Ladbrokes Championship: Dunfermline 3 Queen of the South 1: 31/03/18

It was fifth placed Pars versus sixth placed Queens in this the sixth last fixture of the sides’ league season. Winner here would be best placed to take advantage of any slip up by those in the play off spots.

The Dunfermline manager Allan Johnston was forced into one change, Fraser Aird coming in for the injured James Vincent. The Dumfries club made three changes Scott Mercer, John Rankin and Darren Brownlie started meaning former Par, Shaun Rooney was on the bench and both Kyle Cameron and possibly more significantly, Stephen Dobbie missing.

After a minute’s silence in respect for the Pars 1961 Scottish Cup winning captain, Ron Mailer who died during the week at the age of 85, Queen of the South kicked off attacking the goal at the McCathie Stand end. The Dunfermline players wore black armbands.

The visitors were on the front foot from the start forcing a corner within 50 seconds and making Lee Robinson hold crosses in the opening minutes. Dom Thomas and Joe Thomson wasted a seventh minute corner allowing Aird to dispossess them.

The Pars produced a great opportunity in 10th minute when Martin cut the ball back for Aird on the left. His delivery was defended but he gathered the ball again racing across field to slip the ball into Kallum Higginbotham on the right side of the box. His clever back flick set up Nicky Clark 15 yards out and although he connected well keeper Jack Leighfield stuck out his left leg to keep the ball out. It was possibly the pink kitted keeper’s first touch but it was certainly an important one.

Dunfermline 3-1 Queen of the South
Sat, 31st Mar 2018

There was little goalmouth action at this point but in 18 minutes an Aird lob searching for Clark at the far post was just headed clear by Jordan Marshall. At the other end Thomas got round Martin to deliver a decent cross across the face of the Dunfermline goal but thankfully there were no takers.

Back to the other end and Aird tried a shot that was deflected and headed away by Brownlee. James Craigen kept up the pressure swinging the ball in from the right but Declan McManus headed over the bar. Then Aird made ground to lay the ball off to Clark but Kyle Jocobs blocked his shot. From the resultant corner Callum Morris got a good header on Aird’s cross but Leighfield dived to his right to make a telling save.

In 26 minutes McManus did well to get the better of a robust Brownlie on the left edge of the Queens box but Clark was crowded out as he tried to convert the cut back. There was no doubt that the Fifers had their opponents on the rails at this stage and Jacobs showed the nerves slicing a Martin crossover his own bar. Unfortunately Aird’s ball in from the right corner was too strong.

There was a let off for the Pars on the half hour when Queens won the ball on the edge of the Pars box and Thomson was presented the ball that his crashed off the crossbar. In the end it would not have counted as Willie Collum blew up play with the offside flag raised.

The goal of the game was to come just three minutes later. Martin won possession on the edge of his own box and took the ball up the left and deep into the Queens half. He laid the ball off to Aird on the wing who cut in and chipped the ball into the centre of the box where CLARK rose to head home at the far post. 1-0

Clark was to double the lead just five minutes later. The move had been worked across the pitch from Higginbotham to Martin and then Beadling. The scorer flick the ball towards McManus on the edge of the box and when the ball came back off him CLARK accepted the knock down to drill the ball into the bottom left. 2-0

Queen of the South pressed for a goal to get back into the game before the interval but they found the Pars defence and in particular Lee Ashcroft impossible to get the better of. 53% first half possession for the home team, nine shots compared to their opponents two and a well deserved first half lead.

Half time: Dunfermline 2 Queen of the South 0

The Fifers started the second half by far the stronger, encamped in the QOS half for the first seven minutes. The visitors first showing was to force a 53rd minute corner but when Thomas sent that in from the left Ashcroft headed away. Next Thomas was able to power an effort at Robinson’s goal from 25 yards out but it cleared the crossbar.

The visitors got closer in 56 minutes when a mix up on the edge of their box between Ashcroft and Martin who slipped, allowed Dykes a shot from close in but he hit that at Robinson. Dunfermline were kept away from Leighfield’s goal until the hour mark when Robinson launched a free kick from his own half towards Ashcroft in the opposing box but the ce:ntral defenders shot was blocked and then Aird had a crack that suffered the same fate.

In 64 minutes Dykes went down the right on the counterattack and Thomson did well to avoid the offside trap getting a shot in from the cross. Robinson took the sting out of the shot but had to scramble back behind him to smother the ball before Thomson could reach it.

On loan Wolves player, Dan Armstrong came on as a 68th minute sub for Kallum Higginbotham but it was Queens who got the lift within a minute when MARSHALL drove what looked like a speculative shot from the left corner of the box into the far side of the Fifers net. 2-1

The goal certainly lifted the Doonhammers spirits and Josh Todd forced a cross in from the left as the home side got pushed progressively on to the back foot. A break by Armstrong towards Aird won a 78th minute corner as a breather but that was badly used.

With ten minutes remaining Gary Naysmith introduced Nikolay Todorov hoping that he could grab a late equaliser for the second week running. Instead of was almost Dunfermline who scored. Armstrong received a cut back from Williamson and shot from the edge of the box. Keeper Leighfield spilled his save but his defenders mopped up as McManus and Clark moved in for the kill.

Nat Wedderburn replaced Fraser Aird but the clock was running away from the visitors. In fairness they showed urgency as the Pars booted away anything remotely dangerous. Thomas got close enough to shoot but Robinson had not trouble in clutching the 88th minute effort.

Some people thought in was all over and had left the ground but in the third minute of added time Williamson sent the ball in from the right corner flag and none other than Nicky CLARK rose between Jacobs and Brownlie to head the ball past Leighfield to complete yet another hat trick, the seventh of his professional career. 3-1

The win took Dunfermline Athletic back into the Championship’s top four. Morton scored a late equaliser to stay in third place but the Pars moved into fourth level on points with Dundee United but with a better goal difference.
DUNFERMLINE: Lee Robinson: Ryan Williamson, Callum Morris (c), Lee Ashcroft, Lewis Martin: Kallum Higginbotham (Dan Armstrong 68), Tom Beadling, James Craigen, Fraser Aird (Nat Wedderburn 83): Declan McManus, Nicky Clark.
SUBS NOT USED: Dean Shiels, Andy Ryan, Jean-Yves M`Voto, Jason Talbot, Cammy Gill (GK)
SCORERS: Clark (33, 38, 90+3)

QUEEN OF THE SOUTH: Jack Leighfield: Scott Mercer (Shaun Rooney 86), Callum Fordyce, Darren Brownlie, Jordan Marshall: Dom Thomas, Joe Thomson, John Rankin (c) (Derek Lyle 66), Kyle Jacobs, Josh Todd: Lyndon Dykes (Nikolay Todorov 80).
SUBS NOT USED: Dan Carmichael, Myles Beerman, Connor Murray, Curtis Lyle (GK).
SCORERS: Marshall (69)

REFEREE: Willie Collum
WEATHER: Cloudy 4C

NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes Championship (home) v Livingston, Tuesday 3rd April 2018, 7.45pm kick off at East End Park.

50/50 draw £785 was won by ticket 35979

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