Crazy Comback Plots Pars Promotion PushDate: Wednesday, 15th Feb 2023
Dunfermline Athletic played their catch-up match in SPFL cinch League One on Saturday – the only match in the division.
It was a chance for the Pars to widen the gap at the top of the table over second-placed Falkirk, but Airdrieonians saw it as an opportunity to close the gap on the West Fifers at the summit of the third-tier of Scottish Football.
It was the second meeting between the two sides this term, with a 1-1 draw occurring earlier on in the term at KDM Group East End Park – Rhys McCabe`s men being the first side to score against James McPake`s men in League One this season on that sunny day, thanks to Adam Frizzell`s strike to equalise late on.
Highlights: Dunfermline Athletic 1-1 Airdrieonians
So going into last weekend`s encounter, the league leaders knew they faced a stern test from a side willing to attack them and test out their defensive capabilities. But it was the visitors who had the ball in the net early on, but referee Gavin Duncan chalked off the goal by Craig Wighton. This seemed to down Dunfermline as Airdrieonians advanced forward and created more chances at goal.
And just shy of the half-hour mark, former Pars striker Gabby McGill came back to haunt his old side as he stabbed home a long ball from Callum Fordyce into the back of the net: the ex-Pars Captain launched a right-footed ball over the top of a static Dunfermline defence to find McGill who tucked the ball past Deniz Mehmet with a first-time finish.
Gabby McGill reflects on Saturday`s match with DiamondsTV
This forced McPake into an early double substitution, as one new signing and one forgotten Mahon came on for Chris Hamilton and Joe Chalmers. Winger Robbie Mahon went out wide while Ewan Otoo made his entrance for the first time wearing the #16 shirt. He slotted into the unfamiliar role of central-midfield, before being moved back to the more familiar position of centre-back during the second-half.
However, not long after entering the field of play, Otoo and his team-mates found themselves two goals behind as Calum Gallagher – free inside the penalty-area – latched onto a miss-hit shot by Frizzell. The striker tucked it away and the Diamonds had taken control.
Ewan Otoo is welcomed to the Football Club by ParsTV
Another substitution occurred at half-time as Chris Mochrie came on for Kyle Macdonald, with the Black & White going full-out attack as they tried to get themselves back into this contest. But things went from bad to worse just 240 seconds into the final period, as Euan Deveney broke down the left-hand side following an Athletic corner and crossed a teasing ball into the box, which was headed into his own net by Mahon under pressure at the near-post. Three goals and surely 3 points for the hosts.
Eventually, the visitors sparked back into life and felt aggrieved when goalkeeper Josh Rae handled the ball outside his area; the shot-stopper was already on a booking and most expected to see a second caution given to him by referee Duncan.
None was forthcoming, however this sense of injustice seemed to re-motivate the Pars. And on the hour-mark, Callum Smith conceded a penalty through his own hand-ball incident, which on this occasion did result in a sending off, leaving Airdrieonians a man light. Kyle Benedictus scored from the spot as Dunfermline`s skipper sparked the most unlikely of comebacks!
Player-Manager Rhys McCabe reflects on an extraordinary encounter
Just 5 minutes later and the defecit was reduced to one, as Mahon cut inside and found Matty Todd who unleashed a first-time right-footed effort which Rae couldn`t keep out: suddenly, the away end believed again after looking down and out just 6 minutes prior. Kevin O`Hara was thrown on for Rhys Breen as Dunfermline Athletic found their fighting spirit once more.
The Diamonds were holding on until nine minutes before time, when Mahon set-up Todd again. This time, the #26 shuffled away from his marker onto his `weaker` left-foot before rifling in the equaliser to the disbelief of most inside the Excelsior Stadium,
Robbie Mahon`s Post-Match Interview with ParsTV
However, Toddy wasn`t to be the hero...well, he was... but not Matty! Fifth and final substitute Nikolay Todorov came on just two minutes prior to the equaliser but it would be he who scored the all-important winning goal. The big Bulgarian raced into the box after Wighton was set free down the left; the cross-ball was inch-perfect for Todorov`s outstretched right-boot to send the away end into delirium, while the home end sat there in shock at the collapse of McCabe`s men following the red-card.
Highlights: Airdrieonians 3-4 Dunfermline Athletic
It was a massive win for Athletic, with the 3 points seeing Dunfermline go 7 points clear at the top of the table.
While the result and celebrations at full-time were of great delight to McPake, the performance was something he was going to need to address this week in training, prior to our second match within the week against Airdrieonians, this time, at KDM Group East End Park.
On Monday evening, Falkirk progressed to the Quarter-Finals of the Scottish Cup, with a home draw against Ayr United awaiting them. This will put further strain onto their schedule and give Dunfermline Athletic another chance to get points on the board before the Bairns` games in-hand.
All focus remains on this weekend, but a path has now been plotted for promotion by the Pars as the games tick down week by week.
James McPake following the dramatic 4-3 victory against Airdrieonians