Callum Morris returned to the starting 11, with Jean Yves M'Voto dropping out. Dean Shiels was back in the matchday squad, on the bench.
Job done in emphatic fashion, with some well taken goals and a career first goal for Ryan Williamson. Dunfermline required just a point from this game to secure a promotion play-off place (assuming Inverness would defeat Morton, which they did). Dumbarton had their own forthcoming play-offs at the other end of the table to concern themselves with. Their already-depleted squad, missing several players through injury, was weakened further today when their captain Craig Barr was sent off early in the game.
The match began with Dumbarton having a couple of attacks but then losing Craig Barr to a red card in the 9th minute. Barr might have been better advised to allow Andy Ryan to run in on goal but instead pulled down the Pars striker and will now almost certainly miss his team's play-off semi final against Arbroath. Soon after the ordering off, Dumbarton had their best chance when Kevin Nisbet got into a dangerous position in the box but could not capitalise on the opening.
Dunfermline took the lead after 18 minutes when Kallum Higginbotham took a pass from Fraser Aird and struck the ball past Jamie Ewings in the Dumbarton goal. Seven minutes later, Higgy made it 2-0 with a great finish. He then attempted an overhead kick from a tight angle that narrowly failed to connect, and then saw his long range piledriver smack the bar.
Aird got the Pars' third goal after working his way past a Dumbarton defender and placing his shot across the keeper and into the corner - a very well made and finished goal.
Half time saw Dumbarton manager Stephen Aitken make a beeline for referee Colin Steven, to dispute the sending off. Aitken will be very concerned with his side's form and morale going into their play-off games, and as the game progressed through the second half, they were unable to make any impression and looked totally dispirited.
Andy Ryan should have made it 4-0 when Aird's cross picked out the striker perfectly only for his header to go wide. By this time Joe Cardle and Jason Talbot had replaced Higginbotham and Lee Ashcroft. Declan McManus was then brought on for Nicky Clark, and tried everything to break his goalscoring drought, only to be denied by good goalkeeping.
Inverness were now 3-0 ahead at Morton but it did not matter given Dunfermline's dominance of this game. The pace of the game dropped as the minutes ticked by. James Vincent was strolling through the game in midfield, given time to play and showing class and composure on the ball. Together with Higginbotham and Aird, Vincent was one of the team's better performers.
A fourth goal against a demoralised opponent might normally have been met with polite applause but when the scorer was Ryan Williamson, with a career-first goal, East End Park erupted. The popular full-back poked the ball home and ran behind the goal at the home end with his arms in the air, sparking great celebrations. It was clear that all Pars fans, players and management were delighted for the big man.
The play-offs seemed a long way off a few weeks ago, when the Dunfermline team had fallen out of the top 4. The Pars were without a win from early January until a 1-0 home win against Inverness in mid-March started the current 10 match unbeaten run that has transformed the season and given us real hope of returning to the top division after a 6 year absence.
The mother of all endings sees Pars rescue a crucial point
Declan McManus was replaced by Andy Ryan in the only change to last week's starting 11.
It was all about the ending - scenes that will live forever in the memory of all Pars fans and that rivalled great moments of the past, as a 95th minute equaliser in front of the large travelling support sent players and fans wild. Possibly the most crucial goal since Martin Hardie's winner against the Wee Team 7 years ago, maintaining a 5 point gap between ourselves and Inverness, who now have to win both their remaining games and hope that we also lose at home to Dumbarton in our 1 remaining fixture, next weekend.
With Tom Beadling still missing, the team saw only 1 change from last week, Andy Ryan in for Declan McManus. Jean Yves M'Voto kept his place in central defence.
Dunfermline began the better of the 2 teams and went ahead in the 13th minute when Andy Ryan collected a pass from Lewis Martin and drilled the ball home from 12 yards. Referee Stephen Finnie, a hapless figure and a questionable choice to take charge of yet another Pars game, brought Inverness back into the match when he awarded a free kick to Inverness in the 16th minute. It looked to me as though Lee Ashcroft had been fouled but Finnie gave the decision to the home side. From the resultant kick, Joe Chalmers' shot found the net via the post to make the score 1-1.
The goal rattled Dunfermline and gave Inverness fresh impetus. A couple of half chances went unfinished for the Highlanders and half time came with the Pars relieved to be on equal terms, after starting strongly but gradually losing shape as the half went on.
