Bairns lose the plot and the 3 points to a Cardle-inspired Dunfermline
After 6 long years, Dunfermline defeated rivals Falkirk in a game that saw Allan Johnston's team enjoy first half superiority then find it harder against a 9-man Falkirk after half time. The win gives Dunfermline a 6 point lead over today's visitors in the early season Championship table.
The Pars lined up with Declan McManus replacing David Hopkirk from last weekend's victory over Inverness, with the rest of the team unchanged. None of the fringe players who played in Tuesday's Challenge Cup win over Arbroath started this game, with Aaron Splaine, Fraser Aird and others listed amongst today's substitutes.
Pars starting 11 & subs:
Falkirk were without the injured Miles Hippolyte who was seen on crutches. The player, whose dive to win a penalty in the last meeting of the clubs was punished retrospectively by the SFA, had clearly passed tips onto his team mates as time after time the Falkirk players went to ground at the slightest sign of contact. It reached the point of pure farce as it was so clearly a tactic, possibly their only tactic, in a first half that saw them outclassed by a Dunfermline team keen to record a long overdue win in this fixture.
Kallum Higginbotham, who played for Falkirk earlier in his career, provided yet another goal assist to help put the Pars ahead in the 5th minute. His pass found Declan McManus, who held off his marker and placed the ball firmly past Robbie Thomson in the Falkirk goal. Six minutes later it was 2-0 when a rampaging run from Ryan Williamson ended in a perfect cross to Joe Cardle who struck the ball sweetly past Thomson.
Callum Smith then had a chance to make it 3-0 when he took a McManus pass and saw his shot hit the left post and stay out.
The closest Falkirk came to a first half goal was when Tony Gallagher's shot was saved well by Sean Murdoch.
The second half was to produce even greater drama, beginning with Bairns midfielder Craig Sibbald's sending off for kicking Joe Cardle off the ball after 52 minutes. It was an act of supreme idiocy, matched only by the Falkirk support who immediately began to sing Sibbald's name as he walked off. There is nothing heroic about reducing your team to 10 men when 2-0 down against your biggest rivals.
Cardle then set up Smith for a shot from 6 yards but the young striker got under the ball and put his effort over the bar.
Falkirk's indiscipline continued when veteran striker Lee Miller, on as a substitute, elbowed Big Nat and was red carded, with 62 minutes gone.
As often happens, the weight of expectation - surely more goals would now follow? - began to impact on the flow of Dunfermline's natural game. Passes went astray, and the home crowd were getting anxious, their expectations not being met as the minutes ticked by. David Hopkirk and Andy Ryan were brought on in place of Smith and McManus but the Pars were making life hard for themselves against the nine men. Falkirk pulled a goal back with 7 minutes remaining when Gallagher's shot hit the post with such force that the rebound came all the way out of the box at an angle to Tom Taiwo who hit a first time rocket into the top corner.
Pars' nerves were settled in the final minute when Cardle, the game's outstanding player, got his second and the Pars third with a trademark run inside from the left, and shooting past Thomson to the delight of his team mates and the home support.
The expectation of a last half hour goal rush that failed to materialise should not diminish the importance of this victory. To reduce our biggest rivals to a play-acting, violent mob shows the difference in quality that was most evident when the teams both had 11 men.
Tomorrow: match photo gallery & matchday vlog will be uploaded.
Photos & edits in this article by Pars Review.