A vastly improved performance that combined skill, tenacity, hard work and with every player making a positive contribution. After the dismal team display against Ayr, this week the game was played on the floor, no aimless high balls, and some of the link-up play was tremendous to watch. There was a steely determination to win the game despite the hosts being unbeaten at home for 364 days, and the joint top of the current form table.
Andy Geggan and Paul McMullan returned from injury and the team was along familiar lines. The contrast between today and the past 2 home games was evident from the start. Dunfermline were playing a fluent passing game, a return to the standard set against Hibs at Easter Road. This is the standard that the team are capable of.
The game kicked off in glorious sunshine, and the teams both attacked each other from the outset. Nicky Clark had an early attempt that went wide, while former Pars loan striker Lawrence Shankland went close for Morton. After 16 minutes, the Pars took the lead when a Kallum Higginbotham corner was touched on by Nicky Clark to Nat Wedderburn to tap in, for his first Dunfermline goal. Referee Mat Northcroft harshly booked big Nat for celebrating with the Pars fans behind the goal.
The referee was card-happy and was to book a total of 7 players. One booking that was fully deserved was a penalty box dive from ex-Par Ross Forbes, an embarrassment from a talented player who does not need to resort to such cheating.
Morton were pressing for an equaliser but the Pars defence held firm. Goalkeeper Sean Murdoch was assured, and his handling excellent. His defenders all had very good games, with captain Andy Geggan a driving force. Jason Talbot had his best game for some time, an always-consistent player who had a particularly good game today. Central defenders Lee Ashcroft and Callum Morris were in great form, with Morris having his best game for the club since returning in January. In midfield, Nat Wedderburn was dominant, a human shield who simply cannot be knocked off the ball, while John Herron played well before going off injured. Wingers Paul McMullan and Kallum Higginbotham had good games, and both worked very hard to help their full-backs. Up front, the Moff was at the heart of all the best Pars passing moves, never wasting possession, a creative force who is indispensable in this form. Nicky Clark was unlucky not to score, and showed phenomenal work rate throughout, often seen helping back in defence.
The second half saw more chances for each team: a great move involving some one touch play from Nat Wedderburn, John Herron and Nicky Clark ended with Clark's shot being turned round the post by Morton keeper Derek Gaston. Referee Northcroft then controversially disallowed a second Pars goal, scored by Morris with a firm header. Initially no one realised it had been disallowed, but the referee saw an infringement.
Murdoch was alert save a long range effort from Morton's Andy Murdoch, and then reacted well to tip over a Kudus Oyenuga header. Up the other end, Pars sub Rhys McCabe's goal-bound shot was well saved by Gaston, while Paul McMullan failed to capitalise on a pinpoint Higginbotham pass, that left him with only Gaston to beat, but finished weakly. The Moff was denied by Gaston when a long run up the wing from Jason Talbot saw the full back find Moffat with a deep cross, and only Gaston's outstretched hand prevented a goal.
McCabe had replaced the injured John Herron, and later in the game there were 2 further Pars substitutions: the Moff, who had a superb game, was replaced by David Hopkirk, and then Joe Cardle was brought on late for McMullan.
The final whistle ended Morton's long unbeaten home run, and the Pars players celebrated with the travelling supporters. All except sub David Hopkirk, who ran straight up the tunnel, for reasons only known to himself. Togetherness is a huge part of any provincial team's success, and the players and fans enjoyed the moment on what was another memorable trip to Cappielow.
Pars starting 11, with marks out of 10:
Photos by Pars Review.
Tomorrow: full match photo gallery.