SPFL Championship: ST MIRREN 0 DUNFERMLINE 1: 19/11/16
Callum Fordyce in for injured Andy Geggan, Michael Paton and Farid El Alagui start in place of Joe Cardle and Michael Moffat. Nicky Clark (26) 0-1
Manager Allan Johnston made three changes for this foot of the table clash at the Paisley 2021 Stadium. With six players out through injury and one through suspension, Callum Fordyce came in for the injured Andy Geggan (ankle), Michael Paton and Farid El Alagui started in place of Joe Cardle and Michael Moffat.
On the back of his first win in charge of St Mirren, Jack Ross made one change, Ben Gordon coming in for Gary McKenzie. With the match kicking off at tea time on BBC Alba results elsewhere were known and a Pars win would take them above Dumbarton who drew 0-0 at home to Raith Rovers.
Saints of course would have other ideas, a home win would take them to within two points of their opponents with a game in hand. In Geggan`s absence Callum Fordyce led the team out and took up a role in central defence alongside Lee Ashcroft. Lewis Martin switched to right back and Michael Paton was on the left. The Pars kicked off and after just 14 seconds his cross was met by Nicky Clark who clashed with Gordon in the box and the Saints were awarded a free kick.
On four minutes Sean Murdoch had to make a decent hold on a Jason Naismith shot after the right back had evaded Jason Talbot`s tackle and got into the box to rifle a shot at the keeper. The travelling support broke into song seven minutes later after A Fordyce ball had sent Kallum Higginbotham to the right corner flag, the ball was returned from Martin to launch a cross in that Gordon headed away before it reached El Alagui in front of goal.
The Buddies created a very good chance in 14 minutes when Kyle McAllister got the better of the left side of the Pars defence and centred a ball to the near post that Lewis Morgan met forcefully but directed his header wide left.
Three minutes later Scott Gallacher held a Clark header after the Pars man had successfully got on a free kick flighted in from the right by Higginbotham. John Herron was next to make a chance for Clark but his effort from the edge of the box was blocked by the Saints defence.
As the midpoint of the half approached the Buddies fired two low balls into the Pars box and although living dangerously the visitors cleared. Back to the other end and El Alagui provided a cross in from the right targeting Paton but St Mirren intercepted.
In 25 minutes Ashcroft and Fordyce were up for a Rhys McCabe free kick from half way. St Mirren got away the delivery but Martin gathered on half way and looped the ball towards El Alagui on the top of the box left side. The no.48`s header sent the ball into the danger area in front of goal. Ashcroft tried to finish but CLARK was right behind him and netted the opener. 0-1
A 32nd minute Pars free kick on the right touchline was sent over by Higginbotham but it was just too high for everyone and a goal kick followed. Fordyce cleared after Naismith`s pass had sent McAllister down the right to supply another dangerous looking cross.
Play switched from end to end and the home defence had to head away a Higginbotham cross and next a Talbot delivery from the opposite side was deflected by Higginbotham in front of goal to the keeper. Four minutes from the break Paton tried a shot from 25 yards out that Gallacher had to hold.
There was then an even better chance for the Paisley after a strong run assisted by defence losing footing let in McAllister to blast on target but Murdoch saved. That was a good stop but in 45th minute Murdoch pulled off a wonderful left handed save after a McAllister cross was headed powerfully down and on target by Sutton.
It was a half in which the Fifers dominated possession but St Mirren had executed more shots. Most importantly the only goal of the game had come from the visitors.
Half time: St Mirren 0 Dunfermline 1
The second half started with a good opportunity from a Higginbotham free kick 28 yards out on the right side. The delivery flashed through the Saints box with El Alagui and Ashcroft`s dives narrowly failing to get the all important touch.
Jack Ross brought on Lawrence Shankland in place of David Clarkson but it was Dunfermline who had the chance, Clark`s shot coming off the back of Gordon and keeper Gallacher smothered the loose ball before El Alagui could pounce.
Losing possession in their own half almost costed Dunfermline dearly, Stephen Mallan released a fine 57th minute shot from 25 yards out that again Murdoch had to do well to stop. As the hour mark passed there was increasing animation from the away dugout as the home side seemed to be getting further forward and into better positions. Offside decisions at both ends slowed things down but just a minute.
El Alagui burst through in 63 minutes and was he touched the ball left to Higginbotham the ball was switched for Clark to shoot but Gallacher blocked the 15 yard shot. Immediately play was at the other end and Shankland was very close to converting a strongly hit low ball in from the right.
Martin was called upon to make several telling tackles as the Buddies pressed down their left, then on 70 minutes Morgan`s shot drew another magnificent save out of Murdoch and remarkably John Sutton followed up and sent the ball outside the left goalpost.
Two minutes later Fordyce headed away a dangerous Naismith delivery but a corner was forced that McCabe got away. Pressure was taken off the defence when Higginbotham was able to send in a free kick from the left, Herron gathered but Ashcroft`s looping header failed to test the keeper.
Jack Ross went three at the back bringing on Ryan Hardie in 76 minutes. The Pars then made their first substitution a minute later, Paul McMullan replacing Michael Paton just after he had blasted a half chance into the empty stand behind the goal.
The Pars sub made Gallacher work to save a shot drilled in low while at the other end Murdoch had plenty to do with high balls in towards him. Morgan fired another at Murdoch as the match entered the 88th minute.
Five minutes of added time was shown on the electronic board after Michael Moffat replaced Farid El Alagui who riled the anxious home support for sitting down for treatment that was not forthcoming before walking off.
It was the 208 Pars fans in the Paisley 2021 Stadium who had their nerves tested as McAllister crashed a shot wide. In the very last move of the game Moffat broke through and with great composure took his time to get the ball sitting right for a shot that beat the keeper but came back across goal off the left post. Clark got two bites at the follow up but the keeper and a defender prevented a second Pars goal before referee Nick Walsh blew up for full time.
An important first league win away from home.
ST MIRREN: Scott Gallacher: Jason Naismith, Ben Gordon (Ryan Hardie 76), Jack Baird, Gary Irvine (c): Kyle Magennis (Lewis McLear 82), Stephen Mallan, Kyle McAllister, David Clarkson (Lawrence Shankland 52), Lewis Morgan, John Sutton.
SUBS NOT USED: Jordan Stewart, Callum Gallagher, Kyle Hutton, Jamie Langfield (GK)
YELLOW CARD: Shankland (74), Sutton (89)
DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch: Lewis Martin, Callum Fordyce (c), Lee Ashcroft, Jason Talbot: Kallum Higginbotham, John Herron, Rhys McCabe, Michael Paton (Paul McMullan 77): Nicky Clark, Farid El Alagui (Michael Moffat 90)
SUBS NOT USED: Joe Cardle, Conner Duthie, Johnny Galloway, Callum Smith, David Hutton (GK)
SCORERS: Clark (26)
YELLOW CARD: Clark (84)
REFEREE: Nick Walsh
WEATHER: Cold damp 3C
NEXT MATCH: William Hill Scottish Cup: (away) v Buckie Thistle, Saturday 26th November 3.00pm at Victoria Park, Buckie.