A game that should have been won was dominated by a referee who made one game-changing decision and showed complete bias throughout, to the disgust of the Pars fans, management and players. I have avoided criticising referees this season, even after poor displays by Craig Charleston and Stephen Finnie, but the performance by Gavin Duncan today was impossible to ignore and not comment on.
Nicky Clark returned to the Dunfermline line-up after injury, and was joined in attack by last week's goalscoring substitute, David Hopkirk. The team was unchanged apart from that and with a promotion play-off place still achieveable, Dunfermline had as much to play for as second-placed Falkirk.
Paul McMullan had a good early run that ended in Nicky Clark's header being saved by Falkirk keeper Robbie Thomson. McMullan then had a great chance himself but delayed a shot inside the box, and the chance was gone.
The referee then gave a yellow card to Mark Kerr after an outrageous challenge on Andy Geggan. It was a clear sending off but the referee decided otherwise. Falkirk's goal attempts in the first half were restricted to a couple of breakways and a long range effort by Craig Sibbald.
The first major incident of the second half changed the game and saw Falkirk's Miles Hipplolyte awarded for a blatant dive in the penalty box. Duncan instead awarded a penalty, and booked Sean Murdoch. Before the kick was taken, Murdoch and Callum Morris were substituted, to the amazement of the Pars support. Murdoch later appeared with a strapping on his knee. They were replaced by David Hutton and Lewis Martin. Hutton's first involvement was to see Aaron Muirhead's kick give Falkirk the equaliser. Lewis Martin then received a third yellow card in his last 5 appearancres for pushing an opponent in a goalscoring position. John Baird fell under Martin's challenge and the defender was sent off.
Nathan Austin got Falkirk's second against a Pars defence that included big Nat as a makeshift centre half.
Hippolyte then took encouragement from the penalty decision to commit a series of fouls on Pars players, knowing he would escape punishment. Duncan then gave Falkirk a free kick when Kallum Higginbotham was the victim of the foul; then told Hopkirk to get up after he was tripped by Peter Grant; and then finally booked Hopkirk for alleged diving after the Dunfermline forward was fouled. Falkirk keeper Thomson was then told off for timewasting, and proceeded to waste more time, with the referee disinterested and running away with his back to the goalkeeper.
Andy Geggan came close to scoring an equaliser with a header from a Higginbotham corner. Falkirk's players then fell to the ground under any slight contact, always refusing the physio so as not to have to leave the field. The referee was content to join in with the farce, and when he blew the final whistle, he was surrounded by irate Pars players and management. Nothing will be done - just as in the Hamilton cup tie, when Craig Thomson gave a penalty with a minute remaining after a dive, no mention was made by the media. The same thing will happen here.
An official complaint must be made against this referee. As for Falkirk FC, they have proved that filth has no conscience.
Pars starting 11, with marks out of 10:
All photos and edits by Pars Review.
Tomorrow: full match photo gallery.