SPFL Championship: DUNFERMLINE 4 DUMBARTON 3: 06/08/16

Day one of the 2016-2017 coincided with the opening day of the Rio Olympics. For Dunfermline Athletic it was to be an opening ceremony at East End Park with a flag to unfurl. The Pars rightly took the podium as their title winning season in League One was rewarded.

The visitors for the first Championship match were Stevie Aitken`s Dumbarton, a team that included several well known faces at Dunfermine - former players - Gregor Buchanan, Robert Thomson, Andy Stirling and pre season trialist Josh Todd.

Pars boss Allan Johnston set off in his sortie for a play off place with a side that showed three changes from the one defeated at Tannadice the previous Sunday. Andy Geggan returned from suspension, displacing Lewis Spence, Gavin Reilly came in place of Nat Wedderburn and Ryan Wiliamson returned with Lewis Martin switching to fill the gap provided by Jason Talbot`s suspension.

There were four survivors from the side that played in the final league match of last season - Ben Richards-Everton, Andy Geggan, Joe Cardle and Michael Moffat. Chairman Ross McArthur unfurled the flag in the centre circle and all the arrangements went too slickly meaning there was a two minute delay before the match could kick off at 3.00pm

The Pars kicked off and Reilly got an early shot in that went wide left. Dumbarton responded with new on loan signing from Celtic Joe Thomson shooting wildly into the McCathie Stand in third minute. Robert Thomson then flicked a pass into the Pars box and Joe Thomson hooked up on the defended ball but he sent the ball wide right for Craig Pettigrew and he could do no more than give the Pars a goal kick.

A poor touch out of his own box by Danny Harvey allowed Cardle to gather on the right and he tried a ninth minute shot on target that former Hamilton keeper Alan Martin held. The keeper was not troubled when Rhys McCabe tried a shot three minutes later. He skied it from 25 yards out and ended up hitting east and north east stands.

Then in 14th minute Dunfermline were awarded a penalty when Ryan Stevenson upended Kallum Higginbotham in the box. Referee Barry Cook pointed to the spot and Higginbotham and Michael Moffat had a discussion about who was taking it. Moffat won the honour but drove the ball on to the right post.

Todd flashed a shot narrowly wide raising oohs from the 90 strong travelling support in the East Stand. They were soon to be singing however after Stevenson`s low free kick was parried low at the left post by keeper David Hutton but Robert THOMSON was fastest to the loose ball and netted the opener. 0-1

Most Pars fans thought the equaliser had come just three minutes later when Moffat`s cross from the right was headed on target from six yards out by Reilly but Martin pulled off a miraculous save to keep the Fifers out.

It took a superb move out on the right to breakthrough the Sons defences. Higginbotham played a great ball to the inrunning CARDLE who found the goal just inside the far post. 1-1

Just three minutes later the home fans had even more reasons to chant "Joe, Joe Super Joe". The 29 year old ideally placed to accept Williamson`s cut back and despite a posse of Dumbarton players closing in on him he picked his spot and found the net from twelve yards. 2-1

As the match approached the half hour Dunfermline threatened to run riot with Cardle`s stylish pass to Geggan on the right side of the box creating danger. Three Dunfermline corners kept up the pressure with Lee Ashcroft`s header coming closest to providing a third Pars goal.

Back at the McCathie end Robert Thomson hurt himself in flattening Martin and the physio`s attention was called upon. After a good few minutes the Sons returned to full complement but the pars were unable to capitalise on the player advantage.

Higginbotham and then Cardle had attempts that failed to alter the scoreline so at the break Dunfermline went in with just a one goal advantage.

