Without a home win in the league since the start of March and in need of kick starting their season, the Pars welcomed league leaders Ayr United to East End Park in what turned out to be an enthralling and memorable encounter. Goals, drama and a little bit of controversy made for what was a great advert for the Scottish Championship.
Dunfermline started in a 4411 formation with Greig Kiltie playing in the number 10 role behind Kevin Nisbet. The goalkeeper and backline remained unchanged, captain Paul Paton returned to the midfield alongside Harry Cochrane, with Kyle Turner and Ryan Dow deployed on the wings. The Pars looked lively from the off, especially on the counter, Ayr had a large majority of the ball early on and forced a good save out of Cammy Gill from a header but it was the home side who broke the deadlock.
The Pars took the lead through Greig Kiltie, the on loan Kilmarnock man played a lovely one-two with Kevin Nisbet who’s lovely flick found Kiltie who rounded the Ayr ‘keeper before squeezing the ball past Andy Geggan in to the net. The opening goal seemed to really inspire Dunfermline who now looked really threatening, Kiltie played in Nisbet whos’s effort was saved by Ross Doohan and from the resulting corner Nisbet headed over from close range. Dunfermline really should have extended their lead, however those missed chances were punished as Ayr equalised right on half time. An Alan Forrest header was saved by Cammy Gill but his save came off the helpless Lee Ashcroft before crossing the line to send the league leaders level. An unfortunate own goal for Ashcroft although the Pars defender would go on to redeem himself later in the game.
Ayr came out in the second half a team completely rejuvinated, the goal came at the perfect time just before the interval and now United were pushing to go in front. Dunfermline brought on Josh Coley early in the second half in place of the presumably injured Harry Cochrane and it was the substitute who lost the ball allowing Ayr to break and take the lead through Alan Forrest who cut in on to his right foot and curled a shot into the far corner.
At this point there was a real dampner in the atmosphere at East End Park, it felt like the same old story that the Dunfermline supporters have become used to in home games as the team stared defeat in the face once again. The frustration amongst the supporters was evident as there were one or two grumbles from the crowd when Stevie Crawford took off Kevin Nisbet for Andy Ryan, a substitution that ended up working wonders for the Dunfermline manager.
Dunfermline fought back and got an equaliser in simply spectacular fashion. A high ball in the box was flicked backwards by Ryan Dow to the edge of the box to Lee Ashcroft who unleashed a Zinedine Zidane esque volley in to the top corner to fire the Pars level. An unbelievable strike that the Dunfermline defender will probably never match again, a perfect strike.
Andy Ryan’s Dunfermline career has been very stop start, every time he seems to be breaking in to the team and contributing positively he seems to drop out of the team through injury. Having scored off the bench away at Cappielow last week, the manager gave Ryan the chance to make an impact off the bench and his faith in the striker was rewarded. As the Pars chased the winner Andy Ryan was involved in everything they did, the striker got on the end of a quick Paul Paton free kick, rounded the goalkeeper but his shot was cleared off the line. He then had a left footed shot from inside the box that went over the bar after he drove with the ball from the halfway line before playing a nice one-two with Greig Kiltie. Ryan’s endeavour and determination was rewarded however, Kiltie, once again at the heart of everything the Pars did played the ball to Ryan who slotted low in to the bottom corner past Ross Doohan to win it for the Pars and send the Dunfermline fans into raptures.
Cammy Gill in goals was superb and made a number of great saves to keep the Pars in the game and protect the lead, he’s really starting to cement his place as Dunfermline’s starting ‘keeper. Ashcroft’s goal alone deserves a high rating however even out-with that, he had a very solid game at the back. Paul Paton has his best game in a Dunfermline shirt in my opinion and seemed to be all over the park, winning tackles, starting attacks and helping to drive the team forward. Greig Kiltie was my man of the match, he was sublime, a goal and an assist as well as constantly being the link between midfield and attack, he also should have had a couple more assists with good through passes to Nisbet and Ryan who both failed to finish. He looked the real deal on Saturday and hopefully we see more in the coming weeks. Andy Ryan as mentioned earlier, was the difference between a draw and a defeat. A super impact off the bench and you’d imagine he’ll be in the managers thoughts for next weeks game up at Tannadice.
A great victory for Dunfermline and finally sealing that long awaited home win. A great day for Stevie Crawford who set up the team very well with Kiltie playing in between the lines and having lots of joy and his decision to sub on Andy Ryan for Kevin Nisbet proved to be a match winning decision. That’s now four games unbeaten now in the league for Dunfermline who head to Tannadice next week to face Dundee United and Crawford will be hoping his side can continue their run of good form and continue to propel themselves up the league table.