Dunfermline will go into their play-off encounter against Dundee United with burgeoning belief and the endorsement of Sir Alex Ferguson after sealing fourth place in the Championship with an assured victory over Dumbarton.
Ferguson was at East End Park to watch his old club as they commemorated the 50th anniversary of their 1968 Scottish Cup triumph over Hearts. The current crop duly took inspiration and marked the occasion with the victory they wanted to continue their promotion bid beyond the regulation season.
Roy Barry, captain of the ’68 side that earned the club its last major silverware, emerged from the East End Park tunnel before kick-off with the Scottish Cup glinting in the bright Fife sunshine. The performance that followed gave the supporters who loudly hailed the heroes of yesteryear something fresh to cheer.
They were aided significantly by the red card dished out to Dumbarton defender Craig Barr after just eight minutes for a last-man foul on Andy Ryan, but they took full advantage and had their play-off slot sewn up by half-time.
A superb double from Kallum Higginbotham and a third from Fraser Aird ensured there would be no nerves contemplating the consequences of Inverness Caley Thistle’s victory at Morton. Instead, there was a freedom about the Pars’ play as they looked forward to Tuesday’s quarter-final first-leg at home to United on a high.
“If you look at the second-half of the season, we’ve been paying strongly,” beamed manager Allan Johnston. “We’ve got a bit of momentum, we’re not losing a lot of goals and we’re scoring goals. So, it sets it up for a really good game on Tuesday night. Hopefully we can put in a really good performance and score a couple of goals.”
Dunfermline grabbed the early breakthrough they craved after just 17 minutes. Aird curved over a pin-point cross from the left and Higginbotham was perfectly placed to hammer in a volley at the back post. Seven minutes later, any doubts over the outcome of were dispersed with the Fifers’ second. Aird was again the provider, floating a wonderful through ball over the top of the defence to pick out Higginbotham’s piercing run from right to left, and the winger finished from an acute angle.
After laying on the first two, Aird netted the third as he cut inside from the left and curled a composed finish into the far corner of the net.
With the job done, the second-half was less eventful, but Dunfermline still managed to add a fourth. Ryan Williamson’s finish on a Joe Cardle pass belied a man who had never scored for the club before.