Youngsters offer signs of hope for Dunfermline

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Following what seems like a ceaseless barrage of blows for Dunfermline, a fragment of hope indicates that their financial woes are not terminal.

Dunfermline Athletic 2-3 Hamilton Academical

Scorers: Dunfermline Athletic - Thomson (36), Husband (pen 65); Hamilton Academical - McShane (2), Devlin (57), Canning (77)

Referee: D Roache

Attendance: 4,697

But as the battle to safeguard the 128-year-old club’s future moves towards the genuine prospect of a happy ending, a survival fight of a different kind is on the horizon as the Pars brace themselves for a points deduction.

Troubleshooter Bryan Jackson – who has previously guided Motherwell and Dundee back from the brink – described Dunfermline’s chances of pulling through as 50-50 after being tasked with overseeing the club’s descent into interim-administration nearly a fortnight ago.

But the noises emitting from East End Park following Saturday’s 3-2 defeat by Hamilton are vastly more encouraging.

“You look to try and play well and look to try and get a result, but the most important thing is this club surviving,” said manager Jim Jefferies, who was forced to field a side with the average age of 21 at the weekend following the enforced redundancies of seven first-team players. “If we get through this period, and it’s looking more and more likely, they have got something to build on here with these young players.”

News that majority shareholder Gavin Masterton, much-maligned by the supporters, handed over his 94 per cent stake to administrator Jackson last week seems to suggest the former Bank of Scotland chief executive is not impeding the process.

New captain Josh Falkingham added: “There were meetings last week and the players were told they were good meetings. Fingers crossed this club can survive.”

The coming days will prove crucial for Dunfermline both on and off the pitch.

The Scottish Football League board will decide tomorrow what punishment to mete out for the Pars’ breach of insolvency rules, with a points penalty the likely sentence. On Thursday, Jackson will ask the Court of Session to ratify the administration.

The weekend’s result leaves the fifth-placed Pars only 13 points ahead of Fife rivals Cowdenbeath – who occupy the play-off place at the wrong end of the table.

The threat of dropping down a rung is all the more concerning given Dunfermline are being forced to rely heavily on untried youngsters since punitive cost-reduction measures were implemented.

Falkingham said: “We have known since we went into administration that we were going to be hit with a points deduction and we’ve just been waiting for that to kick in.

“It’s taken a bit longer than we thought but, in our minds, we’re ready for that.

“We know it’s not going to be great and we know we’re going to be fighting a relegation battle.

“We knew the last two games were vital to getting points and unfortunately we didn’t do that against Hamilton.

“We’ve got four games now, which are cup finals, and they are going to be big, big games for this club.”

Jefferies admits relegation would lead to more devastating cutbacks. “If you are to go down, a lot more of them would lose their jobs,” he said. “It’s not their fault that they’re in the position they’re in.”

The fund-raising efforts stepped up a gear at the weekend as Dunfermline supporters heeded the club’s rallying cry – 4,679 turning out.

But Hamilton – with interim manager Alex Neil in charge following Billy Reid’s surprise midweek departure – were not so charitable. Jon McShane headed in an Ali Crawford corner inside two minutes, but the Pars levelled through Ryan Thomson nine minutes before the break.

Dunfermline named three teenagers in defence and they were caught out again in the 57th minute when Michael Devlin nodded in another Crawford delivery.

The spirit with which the Fifers have battled against adversity all season was evident again when Stephen Husband powered home a 65th minute penalty, but Martin Canning struck a 77th minute winner when he met Lois Longridge’s cross.

Meanwhile, Hamilton match-winner Martin Canning insists player/temporary boss Neil has always had managerial attributes.

He said: “The old manager, Billy Reid, put a lot of faith in Alex in terms of letting him speak at half-time and he would ask his opinion about things.

“All the boys are used to hearing Alex’s voice in the changing room, it’s not as if it’s come from nowhere.”