Ladbrokes Championship: Falkirk 1 Dunfermline 2: 07/04/18
This was the fixture that fans of both clubs had been waiting for. No matter what was at stake this was always going to be a great occasion, played in front of a passionate crowd in an excellent atmosphere.
Both teams were in good form going into this derby. The Bairns came in on the back of seven league games unbeaten and the Pars on six without defeat.
No surprise to anyone in that Allan Johnston went with the same starting eleven that had set up wins over Queen of the South and Livingston. The only changes to the squad being Jean-Yves M’Voto and Joe Cardle returning to the bench and in so doing ousting Dean Shiels and Conner Duthie.
Falkirk manager Paul Hartley made two changes from his side that drew at Palmerston in midweek. Louis Longridge and Paul Watson were brought in to replace Lewis Kidd and Ryan Blair who were both back on the bench.
There was a large following for the Fifers and some of the travelling supporters were still queuing outside as Nicky Clark and Tom Beadling kicked off attacking the goal in front of the home support. It was a frantic fight from the start with players on both sides desperate for possession. Maybe some reflection on the punishment the ball was taking that it was replaced on five minutes!
Fraser Aird sent Lewis Martin up the left wing and a seventh minute corner was won. Longridge cleared and play quickly switched to the Dunfermline goalmouth where Craig Sibbald sent a simple ball in from the left and Andrew Nelson had the chance from ten yards out. His connection was not great as Lee Ashcroft closed him down and Lee Robinson took the deflected effort on his goal line.
In 13 minute Kallum Higginbotham sent Declan McManus chasing after a through ball on the right. Declan caught the call and crossed to the near post. Indecisive defending allowed Ryan Williamson in for a shot but with the angle tight he shot into the sidenetting. Watson went unpunished for chopping down Higginbotham on the right and although the free kick maintained pressure nothing was made of the 16th minute setpiece.
Two minutes later another Pars corner from the left was over hit by Aird and the heat was off the hosts. Ashcroft then had to block a Longridge shot from the edge of the box and Falkirk followed that up with a cross from the left that created danger but was suitably dealt with. McManus fired a 21st minute free kick at keeper Conor Hazard but could do nothing to stop the 24th minute opener.
From his own half Higginbotham picked out Aird in the centre circle and he sent Clark chasing into the left side of the Falkirk box. The striker checked and fed the ball back to Martin who could not help responding to HIGGINBOTHAM’s cry for the ball and the former Bairn lashed out from 25 yards out. It took a deflection off Watson on the edge of the box and found the net to the left of the helpless 20 year old keeper. 0-1
The Fife support broke into full song only quietening on the half hour to see if Aird could inflict more damage at another corner from the left. Unfortunately it was another that Longridge took care of. In 33 minutes the on loan Celtic keeper pulled off a great save tipping Clark’s header on an Aird cross behind for a corner. This was a good spell for the Fifers and Falkirk’s only response was a Tommy Robson cross that Robinson held with ease.
Aird swung over another corner from the left in 37 minutes and although Clark got close his headed effort dropped wide right. The home side lacked their early impetus and their support grew unsettled.
There was one final chance of them being in better mood at the break after a soft free kick was conceded by Morris on the left side 16 yards out from the left byeline. Longridge delivered a decent ball into the danger zone in front of goal but the ball escaped through the box without a touch. Aaron Muirhead complained profusely that his path towards meeting the ball had been seriously hampered but referee Don Robertson just blew for half time.
A first half with 56% Pars possession, five corners to their hosts none and seven shots to Falkirk’s two. The vital stat one goal deservedly for the Fifers.
Half time: Falkirk 0 Dunfermline 1
The second half was in its third minute when James Craigen drove narrowly wide left. The Pars regained possession and Higginbotham forced his way in from the right, he got the break off his marker and fired the ball across the face of goal. McManus got close but failed to connect but that only meant AIRD had an easy finish at the far post. 0-2
The fans behind the goal poured out on to the walkway to celebrate and that started them off with very loud chanting.
Alex Harris was the first sub of the afternoon when he replaced Peter Grant in 55 minutes and one minute on Falkirk forced their first corner of the match. Sibbald delivered from the right and McGhee arrived late to power his header on target and it took a wonder save from Robinson to turn the ball over.
Falkirk forced another two corners in the next few minutes but the defence did its job. Welsh pushed up the right and when he managed to get his cross in Jakubiak’s attempt deflected off Ashcroft. In 62 minutes a quickly taken corner on the left let Falkirk pick out Muirhead 20 yards out and his low drive whistled narrowly wide of the left upright.
At the other end Craigen got the opportunity from a Pars corner but his shot from an Ashcroft dink back went wide left. At the midpoint of the half Nat Wedderburn replaced Fraser Aird but Forth Valley’s finest pushed forward and pressed for a breakthrough. Jacubiak and Sibbald both threaten on the left but the defence was resolute.
In 73 minutes with Fifers venturing further up field Harris was laced a pass from Jacubiak but in a good position and with Robson on the far side the sub flashed the ball towards goal but was wide left. Two minutes later Higginbotham sent over a cross that Clark just failed to connect with.
Next time Falkirk got into the Falkirk box there was some desperate defending, Falkirk were denied and Clark hooked the ball away from McGhee but the referee pointed to the spot, penalty Falkirk. MUIRHEAD stepped up and sent the 79th minute spot kick into the left side of the net. 1-2
Jean-Yves M’Voto came on with five minutes remaining. Kallum Higginbotham was withdrawn and within two minutes the Pars man was yellow carded for his challenge on Andrew Nelson. That earned The Bairns a free kick on the edge of the box. The physios and resultant Falkirk substituion consumed three minutes before Kidd drove into the two man wall and McManus took the ball away.
It was a real rearguard operation for the remaining minutes and the five added. The Pars saw the match out for their first victory at the Falkirk Stadium since March 2011. Even better news for the 1469 strong travelling support came with other results where all three other play off contenders, Dundee United, Morton and Queen of the South all lost.
FALKIRK: Conor Hazard: Paul Watson, Jordan McGhee, Aaron Muirhead, Peter Grant (Alex Harris 55), Sean Welsh (Lewis Kidd 75): Craig Sibbald, Louis Longridge, Tommy Robson: Alex Jakubiak, Andrew Nelson (Kevin O’Hara 89).
SUBS NOT USED: Thomas Taiwo, Reghan Tumilty, Ryan Blair, Robbie Thomson (GK).
SCORERS: Muirhead (79 pen.)
YELLOW CARD: Muirhead (50), Sibbald (81)
DUNFERMLINE: Lee Robinson: Ryan Williamson, Callum Morris (c), Lee Ashcroft, Lewis Martin: Kallum Higginbotham (Jean-Yves M’Voto 85), Tom Beadling (Joe Cardle 90+2), James Craigen, Fraser Aird (Nat Wedderburn 67): Declan McManus, Nicky Clark.
SUBS NOT USED: Andy Ryan, Dan Armstrong, Jason Talbot, Cammy Gill (GK)
SCORERS: Higginbotham (24), Aird (48)
YELLOW CARD: Robinson (66), Ashcroft (77)
REFEREE: Don Robertson
WEATHER: 13C Overcast
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