An eighth straight League game without defeat and a move up to fifth place in the Championship were achieved with today's point against St Mirren. A draw at home against a side 7 points adrift at the bottom of the division may not be the ideal result, the team have at least learned how not to lose games and on the balance of play today should have won convincingly.
There were no changes from last week's starting 11. New signing Callum Morris was an unused substitute. St Mirren had a disastrous run of 6 defeats in a row under new manager Jack Ross, but had won 2, drawn 2 and lost 2 of the past 6 games - mid table form. The visitors were first to threaten when Stephen Mallan's 20 yard free kick narrowly missed Sean Murdoch's goal. A few minutes later, Lee Ashcroft headed straight at Jamie Langfield when he might have done better.
Michael Moffat was having a good game, running direct at the Saints defence, and he almost opened the scoring after 8 minutes when Nicky Clark found him with a well-placed pass. Unfortunately, the Moff's shot hit the out-rushing Langfield. Clark then narrowly missed a chance to score when Paul McMullan played a ball across the box which was cleared near the goal line by Andy Webster, with Clark waiting to turn the ball in. Moffat was then fouled by Gary MacKenzie, but referee Willie Collum waved away penalty appeals. The same two players were involved again in the 37th minute, and this time MacKenzie's challenge on Moffat was deemed to be a foul by the referee. Kallum Higginbotham, whose most recent penalty attempts (against Dundee United) were both saved in the same goal as the first half today, stepped up to take the kick and he confidently shot past Langfield.
St Mirren were guilty of some heavy and dangerous tackling, and although Collum eventually booked 3 of their players, he could - and should - have yellow carded far more but his lenient approach merely encouraged the Saints players to continue.
MacKenzie almost atoned for conceding the penalty when his header hit the post and was cleared. One minute into the second half, the same player got the better of the Pars defence again to rise and head home a Mallan corner kick.
After 53 minutes, Higginbotham flighted a superb cross-field pass to Clark, who ran into the box and passed to Moffat, who sent an effort wide from 5 yards out. This was typical of the Moff's performance today (and in many other games ) - his general play was excellent but his finishing not so impressive.
Higginbotham then had a long range shot that narrowly missed.
In the 60th minute, Langfield made a miraculous save from a Clark header. St Mirren were under pressure but were still capable of looking dangerous from breakaways. Indecision and backing off by Andy Geggan invited the Saints attack to threaten Murdoch's goal.
Higginbotham was involved in most of Dunfermline's attacks, and it was from a free kick awarded for a foul on Moffat that the winger almost put the Pars ahead again. His shot missed the left hand post by a couple of inches with Langfield beaten.
With a minute remaining, St Mirren broke away and had a chance to shoot but were blocked by the Pars defence. Dunfermline then broke upfield and Clark's header was agonisingly close to giving the Pars a late winner.
Allan Johnston then made his only substitution, bringing on Joe Cardle for McMullan, which was greeted with shouts from the stands asking why the switch was made so late.
Nat Wedderburn had a tremendous game in midfield, breaking up countless Saints counter attacks. Higginbotham was the main creative threat for Dunfermline, while the Moff showed what a great footballer he can be, but lacking the ruthlessness required of a great striker.
The final whistle signaled some booing from the home support. This was, hopefully, a reaction to the lack of substitutes used and not the team's performance.
Pars starting 11, with marks out of 10:
Photos by Pars Review, and Pars fan Gary (thanks to him for that).
Tomorrow: full match photo gallery.