Dunfermline started life back in the second tier with a thoroughly dominant display that had some of the gloss taken off it by a shambolic injury-time period where the hosts conceded two penalties.
Defensive frailties aside, Dunfermline should provide plenty of entertainment for the East End Park faithful this campaign. With hat-trick hero Joe Cardle on one side of the midfield four and impressive debutant Kallum Higginbotham of the other, they have plenty of additional arsenal to supplement strikeforce Gavin Reilly and Michael Moffat, while reserve striker David Hopkirk helped himself to a goal after coming on as a substitute. And when Cardle is on this sort of form, there’s few players better in the division.
“Obviously the ending put a bit of a dampener on things but it was great to get the win and always special to score a hat-trick,” said Cardle. “If we play the way we can do and don’t make those types of silly mistakes, then we can certainly be up there challenging.”
Dunfermline responded well in the face of early adversity after missing a penalty of their own before going a goal down. Moffat hit the post from the spot following Ryan Stevenson’s foul on Kallum Higginbotham, and things then got worse when Stevenson’s 35-yard free-kick was parried by David Hutton, allowing former Pars striker Robert Thompson to open the scoring.
At the other end Alan Martin produced a terrific acrobatic stop to deny on-loan Hearts forward Gavin Reilly, but he could do nothing to prevent Dunfermline’s equaliser as Cardle finished with a low drive after bursting into the area.
Having also played a part in the move which led to the penalty with a beautiful outside-of-the foot pass, Cardle’s terrific first-half display got even better when he put the hosts in front two minutes later. Controlling Ryan Williamson’s cross, he gathered himself, feinted three defenders on the line and planted the ball into the corner. The result was all but secured when Frazer Wright put himself into a three-on-one situation by passing straight to Moffat. The striker moved it on to Cardle, who kept his composure to complete his treble. The visitors’ misery was compounded when sub Mark Docherty made a similar error at the back, allowing Hopkirk to score at the front post.
Docherty did get the chance to atone for his error after Michael Paton brought down David Smith in the box. He fired down the centre of the goal and did so again after Lee Ashcroft saw red for hauling down Thompson in the fourth minute of injury time.