Inverness began the second half positively with Pars keeper Lee Robinson doing well to deny Liam Polworth. Three minutes into the half, Inverness took the lead when Nathan Austin ran through the centre of the Pars defence and put his team ahead with a good finish. It was disappointing how easily the striker was allowed to run through with the ball but credit has to be given for how he created the chance for himself and his clinical finish.
Allan Johnston then replaced Fraser Aird with Joe Cardle. A second substitution followed soon after, with Kallum Higginbotham withdrawn and Declan McManus joining Ryan and Clark up front. Dunfermline were not lacking effort but were fortunate not to lose a third goal, with Inverness wasting chances on the break. In fairness to the Pars team, these gaps only appeared due to the number of players thrown into attack. Inverness then began time wasting, with Brad McKay shouting at a ball boy to leave the ball and other home team players mysteriously developing injuries that lead to Finnie stopping play whenever Dunfermline had possession.
Clark had a couple of half chances to equalise and Ryan did not properly connect with a volley. It seemed as though the game was slipping away. Johnston then brought Callum Morris on, with the defender playing up front alongside M'Voto, McManus, Clark and Ryan as the game neared its end.
Then it happened.
With 95 minutes played, Cardle flighted in a free kick and through a ruck of players, Clark got his head to the ball. From behind the goal, there was no more glorious a sight than the ball heading towards to bottom corner of the net. Pandemonium followed. The fans piled down from the stand and joined the players in celebrating a goal that meant a precious point was won from what seemed like a certain defeat. The final whistle a minute later saw Inverness players fall to the turf, this time not faking injury but through the bitter disappointment of losing a goal in time that was added on due to their earlier time wasting.
No one can doubt the spirit in this squad of players. They kept pushing and would simply not accept defeat. Clark's goal - his 21st of the season - now joins those scored by players from the past in critical games and in the most dramatic of circumstances. What a day to be a Pars fan!
4 goal haul sees Pars take one step closer to the promotion play-offs
James Vincent replaced the injured Tom Beadling in the starting eleven. Callum Morris was due to start but pulled out late due to injury. Jean Yves M’Voto took his place in the starting eleven.
A comfortable afternoon’s work with good work rate throughout and 4 well taken goals on top. We started off the game on the front foot, taking the lead after 2 minutes through Lee Ashcroft’s well taken volley from Fraser Aird’s pinpoint corner kick. We dominated play from then on, with Fraser Aird pretty much replicating his goal against Livingston from earlier this season with a lovely curling finish into the far right corner to make it 2-0. Brechin have fought hard throughout the season but today it seemed like they had given up after the second goal, and with games against the better sides in the division still to come, it seems unlikely that they’ll ever get that elusive win.
The substitutions were utilised earlier in the second half than usual, with Andy Ryan replacing Declan McManus who had another torrid time in front of goal despite his good work ethic. Ryan made the impact that Allan Johnston would’ve hoped for. He was involved in a penalty claim that looked to be wrongly waved away by referee John McKendrick, but he would get his goal just minutes later with a fine headed finish past Brechin keeper Graeme Smith. We saw the 90 minutes out with a penalty kick from Kallum Higginbotham, who has been a rejuvenated figure since the Inverness game last month. The Pars second substitute Daniel Armstrong came on and did well on the by-line to win a penalty, which Higginbotham calmly slotted home for the final goal of the afternoon.
A good afternoon at East End Park and a result that sees us go 5 points ahead of 5th placed Morton, but with Inverness picking up a 5-1 win over Dumbarton in the highlands, next week’s game is still a crucial one to finally cement our place in the play-offs. We can then look forward to what comes next, which will hopefully be a heated promotion battle.
A tremendous team effort ends 7 year wait for a win at Falkirk
No change to the starting line up. Changes on the bench - Joe Cardle and Jean Yves M'Voto, both back from injury, replacing Dean Shiels and Conner Duthie.
It's been 7 long years since we won at the 3 Sided Arena in Grangemouth but today's win, and the celebrations in the away end, made the long overdue victory all the more enjoyable for the Pars support that packed out the away stand. Falkirk, who had been unbeaten in 7 matches going into the game today, were made to look very ordinary for much of the game and even when, as expected, pressing for a late equaliser, lacked the quality required to pull back a second goal. The best chances of the game fell to Nicky Clark - a first half header that was well saved by Falkirk keeper Conor Hazard; a second half chance that he missed with his head from close range after a pinpoint Kallum Higginbotham cross; and, late in the game, running in on goal but putting his shot in the side netting. Clark was also penalised for a foul that gave Falkirk their penalty, although from a distance it looked like a good tackle - video footage may prove me wrong.
