Pars go top of the league with convincing win
Four goals and 3 points put Dunfermline top of the Championship table after a resounding victory against Dumbarton. Allan Johnston named the same starting 11 that defeated Falkirk last week. There were 2 changes on the subs bench - Aaron Splaine and Fraser Aird dropped out, replaced by Nicky Clark, deemed fit enough to be named amongst the substitutes after his month-long injury absence, and Big Jock M'Voto.
A big Pars travelling support was in the Your Radio 103FM stadium, situated at the foot of Dumbarton Rock, possibly the most picturesque setting of any stadium in the SPFL. Dumbarton went into today's game with just 1 victory from 8 League and Cup games this season and were soon under pressure from a vibrant Dunfermline attacking unit. Joe Cardle, who has been in tremendous form recently, was involved from the start, while in the centre of the attack, Callum Smith and Declan McManus never gave the home defence any respite. On the right side of the attack, Kallum Higginbotham enjoyed his best game of what has already been a very good season for him.
The opening goal came in the 5th minute from Cardle, with his 8th of the season. Callum Smith's effort looked certain to hit the net but was cleared off the line, with the ball reaching Cardle who shot home. The players then ran to the dugout to hold up a shirt in honour of fan Bill Edwards, who sadly passed away earlier this month.
In the 20th minute, former Pars defender Andy Dowie pulled down Declan McManus when the Dunfermline striker was running in on goal. Referee Barry Cook produced a yellow card, for what was surely a sending off offence. Dumbarton were guilty of continuous fouls, but were aided by an astonishingly weak referee. They had 3 different players booked during the game (Dowie later received a second yellow card) but a stronger official would have clamped down on their actions far harder and not been so lenient.
The Dunfermline lead was doubled after 27 minutes. Smith's pass to Cardle was played through to Higginbotham, who coolly slotted the ball past Scott Gallacher in the Dumbarton goal. The game was completely one-sided at this point. Dumbarton would have been relieved to reach halftime only 2 goals down.
The second half unfolded in a familiar pattern in recent games. As against Arbroath and Falkirk, first half dominance was not followed by an almost-expected flood of second half goals, against teams who had players sent off. For much of the second period, Dunfermline found the home defence hard to break down, although it should also be pointed out that Sean Murdoch had to make just one save of any difficulty, from a Craig Barr header, after the same player had hit the bar with another header. Meanwhile Dumbarton continued to rely on constant fouling and packing their defence to keep the score down.
The same double substitution as last week was made again in the 63rd minute, with Andy Ryan and David Hopkirk replacing Smith and McManus. After 77 minutes, Hopkirk had a great chance to score when put clean through, but took the wrong option, shooting from distance when he could have run closer to goal, or played in one of his team mates who were closer to him than the Dumbarton defenders. In the build up to that breakaway, Andy Dowie had fouled a Pars player well behind the run of play but the referee correctly waved play on. Referee Cook then showed Dowie a second yellow card and the defender, a member of the Jim McIntyre title winning side of 2011, was dismissed.
The third Pars substitution saw Nicky Clark replace Cardle in the 79th minute, with Hopkirk moving to the left wing. This proved successful, with Clark getting the Pars' third goal after 87 minutes with a close range finish from a perfect Hopkirk cross. Three minutes later, Clark's backheeled pass found Ryan, who expertly put the ball past Gallacher.
With results from other games going Dunfermline's way, the team moved top of the table. Confidence is flowing through the squad and games are being won convincingly.
Tomorrow: match photo gallery & matchday vlog will be uploaded.
Photos & edits in this article by Pars Review.