Two late goals added gloss to the scoreline and secured 3 points for the Pars in the team's opening Betfred Cup group game. Opponents Peterhead lined up with some familiar faces, including ex-Pars Greg Fleming and Willie Gibson, plus striker Rory McAllister. The League 2 side were defeated 5-1 in the same competition at EEP last season and in the words of their manager Jim McInally, were approaching this game as a "free shot".
Dunfermline lined up in the 3-5-2 formation that Allan Johnston has preferred all pre-season. There were 3 changes to the line-up that faced Motherwell in the team's previous match, a pre-season friendly last week: captain Lee Ashcroft started after making his first appearance of the season as a sub against Motherwell. Kallum Higginbotham returned to the starting 11, while new signing Myles Hippolyte was given the number 9 shirt on his debut. Lewis Martin, Callum Smith and Lewis McCann, all starters against Motherwell, were among the substitutes. Louis Longridge, played in midfield during pre-season games, started up front alongside Hippolyte.
The first half was competitive without producing much in the way of sparkling football. Pars keeper Lee Robinson made an excellent reflex save to prevent a Lee Ashcroft own goal, the defender's header being mis-directed towards the Dunfermline goal. Ryan Williamson made a good run up the right, beat a defender inside the box but was denied a goal by a crowded Peterhead defence. One notable incident occurred when referee Steven McLean lectured Hippolyte for diving after the striker appeared to have been pulled back, only to award the Pars a free kick after a few seconds of confusion.
It was Hippolyte who gave Dunfermline the lead after 42 minutes, finishing off a move started by Louis Longridge, who played a pass to Williamson, with the wing-back's cross reaching Hippolyte's head and finding the net.
The second half saw Dunfermline play some of their best football since this largely new team was put together. Kallum Higginbotham was instrumental to the team's passing movements, enjoying a very good game in midfield, while Louis Longridge was a man of the match contender, although he should have done better with his final shot after his good close control and trickery saw him work his way past the Peterhead backline before lashing a shot over.
Peterhead's attacks were sporadic but they were given a chance to equalise from a Rory McAllister free kick. The Par defensive wall looked to be at least one player light, and in the gap presented, McAlliser shot at goal, his effort hitting the post. The ball ended up with Russell MacLean, who also hit the post with his return shot. That was as close as the visitots would come to a goal.
AJ changed the formation to 4-4-2 after replacing Lee Ashcroft and Joe Thomson with Aidan Connolly and Lewis McCann. The midfield and attackers were interchanging, their passing quick and incisive. Hippolyte moved wide then back into the middle, Louis Longridge went to the left wing and Higgy continued to dominate the ball and orchestrate much of the team's attacks.
Dunfermline then hit the woodwork when Aidan Connolly's free kick smacked off the bar. Hippolyte, who has played the majority of his career as a wide attacker, had a very good debut and looks to be a real asset, his best position appearing to be as a striker on this showing.
Connolly won a penalty when he was tripped in the box with 2 minutes remaining. Higginbotham showed confidence to chip the ball down the middle of Fleming's goal to make the score 2-0. Sub Andy Ryan then scored a fine third goal in added on time, his curled strike finding the far right corner of the goal.
The team showed signs of real promise in this game; they are not the finished article but there were many encouraging moments, particularly in the second half, to give hope for the season ahead.
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