A satisfying victory and a lesson learned: if you shoot, eventually you will get your reward. Dunfermline's visit to the stadium beneath the Rock began without top scorer Nicky Clark, missing through injury. He was replaced by Gavin Reilly, while David Hopkirk returned to the first team matchday squad as a substitute.
Dunfermline kicked off against a high wind. With the stadium having just one stand, and only fences around the other 3 sides, there was no protection from the conditions and much of the play was spoiled by the ball being blown off course. Sean Murdoch's goal kicks barely made it 40 yards upfield before being held in the wind. Too many balls were being passed in the air and it resulted in periods of disjointed play. This did not prevent chances being created, with Lewis Vaughan and Sam Stanton coming close for Dumbarton, and Rhys McCabe almost scoring with a long range effort. McCabe adopted a shoot on sight policy throughout the game, and was unlucky not to have scored with any of his first 4 attempts. Big Nat had a shot from 12 yards tipped round the post by Dumbarton keeeper Alan Martin, who also did well to turn Callum Morris' header over the bar, both chances coming from Kallum Higginbotham corners. The Moff then had a good turn and shot from inside the box that just missed.
The best chance of the opening half fell to ex-Par Gregor Buchanan, when some slack defensive play gave the centre half a chance to score from a few yards out. Murdoch saved his weak shot, and also the follow up from Vaughan.
The second half saw Dunfermline have the wind advantage for a short spell, until it died down. This was to the team's advantage - despite not having any wind behind them, as Dumbarton had in the first half, the calmer conditions suited Dunfermline more, particularly players such as Kallum Higginbotham and Paul McMullan. It was McMullan who carved open the Sons' defence after 54 minutes, but his shot hit the side netting.
Dumbarton passed up another great chance to score, and it was another ex-Par, Andy Stirling, who was wasteful in front of Murdoch's goal. A third former Dunfermline player, Robert Thomson, also had an opportunity to open the scoring but saw his shot deflected for a corner.
Rhys McCabe was the focal point for the Pars in midfield, and he had several shots from distance, all just failing to find the net. McCabe's time came with 10 minutes remaining when his 20 yarder flew past Martin into the corner.
Substitute David Hopkirk then added a second, finishing confidently from a McMullan pass.
Big Nat then treated the Pars fans to a moment of brilliance on the touchline directly in front of the visiting support, pirouetting past 2 Dumbarton players. The fans and his team mates clearly loved it, with captain Andy Geggan laughing as he congratulated Nat on the move.
This was an important win, and saw the Pars move up to fifth place in the Championship, 8 points outside the 4 place play-off position with 3 games still remaining.
Pars starting 11, with marks out of 10:
Photos by Pars Review.
Tomorrow: full match photo gallery.