Pars victorious over Arbroath in seven goal thriller
Dunfermline Athletic secured their play-off place with a 4-3 victory against Arbroath on Saturday afternoon. Jake Gray reports.
Both teams fielded the same 11 as in their last fixtures, where Dunfermline beat Queen of the South and the Lichties were victorious over Ayr United.
The visitors started this one the livelier of the two teams. Just a few moments into the match Kris Doolan turned his man and fired a shot at goal, but Owain Fon-Williams was on hand to tip his low effort round the post.
It was the home side who took the lead in the 11th minute. Craig Wighton ran onto a long ball, and a lovely nutmeg got him past Colin Hamilton, who brought him down in the area and the referee showed no hesitation when pointing to the spot. Declan McManus stepped up and fired the ball to the left of the goal, leaving Derek Gaston with no chance.
Just four minutes later, the home side doubled their advantage. Kevin O’Hara gathered the ball on the left-hand side and cut inside before slotting the ball exquisitely into the bottom right corner.
Arbroath got themselves back into the game in the 32nd minute. Thomas O’Brian’s header was saved well by Fon-Williams, but the ball bounced off Livingston loanee Jack Hamilton, and nestled in the Pars goal to make it 2-1.
Just a moment later and the visitors pulled themselves level. Jason Thomson was brought down inside the area by Ewan Henderson and the penalty was awarded. Up stepped Nicky Low who rattled the ball off the underside of the bar, past Fon-Williams and over the line to make it 2-2.
Moments before half time, Wighton had a golden chance to put his side back in front. The striker bundled his way through the Arbroath defence and found himself one on one with Gaston, but his effort was tame, and the Arbroath keeper was able to save easily.
The opening 10 minutes of the second half provided little in the way of chances for either team. Dom Thomas was the first to threaten when his effort from range was tipped over the bar by Gaston.
The home side got themselves back in front in the 57th minute. Wighton was played through by Ewan Henderson and the striker kept his cool, picked his spot and made it 3-2 to Dunfermline.
Appeals for an Arbroath penalty were waved away by the referee after Hamilton’s goal bound shot was blocked by Lewis Mayo. The Arbroath dugout believed the ball struck the arm of Mayo; the referee disagreed.
The Pars got their fourth with 15 minutes to play. Henderson got the break of the ball on the left-hand side. The Celtic loanee lobbed the ball into the box for Wighton, who guided the ball into the top right corner to help himself to his second of the game.
With eight minutes to play, Arbroath pulled another one back. The ball was delivered perfectly to the head of Scott Stewart, who looped his header over Fon-Williams and into the top right corner.
The remaining eight minutes were nervy for Stevie Crawford’s men, who threw everything at the ball to keep their visitors from drawing level.
Paul Watson blocked a Hamilton effort, and from the subsequent corner, Fon-Williams was forced into an outstanding save from a Ricky Little header. Fon-Williams was unable to hold the ball and Arbroath almost equalised, but Fraser Murray was on hand to clear the ball off the line to ensure all three points stayed in Dunfermline.
Stevie Crawford was full of praise for his side after they secured their play-off place.
“To find ourselves in the play-offs was our objection at the start of the season and I can’t be prouder of the players in the last two weeks.
“There’s always been a belief. We got off to a tremendous start to the season, the second third was a hard period in terms of fixtures, and we knew there was going to be three tough games at the end of the season. Thankfully, we’ve managed to do it with a game to spare.”
Arbroath manager, Dick Campbell, felt aggrieved by decisions that didn’t go in favour of his side.
“The penalty Dunfermline got in the first half is the softest penalty they’ll get all season. However, they got it. Their second goal was a great goal, but the third goal is the argumentative point for me.
“Their striker doesn’t even jump; Tam jumps to header it and the striker backs into him. He had a bad fall on his shoulder, my players stopped but they played on, so they got the break there.”
Despite feeling disappointed with some of the decisions in the game, Campbell praised the efforts of his team.
“The credit for me was my team. For me, there was only one team that was worried, and it was Dunfermline. I didn’t think there was anything between the two teams and I’m very proud of my players”.
The Pars, having confirmed their place in the Premiership play-offs, travel to Alloa on Friday night. Meanwhile, Arbroath welcome Morton to Gayfield, in what will be a battle to avoid the relegation play-offs.