AFTER 40 minutes of frankly dire fare, the thought occurred that if this was indeed to be the last match ever played by Dunfermline Athletic, then that would be the only memorable thing about it.
Scorers: Dunfermline Athletic: Wallace (41), Barrowman (49, 56); Dumbarton: McDougall (51, 84), Turner (59), Agnew (65)
As so often happens in football, however, a goal changed everything and suddenly we had a firecracker of a game, a sight to warm the hearts of any neutral on a bitterly cold day. From being 2-0 and 3-1 down, Dumbarton found the wherewithal to pull off a quite astonishing comeback, with a couple of stunning goals featuring in their gallop to a 4-3 win.
The poor Pars supporters could hardly believe their eyes as the men in black and white stripes crumbled before the Sons’ late onslaught.
Manager Jim Jefferies admitted afterwards that it looked as though his players had been adversely affected by events off the pitch, and who could blame them? When the headlines are all about your club possibly going out of existence in a few days’ time, it’s not just supporters who tremble. The players did indeed appear to be affected by the whole air of tension around East End Park which was palpable, and not just because the fans were making their feelings known to owner Gavin Masterton, who must find a six-figure sum to pay the taxman before Tuesday.
Administration and an unknown points deduction is the most likely outcome, according to club insiders. That might push Dunfermline into relegation, hence the distinct atmosphere of gloom in this party of Fife.
Apart from Stephen Grindlay saving well from Stephen Husband and Andy Dowie shooting wide, plus a couple of comedy moments when both goalkeepers in turn attempted clearances only for the ball to ricochet off attackers and go wide of goal behind them, the opening 40 minutes contained little to flag up the arrival of the next 50 minutes of sumptuous entertainment.
After two “goals” were chopped off at either end for offside, Ryan Wallace finally got the real thing, his 11th goal of the season, taken with aplomb as he played a neat move with Andy Geegan, steadied himself in the penalty box and fired a fierce shot low past Grindlay’s right hand.
Andy Barrowman put the home side 2-0 up early in the second half, cutting inside Scott Smith from the left and picking his spot.
Three points for the Pars, thought their fans, but the Sons were having none of it. They raced upfield and Steven McDougall’s close-range shot off the bar trickled over the line.
Barrowman restored Dunfermline’s two-goal lead with a well worked goal, Husband feeding Wallace who put the goalscorer in the clear for a simple goal.
Surely a home win, around 3,000 onlookers thought, but Dumbarton hit a purple patch that started after the hour mark with a candidate for goal of the season, Chris Turner hitting a 25-yard volley into the top corner of Paul Gallacher’s net. Soon after, Scott Agnew equalised with a superbly accurate shot that gave Gallacher no chance.
To their credit, Dunfermline were still looking for a win and so were out of position when Dumbarton broke upfield and McDougall lashed home his second and the Sons’ fourth to give them an unexpected but welcome victory that hauls them well clear of Airdrie United at the foot of the table.
Dumbarton’s manager Ian Murray trained with Dunfermline during the summer and his first thoughts were for the players and supporters of the stricken club. “I trained with them for seven or eight weeks,” said Murray, “and I look back now and it seems I have dodged a bullet. I have no doubt that if things had not happened off the park they would be up there challenging.”
Jefferies bemoaned the effect that potential liquidation has had on his players: “A little bit of the heart and spirit has been knocked out of them recently. The off-the-field things have been affecting everybody at the club. It’s up to owner Gavin Masterton but it looks as if there is only two ways things can go, they’re talking about liquidation or administration, but we’ll have to see what happens come the deadline.”