AS Dunfermline’s Ryan Wallace lay injured on the turf, a group of Livingston fans jeered. “Just dig a hole,” one wag yelled. Too late – the Fife club dug their way into one of those a long time ago. The focus now is getting themselves out of it.
Scorers: Livingston - Andreu 54; McNulty 70; Dunfermline - Thomson 22; Husband 90
Given the cloud of gloom hanging over East End Park, football seems almost incidental at the moment but it was the owner Gavin Masterton’s inability to marry football ambitions with a sound budget that has proved fundamental to the mess in which the club finds itself, while people’s passion for the game remains the best hope of finding a route out of it.
Yesterday, they travelled to a club who have been through it all before but who weren’t in a sympathetic mood. They wanted a win. In such an equation, yesterday’s result was massive for Dunfermline. The equaliser, coming at the death, was greeted like a winner and reminded the fans what it was like to have something worth celebrating.
The assortment of youngsters who filled the void left by the cull of first-team regulars, and who refused to buckle after the week they have had, didn’t let their heads go down after their 1-0 lead was overhauled. They showed the will and the wherewithal to secure the equaliser after the game had edged into stoppage time, and it was no more than they deserved.
Their manager, Jim Jefferies, said he was proud of them. No wonder. He also said that if the club can negotiate the financial mire, the young lads proved they still have the potential to offer something on the park.
As the volunteers rattled the collection buckets emblazoned with the reminder “THE PARS NEED YOU” prior to kick-off, throughout the interval and after the celebrations had subsided at full-time, the best pick-me-up of the day came on the pitch as Dunfermline took a 22nd-minute lead courtesy of Ryan Thomson.
On Thursday, stalwarts such as captain Jordan McMillan, Joe Cardle, Paul Gallacher, Andy Dowie, Stephen Jordan, Andy Kirk and Andy Barrowman were among those offloaded from the pay bill. The re-jigged team – comprised mainly of kids, some of them forced to play out of position – were also shy of guys who had been on loan and others, such as Andy Geggan and Callum Morris, thanks to injury. It meant a half-fit John Potter was drafted in to offer some experience at the back. He lasted until the 53rd minute. In the 54th, Livingston equalised through Antony Andreu. They then took the lead with 20 minutes remaining, when Marc McNulty finally found a way past Dunfermline’s new first-choice keeper, Michal Hrivnak.
Minus Potter and the substituted Craig Dargo, who has reached a deal with the interim administrator that will see him play for peanuts for the remainder of the season, new captain Josh Falkingham was the oldest. Just 22 years old, he had assumed the persona of a captain the minute he donned the armband, geeing up his team-mates and showing all the leadership qualities associated with the role.
“What a marvellous response. They threw off the shackles when we went 2-1 down,” said Jefferies, who had rearranged his personnel several times in the build-up but insisted the penalty which Stephen Husband put away after Shaun Byrne was felled in the 90th minute, was the payback his players merited, after the impressive Ross Millen’s shot hit the bar and apparently crossed the line. But those appeals, along with those for an earlier penalty for another foul on Byrne, were denied.
“We had guys like Alex Whittle, who is a left winger and a young left winger but we had him at left back. I told him he would either be Jordi Alba or Radio Alba and at least that got a big laugh in the dressing room. But they fought well for each other. The physio just said it feels like a 3-0 win because of everything that has gone on.”
The spirit and togetherness evident on the pitch was reflected in the stands, where Paul Gallacher and former assistant Gerry McCabe offered their support despite being laid off.
“Gerry was here and he is still going to sit in the stand and spot things for us and report down at half-time and that speaks volumes for the type of guy he is,” said Jefferies. “And the experienced players, they helped these young players to become the players they are and I said the way to thank them was to go out and carry their work on.
“If we take whatever points reduction [the SFL dole out this week] and we can still survive then, I told these boys, they can be legends in six weeks’ time. You could see the response of the fans. We needed a right big lift after everything that’s happened and they gave us it.”