Higginbotham had endured a torrid game at Falkirk earlier this season when he was sent off, but today he was a contender for man of the match with a goal (which took a deflection off Paul Watson), the previously mentioned cross for Clark, and general good play and his usual tracking back to help in defence. The Falkirk support tried to bait Higgy by over-reacting to any slight contact he had with a Falkirk player; Fraser Aird and James Craigen, our other 2 ex-Bairns, also received no love from their former fans but Aird gave the perfect response by netting the second Pars goal after Declan McManus' shot went wide of target but was met by the in-rushing Aird.
After Falkirk pulled a goal back from the penalty, scored by Aaron Muirhead with 11 minutes remaining, Jean Yves M'Voto was brought on to bolster a defence that would be pressed for the remaining minutes. Big Nat had earlier been subbed on to add strength to the midfield. A clash of heads involving M'Voto and Falkirk's Andrew Nelson meant there was time to be added on, which seemed to last an eternity. Referee Don Robertson blew the final whistle after 96 minutes to spark wild scenes in the away end, with the Pars players also showing how much the win meant to them. Much in the same way as the win over Livi in midweek, this result showed the unity within the Pars squad. Players and fans left the unfinished stadium happy and looking ahead to the next game, at home to Brechin next Saturday.
Hugely satisfying win as Pars go third and end Livi's 11 match unbeaten run
Same starting 11 as in the previous game. Jean Yves M'Voto, presumably injured, dropped out of the squad, with Conner Duthie brought in on the subs' bench. No other changes.
A true team performance, grinding out a win against an impressive Livingston side who were unbeaten since early January and who have all but secured second place in this season's Championship. The Pars team fought for every ball and showed great resilience when the opposition had the ball. Livi had plenty of possession but came up against an Iron Curtain home defence, with Lee Ashcroft and Callum Morris outstanding and a career-best display from left back Lewis Martin.
Winter weather in April greeted everyone inside East End Park, with rain, sleet and snow plus heavy winds a feature throughout the game. The game began with Livi putting the Pars defence under early pressure but unable to make a breakthrough, a pattern that was to be repeated throughout the 90 minutes. Dunfermline, who have never lost this season after scoring first in a game, went ahead in the 11th minute when Kallum Higginbotham played a long cross into the box that was met by Tom Beadling and then hammered into the net by Lee Ashcroft with a finish any striker would have been proud of.
The visitors were enjoying an 11 game unbeaten run and pressed the Pars defence with Ryan Hardie and Scott Pittman coming close. Lee Robinson was an assured figure in goal, the defence were solid and the midfield and forwards also worked hard. From Nicky Clark to Tom Beadling, and with Kallum Higginbotham tracking back to help his team mates, everyone made a contribution.
While Livingston had more of the ball, Dunfermline had arguably the better of the chances, with Livi keeper Neil Alexander making a great reaction save from Clark, Beadling seeing his effort hit the post, and McManus being played through on goal but unable to get enough on his shot to trouble Alexander. Referee Stephen Finnie had a shocking game which would come as no surprise to anyone who has seen him take charge of previous Dunfermline games.
Livi continued to press for an equaliser and Lewis Martin had to block a Pittman attempt to keep Dunfermline ahead. As the rain and sleet continued, Dunfermline were restricted to breakaways but were always dangerous. Nat Wedderburn replaced Fraser Aird to bolster the midfield, which he did to great effect. Andy Ryan was then brought on in place of McManus and looked lively.
Dunfermline survived a late penalty appeal when Hardie went down under a challenge from Morris but it looked more a case of the Pars defender being stronger and the Livi striker more interested in winning a penalty after losing the physical battle.
After glancing at his watch several times, Finnie blew the final whistle and Dunfermline had deservedly won 3 points that ended Livi's unbeaten run and ensured that we remain the only team in the division that Livi have not beaten this season. More importantly, we climbed to third place and kept yet another clean sheet. From the pre-match huddle onwards, there is a collective will to win and a growing belief within the team; a mental toughness and a collective desire to succeed, one game at a time.