Crazy. It was an adjective used repeatedly by Dunfermline manager Allan Johnston after this tempestuous derby and it succinctly summed up an incredible 90 minutes that left nine-man Dunfermline clinging on courageously to take a point back over the Forth.
Kallum Higginbotham earned the Fifers a first-half lead from the spot and they looked comfortable enough as their hosts chased the game in vain. However, the scorer, pictured, went from hero to zero as he received his marching orders from referee Craig Thomson just ten minutes into the second half.
With Falkirk restoring parity via Jordan McGhee’s free-kick, the Pars had to withstand a concerted late barrage and a red card for Declan McManus in injury-time, when he was booked a second time for a push on Aaron Muirhead in one of a number of angry flashpoints.
“We said to Higgy at half-time he had to be careful because he was on a yellow card; he couldn’t get involved,” said Johnston. “He’s not done anything malicious, but he’s shoulder-barged the boy – it looked worse than it was – and he’s been sent off, which was crazy. He is passionate and he wouldn’t be the same player without that passion. But you’ve got to control it as well.”
On the last occasion these bitter foes clashed in the league back in August, Falkirk lost their heads and were stifled by two red cards as Dunfermline coasted to a 3-1 victory. This time round, the Pars lost their discipline, but they will welcome the point they gained.
Higginbotham appeared a man on a mission from the start. Some of his energy was positive for the Pars, most notably when he converted from the spot in the 28th minute after youngster Cieran Dunne had chopped down Nicky Clark. However, after earning a booking in the first half for a third foul in as many seconds, the 28-year-old was sent-off for a raised elbow on Joe McKee just ten minutes after his half-time warning from Johnston.
Falkirk piled men forward and the equaliser arrived when Dunfermline keeper Sean Murdoch slipped diving for McGhee’s free-kick, which nestled in the corner of the net. Substitute Nathan Austin struck the post with an injury-time header but the Pars were clearly the happier with the stalemate.
“I thought we did enough to win the game,” said Falkirk manager Paul Hartley, who is still seeking his first win in charge of the Bairns. “I felt we dominated the second half, especially after they went down to ten men. We had some great play and that’s the best we have played this season, according to the guys in the dressing room.”