Ladbrokes Championship: St Mirren 1 Dunfermline 0: 16/12/17

Manager Allan Johnston made two changes to his Dunfermline Athletic side for their first trip of the season to the Paisley 2021 Stadium. Dean Shiels and Kallum Higginbotham came in to take the places of Lewis Martin and Michael Paton.

St Mirren stuck with the same starting eleven that won 2-1 at Brechin. Their new emergency loan signing Danny Mullen was on the bench for a match manager Jack Ross predicted would be exciting and a potential Christmas cracker.

The low December sun made it difficult for the fans in the main stand but as they shaded their eyes Nicky Clark got the match underway with the visitors attacking the goal at the town end.

In just the second minute Nat Wedderburn slipped as Lee Ashcroft headed the ball out of his own box, Stephen McGinn pounced on the loose ball and fortunately when he slid the ball to Ian McShane on the top of the box his effort was blocked.

Jason Talbot made a timely tackle on Liam Smith as he threatened to burst in on the left side of the Pars box. Then Dunfermline had their first chance of the match. A clever backheeler from Higginbotham back into the path of a Ryan Williamson and it looked like he might score his first professional goal but the effort was deflected wide by the narrowest of margins for a corner on the left.

Lewis Morgan broke from the setpiece and despite three Pars players tracking him made a lot of ground before Ashcroft stepped in to clear. St Mirren were to repeat the move just a minute later and this time it was Gavin Reilly who was stopped by Sean Murdoch in the D at the top of the box.

The keeper got to the ball first but the St Mirren top goalscorer made the most of going over the keeper`s legs and referee Craig Charleston awarded a free kick. The home fans were howling for a red card but after consulting his stand side assistant pulled Murdoch aside and showed him a ninth minute yellow. McShane then stepped up and hit the free kick over the wall and over the bar.

There was hope at the other end too as a Higginbotham`s pass picked out a Clark to his right but the striker`s low drive was blocked by the St Mirren defence.

Reilly threatened to break in from the right and the combined efforts of Ashcroft and Talbot caused a 18th minute free kick that McShane pumped into the box only for Wedderburn to head away.

A move from Cardle to Clark to Williamson earned the Fifers a 20th minute corner and when Higginbotham sent that over from the left there was some inconclusive defending that ended up with a defender blasting the ball behind but off Declan McManus in front of goal.

Skipper Callum Morris was shown yellow for his challenge on Cammy Smith and the Saints forced a couple of free kicks as the half went into its second quarter. The second free kick from down on the right was sent over by Morgan and Reilly tested Murdoch with a powerful header.

Higginbotham was smacking the ground after he was spilled as he raced into the Saints box but play on was the ref`s decision. Back at the other end some slick passing set up the home side but McShane swished at the shot and Reilly was offside as he tried to converted the break.

The floodlights came on as the half hour mark past and again the home side looked dangerous on the break. Fortunately McGinn overhit his ball towards Reilly and Murdoch gathered.

Ten minutes from the interval Morris` tackle on Reilly handed St Mirren a free kick 35 yards out but McShane`s attempt to find his big men in the box was foiled.

Dunfermline were to go behind in 38th minute. Kyle Magennis` pass got McShane in on the right side of the box and h then sent the ball across the six yard box. Reilly could not get a connection but Cammy SMITH arrived to stick the ball in the Fifers net. 1-0

A Cardle free kick in 43 minutes almost created the equaliser. As the ball flashed in from the left McManus` diving header somehow managed to escape right of target. There was one final let off for Dunfermline when Reilly burst through one on one with Murdoch but he scooped his attempt high and wide right.

A free kick 30 yards out in the first minute of added time was hit over the crossbar by McManus. It had been a fiercely contested first 45 and there was plenty of evidence to believe that the visitors could get something out of the match.

Half time: St Mirren 1 Dunfermline 0

The home side started the second half the brighter, Morgan sending over a dangerous early ball and then forcing their first corner of the match in 49 minutes. Jack Baird was up for that and he came pretty close with his header on the delivery in from the left.

Cardle fired a shot narrowly wide from 25 yards and then Joe combined with Clark playing a neat 1-2 on halfway to send away McManus who was closed out and forced a 52nd minute corner on the left. Alas after it was taken short by Higginbotham that did not change anything

There was speedy break up the left by Cardle in 59 minutes and despite the close attentions of three Saints the Pars favourite got a cross in but Higginbotham was penalised for heading Eckersley as he tried to head the ball.

There were more signs of optimism when next minute McManus broke and Clark was given the chance to loop the ball across for Cardle on the 18 yard line but he could not get the shot away. The 330 strong travelling support rallied as Cardle again teased Liam Smith on the left and Talbot was able to cross for Clark to head wide.

Total confusion reigned for several minutes after referee Craig Charleston awarded the Fifers a 64th minute penalty. Williamson seemed to have been taken down on the byeline by Adam Eckersley but after consulting his assistant the referee changed his mind and gave the decision the other way. Williamson was yellow carded just to add to the confusion.

It was 69th minute when Higginbotham pumped the ball from the right touchline to the far side of the Pars goal, there was a scramble and miraculously St Mirren escaped with just a corner.

A 71st free kick kept up the pressure as Dunfermline really pressed for a goal. Cardle`s delivery targeted the centre halves who were up but they were blown up for too enthusiastic challenges.

Three minutes later Ashcroft got his head to another Cardle free kick but no one could convert the knock down.

Danny Mullen came on to make his St Mirren debut and his desire to make an immediate impact took some of the heat out of the Pars push. Dunfermline put on two sub of their own when Fraser Aird and Michael Paton replaced Joe Cardle and Kallum Higginbotham in 82 minutes.

Paton`s first involvement was to deliver a great ball in from the free kick on the right but Clark`s header was held by Samson. Next in 86 minute Williamson`s cross was flicked on for Aird at the far post but he sent what was a great chance wide left.

It had been a determined effort from the Pars for almost every minute of the second half and the four added but they were to leave Paisley pointless.

ST MIRREN: Craig Samson: Liam Smith, Jack Baird, Harry Davis, Adam Eckersley, Ian McShane, Stephen McGinn (c), Kyle Magennis, Cammy Smith (Cameron MacPherson 86), Lewis Morgan, Gavin Reilly (Danny Mullen 75)
SUBS NOT USED: Gregor Buchanan, Jordan Kirkpatrick, John Sutton, Gary McKenzie, Ross Stewart
SCORERS: C Smith (38)

DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch: Ryan Williamson, Callum Morris (c), Lee Ashcroft, Jason Talbot: Kallum Higginbotham (Michael Paton 82), Nat Wedderburn, Dean Shiels, Joe Cardle (Fraser Aird 82): Nicky Clark, Declan McManus.
SUBS NOT USED: Lewis Martin, Andy Ryan, Callum Smith, Jean-Yves M`Voto, Cammy Gill (GK)
YELLOW CARD: Murdoch (9), Morris (22), McManus (58), Williamson (66), Cardle (76)

REFEREE: Craig Charleston

NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes Championship (home) v Brechin City, Saturday 23rd December 2017 3.00pm kick off at East End Park

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