A dramatic game with 3 penalties, a sending off and a 10-man Pars team missing several great chances saw Dunfermline take a point but slip back into the ninth place relegation play-off position.
Manager Allan Johnston made 4 changes to the starting line-up following last week's Scottish Cup win at Buckie, with Jason Talbot, John Herron, Kallum Higginbotham and Farid El Alagui replacing Conner Duthie, Nat Wedderburn, Michael Paton and Michael Moffat. The opening half hour gave no indication of what was to follow, with both teams struggling to create many chances, and poor passing on display. The game came to life when Nicky Clark gave Dunfermline the lead in the 31st minute. A pass from Kallum Higginbotham found Lewis Martin, whose cross was hammered high into the net by Clark for his 6th goal of the season.
Sean Murdoch made the first of many crucial saves after 36 minutes. Alan Forrest's corner kick evaded the Pars defence and Murdoch had to react quickly to prevent the ball crossing the line.
There were some sporadic attacks from both teams but in general the first half was unremarkable. The second period would be a completely different matter.
Pars defender Lewis Martin had been booked early in the game. In the 49th minute he received a second yellow card following a tussle in the penalty box. No Ayr players appealed for a penalty but referee Barry Cook decided that Martin had fouled his opponent. A penalty was given and Martin ordered off. Forrest scored from the resulting kick.
Farid El Alagui was substituted following the sending off, with Conner Duthie moving to the right back position that Martin had occupied. Despite being a man down, Dunfermline attacked the Ayr defence and it was top scorer Clark who missed two excellent chances to put the Pars back into the lead. The first chance was from around 10 yards out with the goal at his mercy but his shot went high over the bar. Then Clark was put through in the inside right position, but his attempt at chipping Ayr keeper Greg Fleming was poorly hit.
Sean Murdoch then made a great blocking save from Gary Harkins. Murdoch's defence were doing all they could to prevent Ayr from taking advantage of their extra man advantage. Dunfermline were still attacking the visitors' goal, and Callum Fordyce headed straight at Fleming from a Higginbotham cross. Paul McMullan's well struck shot went just over the bar, and the winger's effort at repeating the mazy run that ended with a goal at Buckie last week was almost repeated, but the Ayr defence blocked his final shot.
In the 84th minute Dunfermline were given a chance to score a crucial second goal. McMullan was fouled in the box but Higginbotham's penalty was saved by Fleming. Play went on and a few seconds later Higginbotham was brought down, and another penalty was given. The same player took the kick but his hard-driven shot was palmed away by Fleming.
Moffat, who had replaced the injured Clark, had a chance to win the game but screwed his shot horribly wide. Both teams were chasing a winner but the game ended with the points shared. Higginbotham left the pitch is tears, distraught over his unsuccessful penalties.
Pars starting line-up, with marks out of 10:
All photos by Pars Review.
A match photo gallery will be posted on Sunday.