A hat trick from David Hopkirk helped the Pars Under 20s to a resounding win in today's SPFL Development League game against Ross County, played at Kelty Hearts' New Central Park. Pars coach John Potter named 5 overage players in his starting line-up, although 3 of them (Ryan Williamson, Euan Spark and Lewis Spence) are all 20 years old and just a year over the age limit. The other 2 players, Michael Paton and Hopkirk, will have impressed watching manager Allan Johnston.
Dunfermline dominated the game, restricting the visitors - who are second in the Development League table - to very few chances. From the start, the Pars pressed for an opening goal. Conner Duthie saw his 22 yard free kick hit the bar after 4 minutes, and Paton and Callum Smith also had good early efforts. Ryan Williamson had several trademark runs up the right wing that almost created an opening goal. The goal finally came after 26 minutes with a well struck shot from Paton.
Williamson then collapsed after an overlapping run and was clearly in some pain. Thankfully, although he had to be substituted, he was able to walk off and had an icepack strapped to his leg. It can only be hoped there is no long term damage done to the talented fullback who has been so unlucky with injuries. Reece Duncan came on in place of Williamson.
Hopkirk put the Pars 2-0 up in the 42nd minute with a shot from the edge of the penalty box. The same player got his second and Dunfermline's third after 49 minutes when he evaded a challenge and hit a shot past the County keeper from 20 yards. County almost pulled a goal back when a shot from their centre forward Morrison hit the bar. Hopkirk then completed his hat trick with a superb goal after 62 minutes. His curling shot from 22 yards flew into the top corner of the net, one of the best goals he is ever likely to score.
Evan Horne was then brought on for Scott Lochhead. A few minutes later Hopkirk was substituted, his work done, with Ciaran Lafferty replacing him, and although the Pars continued to attack, there were no more goals.
This was another great performance from the Under 20s. Cammy Gill was assured in goals, the defence was solid with Euan Spark and Stuart Morrison forming a good partnership in the middle, and fullbacks Williamson, then Duncan and Duthie keen to get forward. In midfield, Johnny Galloway was industrious as always. Lewis Spence combined skill with hard work, and in the wide areas Michael Paton proved again what a good footballer he is, with excellent close control, while on the left side Scott Lochhead had less of an impact but rarely wasted a pass. Up front Hopkirk was without doubt man of the match, while alongside him Callum Smith was very unlucky not to score.
The win moves the Pars up to seventh place in the Development League table.
A special mention too for Kelty Hearts, whose New Central Park has been improved even further in recent weeks, with a new entrance and landscaping work done around the terracing. Always a good venue, the improvements that include new enclosures built last summer and the more recent landscaping have enhanced the ground and made it one of the best venues outwith the SPFL (and better than many grounds within the senior divisions).
Cammy Gill, Ryan Williamson (Reece Duncan), Conner Duthie, Euan Spark, Stuart Morrison, Lewis Spence, Michael Paton, Johnny Galloway, Callum Smith, David Hopkirk (Ciaran Lafferty), Scott Lochhead (Evan Horne).
Match photos (all photos by Pars Review):