A first League win of the season and a jump of 3 places in the Championship table, with defeated Thistle slipping to the bottom: Firhill, baked in late summer heat, saw Dunfermline record a vital and encouraging victory that will hopefully be the catalyst for a positive autumn and beyond.
Manager Stevie Crawford made 2 changes to the team that played Inverness last weekend: fit-again (or fit enough) Ryan Dow was back on the right wing, and Gabby McGill partnered Kevin Nisbet up front. Tom Beadling and Lewis McCann moved to the bench. The team lined up in a 4-4-2 formation and although hosts Thistle had more of the ball in the opening 20 minutes, finding space in attacking areas, they rarely threatened Cammy Gill's goal and it was Dunfermline who came closest to opening the scoring during this period when Kevin Nisbet's header was saved by Scott Fox.
It was Nisbet who was first on the scoresheet, in the 23rd minute. From an Aaron Comrie cross Nisbet found the corner of Fox's net for his 7th goal of the season. Relief, as much as joy in scoring, was obvious: this was the first time since August 10 that the team had taken the lead in a Championship game.
Nisbet almost got his and Dunfermline's second after 30 minutes when his well-struck shot from 12 yards hit the bar. Three minutes later came a goal for the ages: Ryan Dow picked up the ball just inside the Thistle half, ran across and towards the right side, past 3 Thistle opponents, and placed the ball across Fox and into the corner for a sensational goal, one of the finest individual goals I have seen from a Pars player.
A feature of many Pars' games this season has been an inability to add to a half time lead, allowing opponents back into games. There was no such threat of this yesterday: four minutes into the second half, Kyle Turner shot from 25 yards and with the aid of a deflection, the ball went past Fox and put Dunfermline 3-0 up. If you don't shoot, you don't score!
Lewis McCann, who had come on at half time for Gabby McGill, was unlucky not to make it 4-0 with a well placed shot that narrowly missed the goal. McCann epitomised the spirit in the team with several good runs and some effective tracking back. Captain Paul Paton was also making his presence felt with a few hard, but fair, meaty challenges in midfield. This was Paton's best game in several weeks, the old warhorse leading the team through example, helped by vice captain Lee Ashcroft who also had a solid game.
The team managed the game well as it reached its conclusion: hunting in packs was back, restricting the opposition to an occasional cross but no direct shots on target in the final quarter, with keeper Cammy Gill achieving a first shut out in the League. The determination of all 11 players not to lose even one goal when 3-0 up and with the clock ticking down was pleasing: this was a collective effort, lit up by the excellence of Dow, but very much a team performance. After weeks of struggle the players showed exactly what they are capable of yesterday.
Patience and giving players time to develop was always going to be key this season; the challenge now is to use this performance as a marker. This team may not achieve promotion but neither do they belong in a relegation battle. It could be next season before we see the full benefits of this summer's rebuild but there is still an opportunity to make this season a memorable one if consistency can be found to match the ability within the squad.
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