Dunfermline 2 Dumbarton 1

Frazer Wright and Gregor Buchanan had dealt out some tough challenges in the first half with Moffat suffering the most from them and the only difference at the start of the second half was that it was Reilly on the end of the punishment. Wright had to receive attention after his heavy 47th minute tackle and from the resultant Higginbotham free kick Buchanan came close to heading into his own net. A corner from the left was crossed by Higginbotham and Ashcroft just failed to head home at the far post

In 53rd minute McCabe threaded an inviting ball in front of Reilly who had evaded the offside trap but his first touch took the ball too far and Martin got to it first.

Next in 56 minutes Martin swung over a fine ball from the left and Reilly`s header looked net bound but again keeper Martin was a hero. It was all Dunfermline and the pressure was all on the visitors goal. Higgninbotham drilled a shot on target but again Martin held. Ryan Stevenson was yellow carded as the Sons frustrations grew but they did get forward in 63 minutes when Pettigrew made Hutton save.

Ben Richards-Everton did well to intercept a Smith cut back before play swept back to the other end. Wright made a hash of his clearance giving Moffat the opportunity to collect 35 yards out and slip the ball left for CARDLE. Joe drew the keeper before sticking the ball into the bottom left to complete his hattrick before the midpoint of the second half. 3-1

The pouring rain did nothing to dampen the celebrations and the chant from the fans drew a wave out of the manager. All three Pars subs were introduced over a period of ten minutes. Paul McMullan and then Michael Paton came on to replace Gavin Reilly and Kallum Higginbotham. Final sub David HOPKIRK was only just on the park when stuck away an 81st minute goal from an acute angle from the right. He had pressurised Harvey after a underhit pass to him and got the break off the defender to advance in on goal 4-1

Joe Thomson fired a 35 yard effort over the Pars bar but the Sons were well beaten at this stage. Hopkirk was through again but shot at the keeper, a Paton free kick was headed clear and somehow Geggan managed to poke an opportunity wide left.

The media had already written the match summary giving the Pars a comfortable assertive victory when it all had to be re-written as Dumbarton were awarded not one but two added time penalties.

Firstly Smith stumbled over Paton`s outstretched foot on the right side of the box and referee Barry Cook pointed to the spot. Sub Mark DOCHERTY converted with a setpiece finish that gave David Hutton no chance 4-2.

Then in the third minute of added time Lee Ashcroft tussled with Thomson just outside the left post and another penalty was given to the Sons. Ashcroft was red carded for holding on to his opponent and DOCHERTY smashed this one past Hutton. The Pars keeper was then yellow carded for holding on to the ball as Dumbarton wanted to get on with it. Dumbarton had left it far too late to take anything from a match that Dunfermline could have won by many more goals than they did.
DUNFERMLINE: David Hutton: Ryan Williamson, Lee Ashcroft, Ben Richards-Everton, Lewis Martin: Rhys McCabe, Andy Geggan (c), Kallum Higginbotham (Michael Paton 74), Joe Cardle: Michael Moffat (David Hopkirk 80), Gavin Reilly (Paul McMullan 70)
SUBS NOT USED: Nat Wedderburn, Lewis Spence, Callum Fordyce, Cammy Gill (GK)
SCORERS: Cardle (23, 26, 66), Hopkirk (81)
YELLOW CARD: Geggan (25), McCabe (89), Hutton (90+4)
RED CARD: Ashcroft (90+3)

DUMBARTON: Alan Martin: Craig Pettigrew, Gregor Buchanan (c), Frazer Wright (Mark Docherty 80), Joe Thomson: Ryan Stevenson (Donald McCallum 72), Josh Todd, David Smith, Andy Stirling, Daniel Harvie, Robert Thomson.
SUBS NOT USED: Darren Barr, Amadou Kassarate, Ryan Clark, Jamie Barclay (GK)
SCORERS: R. Thomson (18), Docherty (90+1pen, 90+4 pen)
YELLOW CARD: Stevenson (63, R. Thomson (86)

REFEREE: Barry Cook
WEATHER: Sunny Intervals 19C

NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes Championship (away) v Hibernian Saturday 13th August 2016, kick off 3.00pm at Easter Road

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