Dunfermline Athletic 2 Brechin City 1
Dunfermline finally clinched the play-off spot that had looked theirs for long enough, although it was another unconvincing performance. After a goal-less first half Shankland fired the Pars ahead early in the second period, only for Robert Thomson to equalise. With time running out, Allan Smith’s run into the box prompted a rash challenge and Millen kept his nerve to score from the resultant spot-kick.
We expected some changes after last week’s dire performance, and changes we got, with Jim Jefferies making no fewer than 5 alterations to the side that had lost so tamely to East Fife. Ross Millen was in at right back, Lewis Martin in as a holding midfielder, Josh Falkingham had recovered from his tonsillitis to take his position in the middle of the park, and Faissal El Bakhtaoui and Ryan Thomson were recalled to attacking positions. Thus we lined up with Scully in goals, a back four of Millen, Morris, Page and Whittle; Martin, Falkingham and Geggan; El Bakhtaoui, Thomson and Shankland.
Four of those “rested” (Forbes, Husband, Williamson and Byrne) took their place on the bench of available replacements, along with Allan Smith, Lewis Spence and Ryan Goodfellow. Ryan Wallace was assume not to have fully recovered from his injury after all, so he wasn’t in the squad.
Brechin too had a somewhat indeterminate formation – with Ryan Ferguson and Darren Petrie operating as wing backs, and Robert Thomson initially coming in off the right wing to link up with the dangerous Bobby Barr.
Brechin kicked off but it was the Pars who nearly shot themselves in the foot when an early pass from Scully put Martin in trouble, but they home team got away with it. The Pars struggled to settle with the changes to personnel and tactics, but it could have been a different story had they taken the chance to score early. Ryan Thomson’s fourth minute flick sent Shankland free, but the ball refused to drop in time for him to get his shot away unchallenged. There was a much better chance in 8 minutes after Molloy conceded a free-kick for a meaty challenge on Thomson that left him limping. Millen’s cross didn’t look much, but as Hay tried to shepherd the ball back to Smith, it seemed to bounce off his keeper, presenting Shankland with an open goal, but he prodded wide.
However, these chances with the exception rather than the rule, with the visitors having more shots a goal. They won a couple of corners, with Morris have to flick away the first, before the second was driven and seemed to come off Page forcing Scully to make a good save.
Scully was soon in action again as Petrie was allowed to run all the way through, but spread himself Schmeichel-style, getting enough of the ball to slow it down and allow Page to hack away.
Play continued to be scrappy but the Pars put together a good move with Falkingham’s persistence winning the ball and Geggan’s switch allowing El Bakhtaoui to use his pace before playing in Falkingham but the defence was back in time to block.
Allan Smith was soon on for Thomson who had failed to recover from his early clattering, but this didn’t help the play to be more coherent. Petrie again came forward, for Millen to block well, and El Bakhtaoui again looked dangerous going down the right, leaving two on his wake, but his pull-back to Falkingham may not have been the right option.
The foul count began to rise, with 3 Dunfermline players having their names taken – Falkingham, Whittle and Martin, although the middle named seem to have made a clean tackle.
Amongst this mayhem Brechin had a couple more chance to profit, but Thomson turned and fired wide, and Scully took no risks in tipping a late shot over his cross-bar.
The referee seemed to blow up for the break early; perhaps he was going to add extra on in the second half, but the scoreline was a fair representation of the game to date.
Half-time: Pars 0 City 0
The Pars made a brighter start to the second period, perhaps due to some half-time words of encouragement from their management team. Whittle was forward early with a little nutmeg that soon brought retribution, (and the first yellow card for McLauchlan). However, Smith punched away Millen’s free-kick a fraction before getting flattened by Morris. The Pars did find the net soon after, though. Millen combined with Falkingham to send El Bakhtaoui away down the right and he sent an early ball to the near-post which was met by Shankland to open the scoring.
Dunfermline Athletic 1 Brechin City 0