Dunfermline recorded a crucial victory today at East End Park, showing great resilience with several excellent individual displays in an overall good team performance. A rejuvinated Michael Moffat got the goals, and with keeper Sean Murdoch and winger Kallum Higginbotham also in top form, the team deservedly claimed all 3 points. The win moved the team up 2 places in the Championship table and in sight of the teams immediately above.
For much of this season, Dunfermline have gifted opposing teams goals through basic defensive errors. The Pars have also missed an unusually high number of penalties. Today, both factors were turned around in key incidents in the game, that went in Dunfermline's favour instead of against them. After missing 2 penalties last week, a spot kick was awarded against Dunfermline in the 5th minute of today's game, at the same home end that saw Kallum Higginbotham have 2 efforts saved last week. It seemed to be the worst possible start to the game, until Sean Murdoch made an excellent save, getting down low to his right hand post to save Thomas O'Ware's kick, and hold it. This seemed to give the team belief, and 7 minutes later they went ahead. Morton's Jamie McDonough was short with a pass back to his goalkeeper. The Moff was in the right place to capitalise on the error and shoot past Derek Gaston to make it 1-0 to the Pars.
In the 23rd minute, the same combination of poor Morton defending and clinical Moffat finishing doubled the Pars lead. This time it was Mark Russell who underhit a passback, which Moffat intercepted, and expertly placed the ball past Gaston. It was an excellent finish, much more difficult than the chance presented at the first goal.
Morton's main danger was coming from pacey striker Jai Quitongo. Early in the game he forced Murdoch into making a good save, but his game ended before half time when he fell awkwardly after Murdoch got to the ball before Quitongo from Jason Talbot header. Quitongo attemped to get to the ball before the Pars keeper but failed, and was injured as he fell to the ground, and had to be substituted.
Morton pulled a goal back a minute before half time. Aidan Nesbitt shot home after the Pars defence were unable to clear the ball.
Nat Wedderburn replaced the injured John Herron at half time.
Barely 20 seconds into the second half, and with Morton on the attack, Jason Talbot was forced into a goal line clearance from another effort by Nesbitt. Murdoch then made a good blocked save to prevent an equaliser. At the other end, Paul McMullan came close with a shot that Gaston saved but then allowed the ball to spin out of his hands. Luckily for the Morton keeper the ball just failed to reach the incoming Nicky Clark.
Referee Stephen Finnie was having a dreadful game. After stopping play in the first half with Dunfermline running in on goal, only to give the Pars a free kick in a less dangerous position, he spent the remainder of the game constantly behind play, making some bizarre decisions and cementing his reputation as one of Scotland's worst referees.
Ryan Williamson replaced Conner Duthie after 60 minutes and had his best 30 minutes of the season, looking much more solid defensively, and having a couple of great runs up the wing. The final Pars sub saw Clark replaced by Farid El Alagui, who sadly displayed the mobility and speed of an elderly tortoise. The Moff was still running at full pace, and was unlucky not to get his third goal when challenged in the box, a strong penalty claim being turned down by the useless Finnie.
The game ended with Morton finding the Pars defence impossible to break down. Callum Fordyce did the simple things simply, and the whole team looked much more of a cohesive unit than was the case a few weeks ago.
Pars starting line-up, with marks out of 10:
All photos by Pars Review.
A match photo gallery will be posted on Sunday.