Ladbrokes Championship: Dunfermline 3 Falkirk 1: 19/08/17

Dunfermline`s first win over Falkirk since the Championship winning season 2010-2011 came after a clinical start from the Pars. A bizarre second half where Falkirk were reduced to nine men. Then a celebratory finish as Joe Cardle nailed a very popular home win.

Manager Allan Johnston made one change from the starting eleven he put out the previous Saturday against Inverness Caley Thistle, Declan McManus returned from suspension and he took the place of David Hopkirk. Hoppy was one of five Pars who started in the Irn Bru Cup in midweek to find themselves on the bench for this local Derby.

Falkirk manager Peter Houston was without Rory Loy and Myles Hippolyte, and Peter Grant was named as a substitute. Kevin O`Hara was promoted off the bench and 22 year old Craig Sibbald came in for his first start of the 2017-2018 season.

Having won their first four matches of the season Falkirk arrived at East End Park after three matches without a win. Dunfermline had lost just one (at Ibrox) of their eight opening matches.

The Pars kicked off attacking the goal in front of the travelling support. Sean Murdoch was the first keeper to make a save, diving forward after 80 seconds to hold a Kevin O`Hara cross.

At the other end Joe Cardle tantalised Aaron Muirhead on the edge of the box before sending over a cross that was just too high for Callum Smith. Kallum Higginbotham gathered and cut back to Ryan Williamson who tried to get in behind the defence but earned the first corner of the afternoon. That was defended before the ball could reach Lee Ashcroft but Higginbotham`s next ball was to be crucial.

A through ball from the edge of the centre circle was perfectly weighted for Declan McMANUS to evade the offside trap and coolly net low into the bottom right corner. 1-0 and less than five minutes gone.

Tony Gallagher ran at the Pars defence, his first attempt was blocked and with the rebound he picked his moment to release a low shot that Murdoch dived to his right to hold.

Six minutes after opening the scoring the Pars made it 2-0. It was a slick move from Smith in the middle, out to Williamson on the right and then centred for CARDLE to stick away. Cue great joy at East End Park.

The midpoint of the first half arrived with Falkirk having seen a bit more of the ball without really doing a lot with it. Ashcroft showed lovely skills to get out of the trouble created by Talbot`s short pass.

Higginbotham tried a back flip on the far side and this appeared to cause some friction between him and Falkirk captain Mark Kerr. Referee John Beaton waited until play halted and then ran back to get between the two argumentative players. Having spoken to his Assistant Referee, Beaton showed both players 27th minute yellow cards.

The ground had hardly settled down when a McManus pass sent Smith through on goal but his shot was kept out by the left upright. Wedderburn broke through down the left channel and brushed away the attentions of three opponents to square the ball 15 yards out. Unluckily it was Gasparotto that met the cross and then, very soon after that Higginbotham hit a shot on the volley that went narrowly outside the left post.

Nathan Austin went down in a challenge from Ashcroft and from the 36th minute free kick on the right Joe McKee sent a low ball into the box that the Dunfermline defence has a simple task to clear. At the other end McManus smashed an attempt wildly over the bar.

Murdoch made a great save from Gallacher and then as the Bairns piled on the pressure several blocks. The opposition had a good opportunity when handed a free kick just 22 yards out but McKee drove his effort into the six man Pars wall.

Muirhead sent a shot from distance over the bar and there was to be one more chance for Dunfermline before the break. Smith sent McManus down the left and when the striker centred towards a smith in good position in front of goal, Gasparotto eased the youngster away from the ball.

A good first 45 then for the Pars who enjoyed 52% possession. Both sides had six shots, two each on target, only corner had gone to the home side but of course the all important goals had gone into the Falkirk net.

Half time: Dunfermline 2 Falkirk 0

Falkirk made two substitutions before the restart. Lee Miller and Peter Grant came on for Nathan Austin and Aaron Muirhead. The Bairns had been out early from the interval and they started back with renewed enthusiasm. They forced a setpiece on the right when Cardle prevented O`Hara`s progress.

Gasparotto glanced a header on Sibbald`s free kick and Dunfermline got lucky as the ball travelled out beyond the far post.

The match had certainly ignited from the kick off and in 52 minutes Craig Sibbald kicked out at Joe Cardle after he dumped him off the park in front of the North West stand. A straight red was the decision and for the second match running the Pars were up against just ten men.

Two minutes later great play from Cardle on the left set up a cross that Smith looked certain to convert from just seven yards out but unfortunately his effort would only have counted in rugby. Next in 57 minutes Cardle crashed a swerving shot on target but Thomson dived to his right to keep the Pars out.

On the hour McManus scrambled the ball into the Falkirk net as he got on the end of a Higginbotham cross but perhaps harshly, the offside flag had been raised.

Just ten minutes after going down to ten men, Falkirk were reduced to nine as sub Lee Miller elbowed Nat Wedderburn right in front of the stand side assistant. No argument on this decision either, another red card.

Dunfermline subbed their two front men as the match entered its final quarter with David Hopkirk and Andy Ryan coming on for Declan McManus and Cammy Smith. Hopkirk was immediately well placed to capitalise on a Cardle cross but Thomson tipped away the ball before it reached him. Next Higginbotham hung on to possession to get in a 70th minute effort that went high. His final chance before being subbed by Fraser Aird was deflected behind for a corner.

The contest might have appeared to have ended when Falkirk went down to nine players but the Fifers did not play well when their opponents were two men short. The nine men hit on the break and in 83 minutes the visitors got a goal back to make it a potentially frantic final seven minutes. The ever dangerous Tony Gallacher again got forward and crashed a shot that was kept out by the right goalpost. The rebound fell to TAIWO who lashed it in the top left corner 2-1.

It was Dunfermline though who had the chances to score the next. Sub Fraser Aird hit a left footed shot over the top before in the third minute of added time CARDLE latching on to a pass from Andy Ryan, netted his second of the day. The home fans left very happy chanting the name of Man of the Match, Joe Joe, Super Joe.

DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch: Ryan Williamson, Callum Morris (c) Lee Ashcroft, Jason Talbot: Kallum Higginbotham (Fraser Aird 73), Nat Wedderburn, Dean Shiels, Joe Cardle: Declan McManus (David Hopkirk 67), Callum Smith (Andy Ryan 67).
SUBS NOT USED: Lewis Martin, Aaron Splaine, Michael Paton, Cammy Gill (GK)
SCORERS: McManus (5), Cardle (11, 90+3)
YELLOW CARD: Higginbotham (27)

FALKIRK: Robbie Thomson: Aaron Muirhead (Peter Grant HT), Paul Watson, Luca Gasparotto, Tony Gallagher: Tom Taiwo, Joe McKee, Mark Kerr (c), Craig Sibbald: Nathan Austin (Lee Miller HT), Kevin O`Hara (Alex Harris 81)
SUBS NOT USED: Scott Shepherd, Cameron Blues, James Craigen, David Mitchell(GK).
SCORERS: Taiwo (83)
YELLOW CARD: Kerr (27)
RED CARD: Sibbald (52), Miller (62)

REFEREE: John Beaton
WEATHER: Overcast 15C

NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes Championship. (away) v Dumbarton, Saturday 26th August 2017 at the Your Radio 103FM Stadium kick off 3.00pm

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