time. A misdirected headed clearance set up Craigen for yet another shot but from the edge of the box he placed his effort wide.
Clark made Ridgers hold a 70th minute shot from 25 yards out. There was one almighty scramble to keep Dunfermline out two minutes later after the Caley keeper came and failed to take a cross from the right and as the ball broke towards the goal line a defender got to it just in time.
With 15 minutes to go Clark launched the ball in from the left and it looked like McManus would head home the second but his attempt came back off the post to be hoofed away by an Inverness defender.
Inverness pushed up with Polworth feeding sub Zak Elbouzedi on the right nd he made Robinson save as he tried a shot from an angle. In 81 minutes the same pair combined to send a decent ball into a central area and Robinson was made to save Vigurs straightforward header.
Back in front of the home support Ashcroft flashed a header that was deflected over the bar from a Higginbotham corner. Then in 84 Martin went forward and rifled a good effort at goal from 30 yards out but Ridgers held albeit at the second attempt.
Next minute it looked like the Pars had to score. McManus ran on to the ball in the left side of the box and unselfishly cut back for the advancing Higginbotham who thrashed the ball om target only for the keeper to pull off a wonder block.
ICT assistant manager Brian Rice was sent to the stand as their frustrations showed. Tremarco collected the first yellow card of the game in 89 minutes but from the resultant free kick McManus placed the ball over the bar.
The home fans objected strongly to an offside flag that prevented McManus the chance to get in on goal but the Fifers saw out the game to register their first win since 6 January.
Dunfermline 1 Inverness Caley Thistle 0
DUNFERMLINE: Lee Robinson: Ryan Williamson, Callum Morris (c) Lee Ashcroft, Lewis Martin: James Craigen, Tom Beadling, James Vincent, Kallum Higginbotham, Declan McManus, Nicky Clark.
SUBS NOT USED: Fraser Aird, Dean Shiels, Dan Armstrong, Scott Lochhead, Nat Wedderburn, Andy Ryan, Cammy Gill (GK)
SCORERS: Craigen (6)
INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE: Mark Ridgers: Collin Seedorf, Gary Warren, Cameron Harper (Brad McKay 5), Carl Tremarco: Jake Mulraney (Zak Elbouzedi 71), Liam Polworth, Iain Vigurs, Joe Chalmers, Aaron Doran (Connor Bell 71), George Oakley.
SUBS NOT USED: Daniel Mackay, Charlie Trafford, Jack Brown, Ryan Esson (GK).
YELLOW CARD: Tremarco (89), McKay (90+1)
REFEREE: Kevin Clancey
WEATHER: Dry 5C
NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes Championship (home) v Morton Saturday 17th March 2028, kick off 3.00pm at East End Park
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