SPFL Championship: DUNFERMLINE 1 AYR UNITED 1: 03/12/16
Nicky Clark (30) 1-0: Lewis Martin red card (49): Alan Forrest (50 pen) 1-1: Greg Fleming saves two Higginbotham penalties (84, 85)
Former Pars keeper Greg Fleming returned to East End Park and his two penalty saves inside the last ten minutes of the game ensured that his team left with a point.
In the first of two back to back home games the Pars took on Ayr United with the prize for a home win leapfrogging Ian McCall`s Honest Men. There were four changes in the Dunfermline starting eleven - Jason Talbot, John Herron, Farid El Alagui and Kallum Higginbotham coming in off the subs bench where they were replaced in a straight swap by Conner Duthie, Nat Wedderburn, Michael Paton and Michael Moffat.
The visitors made three changes from the side successful at Brechin in midweek, Alan Forrest, Kevin Nisbet and Scott McKenna started in place of Andy O`Connell, Daryl Meggatt and Craig McGuffie.
There was a one minute silence prior to kick off as a mark of respect for the Chapecoense footballers, officials and media killed in the Columbian air crash in the last week. Ayr United, all in red, kicked off attacking the goal at the McCathie Stand end.
Both keepers got early touches but there was nothing to test them. Tempers frayed as early as the fifth minute when Nicky Clark dumped Jamie Adams in front of the dugouts and John Herron compounded matters arriving late to floor Adams.
Conrad Balatoni was put under pressure by Clark two minutes later and the Athletic striker was able to thread a ball through into the Ayr box for El Alagui but the defence mopped up. Then just a minute later a long crooks field ball for Higginbotham got the Pars man in for a shot from 15 yards out but Greg Fleming deflected it over his bar.
The corner was not fully cleared and Paul McMullan latched on to the loose ball before dancing around two defenders and releasing a shot that earned another corner as it was blocked by McKenna.
There was only ten minutes gone when Lewis Martin picked up the match`s first yellow card as he halted Harkins progress on the left. Forrest sent in the ball from the setpiece but the Pars defence dealt with that.
Nicky Devlin got up the right and evaded the close attention of McMullan before crossing a low dangerous ball that Murdoch held at his near post. Balatoni was then forced to concede two quick corners, first to deny Clark a cross and the second to head McMullan`s returned ball over his own crossbar.
Back at the other end Devlin was put in from Robbie Crawford`s 21st minute chip over the defence and he cut back for Nesbit but the Ayr number 17 placed the ball over the bar.
Herron played a neat one two off Higginbotham before laying the ball off to El Alagui on the left side of the Ayr box but Balatoni stopped the shot and it was back to the other end where Crawford sent an inviting ball through the Pars six yard box from right to left but there were no takers.
Then on the half hour the Pars took the lead. Higginbotham was in possession in a central position midway into the opposition half, he looked up for an option on the right where Martin made a run, gathering the pass and centring a great ball that CLARK met ten yards out to bulge the net. 1-0
Murdoch reacted well to keep Dunfermline ahead when Forrest`s 36th minute corner from the left threatened to go straight in. El Alagui had a chance when Fleming came out of his box to deal with a long ball and failed to take. The Pars striker got in a shot but was off target and Balatoni cleared.
Ross Docherty fired a speculative drive over the crossbar and before the break McMullan got another chance but Balatoni blocked that. It had been a satisfactory half for the Fifers, getting the goal after sustaining a fair deal of Ayr pressure settled the side and they went in with a deserved lead.
Half time: Dunfermline 1 Ayr United 0
The second half started with Talbot driving an effort wide left but things totally changed in the third minute of the half, when Martin was shown a yellow card for holding down McKenna in the box. Having awarded a penalty, referee Barry Cook then realised that it was the player`s second yellow so, for the second home game running, Lewis had an early bath.
After much protestation FORREST was able to step up and find the net to Murdoch`s right. 1-1
Conner Duthie came on to fill the right back role and El Alagui was subbed. Lee Ashcroft touched Higginbotham`s cross from the byeline back to Clark but he powered his shot over the bar. The match got rather heated and Higginbotham and Forrest both saw yellow.
A Harkin`s drive from 30 yards out sneaked wide right. Then on the hour a Gilmour cut back picked out Harkin`s at the far post and it looked like he only had to pick his spot, fortunately Murdoch came out to make a tremendous block.
Ayr kept up the pressure with Gilmour again causing the bother, his cross almost setting up Harkin`s again but Docherty collected Duthie`s headed clearance and drove a good attempt wide.
The ten men still got chances and McMullan and Clark were both desperately unlucky when they had good opportunities stopped. Michael Moffat was introduced and Clark withdrawn in a 71st minute substitution.
Higginbotham supplied a cross than Fordyce headed goalwards but Fleming held. Play switched from end to end but the Pars defence was able to thwart Ayr`s efforts. McMullan won a 82nd minute corner on the left and that cause mayhem. Two efforts from Moffat and then McCabe were saved on the line and then McMullan was axed in the centre of the box by McKenna.
Barry Cook pointed to the spot, Kallum Higginbotham took the 84th minute penalty and Fleming went to his left to save it. Ten seconds later Higginbotham burst in on the right side of the box and Dunfermline were awarded another penalty when Boyle brought down the Pars man. There was a battle for the duty of penalty taker involving McCabe, Herron and Higginbotham that the latter won. He hit that penalty stronger but Fleming stuck out his left hand to remarkably save again!
Both teams had further chances McMullan drove the Pars best over the bar after Fordyce had nodded down a corner that Moffat then laid back.
Harkins threatened to score near the end but the Pars held out for the point. With a player sent off and two penalty misses Dunfermline only had themselves to blame.
Certainly no lack of a finale when Barry Cook comes to East End Park. On his last visit he awarded Dumbarton two added time penalties in the opening match of the Championship season.
DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch: Lewis Martin, Callum Fordyce (c), Lee Ashcroft, Jason Talbot: Kallum Higginbotham, John Herron, Rhys McCabe, Paul McMullan: Nicky Clark (Michael Moffat 71), Farid El Alagui (Conner Duthie 51)
SUBS NOT USED: Nat Wedderburn, Michael Paton, Joe Cardle, Lewis Spence, David Hutton (GK)
SCORERS: Clark (30)
YELLOW CARD: Martin (10), McMullan (52), Higginbotham (57), Ashcroft (68).
RED CARD: Martin (49)
AYR UNITED: Greg Fleming. Nicky Devlin (c), Scott McKenna, Conrad Balatoni, Paddy Boyle: Alan Forrest, Robbie Crawford, Jamie Adams, Ross Docherty, Gary Harkins, Kevin Nisbet (Andy O`Connell 73).
SUBS NOT USED: Jordan Hart, Mike Rose, Daryll Meggatt, Brian Gilmour, Michael Wardrope, Mike Donald.
SCORERS: Forrest (49 pen.)
YELLOW CARD: Forrest (53), Docherty (80), Boyle (85)
REFEREE: Barry Cook
WEATHER: Cloudy 4C
NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes Championship: (home) v Morton, Saturday 10th December 2016, kick off 3.00pm at East End Park