Stupidly, I allowed myself to look ahead with optimism after last week's win over Morton. Perhaps the unusualness of a long overdue home win made me lose a sense of perspective and naively believe that we were about to see an improvement in results. Sadly not. After a decent first half, when we hit the bar twice and dominated possession (heard that one before?), we came out in the second half and put in a dire display - long balls to a striker (Faissal) who can't even time a jump, failure to string 3 passes together, a Pars player (Robbie Muirhead) seemingly inviting a fan into the dugout after hearing criticism from the Dunfermline support after being subbed, the captain (Lee Ashcroft) almost selling a goal after getting flummoxed in his penalty box......all features of a terrible second 45 minutes.
The team lineup was unchanged from last week's win but it was obvious, even in a generally good first half - we played well enough despite going into the break 1-0 down - certain players were operating at a level below the previous game. James Vincent and James Craigen, both subbed in the second half, were empty shirts. On a more positive note, the much-maligned Muirhead had an effort from distance that clipped the bar, and also placed a pin-point cross on Danny Devine's head from a corner that also ended in the bar being skelped. Thistle, meanwhile, were playing on the break, and Lee Robinson had a few good blocks. The home side's goal, in the 12th minute, was a well-drilled shot from around 20 yards by Blair Spittal.
Faissal forced Thistle keeper Jamie Sneddon into a great reaction save from a header and we looked forward to the second half, reasonably confident that on the balance of play we would get ourselves back in the game.
The second goal, disputed by the Pars players, came from Miles Storey, when he flicked the ball inside the 6 yard box. Did it cross the line? Hard to tell, but the goal was given. 2-0 down after 56 minutes. Craigen and Vincent were subbed for Tom Beadling and Myles Hippolyte. The latter ran about tugging at Thistle shirts, eventually booked for doing so, and playing into the opposition's hands.
Then at the end, Lee Robinson did what Lee Robinson does - you will see the clip later this evening on Ben's YouTube channel (link here) - when, after Jai Quitongo and Lee Ashcroft fell over each other, Robbo needlessly got himself involved, leaping onto both players and making himself look very foolish - he just can't help himself. And he was our best player.
For the second time in 3 games, we have lost to the team at the bottom of the League. That was Thistle's first win since September 22. As Christmas approaches, we are the gift that keeps on giving - to our opponents.
Well, that was a much more enjoyable Saturday afternoon! Possession and dominance was, at last, added to by goals, with the team scoring more today in 90 minutes than in the previous 7 home League games combined. From the outset, the players were direct, taking shots from distance, making things happen - a vital component that turned what could have been yet another hard luck story into 3 points.
Credit to Allan Johnston for selecting the best team he had available to him - bringing in James Craigen to right midfield and fit-again Aidan Keena up front. Robbie Muirhead started on the left of midfield and the much-maligned player, who has looked unfit and out of sorts for much of his time at East End Park, had a very good game, having a hand in 2 of the 3 goals, using his physique to great effect, looking like a far more effective player than the one we have seen until today.
The opening goal came after just 4 minutes when Robbie Muirhead struck a shot from 22 yards that rattled the post and came back into Andy Ryan territory, finding Aidan Keena, who scored with ease. This obviously settled the team (Morton had a half chance a minute earlier that went by Lee Robinson's post) and their confidence grew. Joe Thomson had a chance to double the lead; Jackson Longridge's header struck a post and from the rebound, Danny Devine's effort hit the bar; Longridge then hit a shot from distance that went narrowly wide; Muirhead continued to press from the left, intent on making an impression and adding an extra dimension to the team's play.
The second goal came a few minutes before the break. Faissal's run into the penalty box was stopped by a crude challenge from ex-Par Gregor Buchanan. A penalty was awarded. James Craigen took the ball but such was Faissal's determination to score his first League goal of the season, the striker took the ball from Craigen and dispatched the penalty kick into the corner of the net.
The second half was more subdued, although Keena had an early chance to score his second goal but after good play could not add the required finish. Morton offered no threat but credit for that must at least partly go to the pressing game that Dunfermline were employing. Tenacious Joe Thomson had a very good game in midfield and every player was working hard to ensure the win would be achieved.
With 5 minutes remaining, a good bustling run from Muirhead ended with Morton keeper Derek Gaston making a save. The ball ran to an inrushing James Craigen who scored the team's third, marking the goal with an exuberant celebration behind the home goal.
Well done to the players and the manager today; this is the level of performance that we know the team are capable of, with that crucial element added: goals.