SPFL Championship: DUNFERMLINE 1 ST MIRREN 1: 14/01/17

Same again starting eleven for Dunfermline. Kallum Higginbotham (37 pen) 1-0. Gary MacKenzie (46) 1-1

St Mirren were the first foots at East End Park and were also the first side to visit for a second time on League business. In September the Pars came out on top in seven goal thriller and with freezing temperatures and snow lying in the adjacent graveyard, the fans were hoping for another hot contest.

Allan Johnston named the same starting eleven for the third match in a row with latest signing Callum Morris taking a seat on the subs bench. Jack Ross` side showed three changes with new signing Rory Loy starting. Jamie Langfield was in goals in place of the absent Scott Gallacher (injured in training on Friday) and Craig Storie signed on loan from Aberdeen also started.

The sides changed ends before Nicky Clark got the match underway with the Pars attacking the goal at the McCathie Stand end. It was the visitors who had the first chance from a free kick 35 yards out in a central position. Stephen Mallan`s yellow boot fired the ball just wide of Sean Murdoch`s right hand post. Then in the third minute a Kallum Higginbotham free kick was headed on target by Lee Ashcroft but into the hands of Jamie Langfield.

In the seventh minute Jason Talbot`s tackle on Rory Loy ended up with the Saints getting a free kick on the right but when that came over Clark`s diving header got the ball away. Then Clark played Michael Moffat in on the left side of the St Mirren box but Langfield was out sharpish to deflect the shot behind for a corner. There was indecision when the corner came over from the left and Andy Geggan almost sneaked the ball home at the far post but Andy Webster denied him.

Moffat was next to set up an opportunity for Clark but that failed to count and play switched from end to end with the tackles getting harder and more frequent. Storie hit a shot wide from 25 yards out and Callum Fordyce headed away a cross from the left that Jason Naismith returned but he hit the cross behind.

A Gary Irvine challenge on Clark earned the Pars a 28th minute free kick that narrowly failed to reach Geggan but the returned ball was laid back by Moffat and Clark`s shot was off target.

On the half hour Paul McMullan rounded his man on the right side of the box and his shot beat Langfield only to be cleared off the line by Webster. Irvine collected the first yellow card of the game after cutting down McMullan and then in 36th minute when MacKenzie took down Moffat as he drove in from the right, referee Willie Collum pointed to the penalty spot. Much celebration but would the Pars be able to convert the penalty?

John Herron grabbed the ball and handed it to Kallum HIGGINBOTHAM who stepped up and crashed the ball home. 1-0

McMullan was causing a multitude of problems for the Saints as he tricked his way in from the right and when Irvine took him down on the corner of the penalty box but Higginbotham`s free kick was cleared.

Saints then came extremely close a MacKenzie headed effort from a corner on the right hitting the right goalpost and rebounding out off Clark who was guarding that post. Two further St Mirren corners maintained the pressure until Moffat raced away on the counter only to be chopped down by Rocco Quinn who was shown yellow.

The Pars went in ahead but for a team adrift at the foot of the league St Mirren had put on a good performance with the main threat at setpieces.

Half time: Dunfermline 1 St Mirren 0

The second half was only 50 seconds old when the Paisley side had scored an equaliser. First Murdoch struggled to keep out a powerful shot and the ball was turned behind for corner on the left. Mallan sent that over to the far post where MACKENZIE arrived to power in a header. 1-1

In the eighth minute of the half Clark got the better of Irvine and he burst into the right side of the Saints box. The striker might have shot but the better option looked like the pass for Moffat at the far post but as he slid in he unfortunately sent the ball wide.

When Higginbotham sent in a cross from the left on the hour, Clark met it well with a header to the bottom left but Langfield dived at full stretch to keep the ball out. Three minutes later Higginbotham almost scored although he knew very little about it. The Pars man cut in from the left and tried a neat lay off to John Herron but that wrong footed his teammate and a defender tried to blast the ball clear only for it to cannon back off Higginbotham and drop narrowly wide right of Langfield`s goal.

Midway through the second half John Sutton and Fordyce ran on to a through ball and there were appeals from the travelling support when the pair tumbled, no whistle. MacKenzie got another good connection with a header from another corner from the left and sub Lewis Morgan sent a shot over the crossbar from 20 yards out.

A diagonal ball from Fordyce forced a 71st minute corner but Langfield made easy meat of Higginbotham`s delvery. Higginbotham then came close the following minute driving a shot from, outside the area narrowly wide. Higginbotham just seemed to be everywhere and he delivered a free kick from the right fourteen minutes from time just as St Mirren made their final substitution replacing one Kyle with another, Magennis for McAllister.

Herron sent McMullan away but when Clark got the chance to shoot he was wide left. Both sides looked capable of striking a winner and the crowd of over 4000 tried outsinging each other. The chants became a roar as Moffat was cut down by Storie on the edge of the box. Another yellow card before Higginbotham powered a low effort inches wide left.

The Pars piled on the pressure with McMullan getting blocked in the box, Higginbotham and Clark all trying to make a breakthrough. In 85 minutes Morgan almost managed to snatch the much sought after winner. He broke in on the left and created a chance that just could not be taken and it took a Geggan block to keep the Saints out.

Saints turn then to turn on the pressure and another corner from the left was successfully kept out. In 89th minute Higginbotham`s cross was met by Clark and his header missed narrowly on the right, bouncing back off the net stanchion.

Joe Cardle came off the bench in 89th minute replacing Paul McMullan and although he got into a position to shoot his effort was blocked and the three added minutes were completed without an elusive winner.

A better result for St Mirren than Dunfermline who rued their missed chances. A test of character for Jack Ross` team to come back from a goal down. Disappointing for the Fifers to lose a goal from a setpiece but Saints Gary MacKenzie felt disappointed that he had failed to get a hattrick of headers to count.

The point takes Dunfermline above Raith Rovers and into fifth place and with Falkirk only getting one point it was unfortunate that the opportunity to close the gap on them was not taken.

DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch: Andy Geggan, Callum Fordyce (c), Lee Ashcroft, Jason Talbot: Paul McMullan (Joe Cardle 89), John Herron, Nat Wedderburn, Kallum Higginbotham: Nicky Clark, Michael Moffat
SUBS NOT USED: Farid El Alagui, Gavin Reilly, Lewis Martin, Rhys McCabe, Callum Morris, David Hutton (GK)
SCORERS: Higginbotham (37 pen)

ST MIRREN: Jamie Langfield: Jason Naismith, Gary MacKenzie, Andy Webster (c)(Jack Baird HT), Gary Irvine: Stephen Mallan, Rocco Quinn (Lewis Morgan 59), Craig Storie, Kyle McAllister (Kyle Magennis, 74), Rory Loy, John Sutton
SUBS NOT USED: David Clarkson, Pal Fjelde, Lewis McLear, Reece Willison (GK).
SCORERS: MacKenzie (46)
YELLOW CARD: Irvine (32), Quinn (42), Storie (82)

REFEREE: Willie Collum

NEXT MATCH: William Hill Scottish Cup (away) v Alloa Athletic, Saturday 21st January 2017 kick off 3.00pm at Indodrill Stadium

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