A Panenka penalty kick from Kallum Higginbotham gave the Pars an important 3 points against a Raith Rovers side who reeked of desperation and who are now deep in relegation trouble. The scoreline should have been more emphatic but the single goal was enough to all but end any fears of Dunfermline being dragged into a late season battle at the wrong end of the table.
Rhys McCabe replaced the suspended John Herron in midfield in what was the only change from the team who drew with Hibs last week. Raith began the game playing Ryan Hardie as a lone striker, with support from the wings. The sight of washed-up ex-Hearts star Rudi Skacel in midfield could only have encouraged Dunfermline to take the game to the visitors.
Ex-Par Jason Thomson brought a fairly tame opening of the game to life with a high and dangerous challenge on Jason Talbot, that left the left back on the track. Referee Andrew Dallas, who has a lot to thank his dad for, showed a yellow card to Thomson when a red would have been more appropriate. Dallas was later to back out of giving Thomson a second yellow on more than one occasion, including for a blatant dive in the Pars penalty box that Dallas acknowledged but then failed to book the player, which would have lead to his dismissal.
The other main first half incident was when Callum Morris allowed Hardie to get behind him and have a run on goal, but then superbly rescued himself by not hauling down the striker but instead catching up, then moving him away from goal, before getting the ball back and making a clearance. This was typical Morris: a lapse in concentration followed by great defensive work. Morris has undoubtedly been one of Allan Johnston's best signings.
The second half was only 4 minutes old when Dunfermline were awarded a penalty. Thomson pulled down Paul McMullan and from the kick, Kallum Higginbotham fooled the Raith keeper Pavol Penska by chipping the ball into the middle of the goal. This not only boosted the team but also Higginbotham personally, as he grew in confidence and went onto set up chances for the Moff - who was denied a goal by a great save from Penska - and Nicky Clark, who missed a close range header when he really should have scored.
Raith's best chance of the second half fell to Skacel, who failed to take advantage of Sean Murdoch being out of his goal and weakly played the ball back into Murdoch's arms.
Clark then had another chance but his shot was saved. In injury time Raith were awarded 2 free kicks by Dallas, but they did not trouble Murdoch with either. The ball was then played upfield and Big Nat did a great job of holding off 3 Rovers players all by himself (see photo above), keeping possession and winning a throw in at the corner flag.
Raith were losing their discipline by this point and looked like a team doomed to drop into the Seaside League. For Dunfermline, this was a highly significant win, with the trio of Morris, Wedderburn and Higginbotham especially impressive.
Pars starting 11, with marks out of 10:
All photos and edits by Pars Review.
Tomorrow: full match photo gallery.