Dunfermline Athletic 3 - 1 Falkirk: Cardle hits brace

Nine-man Falkirk lost their cool as bitter rivals Dunfermline registered their first victory in this fixture in 11 attempts.

Joe Cardle nets for Dunfermline. Picture: Michael Gillen

The Pars took just five minutes to make the breakthrough that they and their supporters craved. Declan McManus displayed calmness amidst the maelstrom to find the net and just six minutes later, the Fifers doubled their advantage with the first of a brace for Joe Cardle.

Cardle played for Dunfermline the last time they beat Falkirk in 2011 and, after Tom Taiwo had given the Bairns a glimmer of hope with an unlikely counter seven minutes from time, the winger sealed victory with his second in the 90th minute.

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Defeat leaves the visitors without a win in three league games and rooted in joint bottom spot – though they only had themselves to blame early in the second-half as first Craig Sibbald, and then Lee Miller, were sent off just nine minutes apart for off-the-ball incidents.

“It was a terrible day,” moaned Falkirk manager Peter Houston. “We trotted about in the first half and they went about it with pace and sliced through our back four far too easily. We were soft as putty.

“Then, at 2-0 down, when one goal brings you right back into it, we saw a total lack of discipline from two senior players, who let the club down today. They will be disciplined, they’re not getting away with that.”

There was bad blood the last time the teams met, when Myles Hippolyte dived to win the penalty that sparked a Falkirk comeback and was subsequently disciplined by the SFA. The Bairns attacker missed this game through injury and that may have taken some heat out of a still-frenetic opening, but by full-time there was plenty of warmth in the home stands.

Referee John Beaton, who saw the red card he showed Ryan Jack in the controversial Rangers-Hibs meeting last weekend overturned on Thursday, had more clear-cut decisions to make in ordering off Sibbald and Miller.

Sibbald was making his first start since re-signing for his boyhood club but the midfielder reacted angrily to a challenge from Cardle and lashed out with his boot.

As if that was not bad enough for the Bairns, their job was made impossible with 28 minutes left. Miller had been introduced at half-time as manager Peter Houston sought a foothold in a game that was slipping away. But, instead, the experienced striker let himself and his team-mates down. Easily shrugged aside by Nat Wedderburn, Miller caught the midfielder with a flailing elbow and was sent packing to a chorus of boos.

Those same supporters had been cheering to the rafters in the fifth minute when Dunfermline took the lead. Kallum Higginbotham, who was in the Falkirk team the last time the Pars defeated their old foes, sliced the visitors’ defence wide open with a superb pass and McManus rolled in a cool finish.

Six minutes later, Dunfermline’s effervescent attack paid off again. Higginbotham freed Ryan Williamson down the right and his low centre was slotted past Robbie Thomson by Cardle.

There were concerns in the home ranks when, with seven minutes left, Taiwo curled into the top corner after Tony Gallacher had struck the post with a low drive. However, Cardle’s finish from a Fraser Aird through ball sealed victory in the third minute of added time.

“We struggled to get results against Falkirk last season, so it’s a really encouraging performance,” said Dunfermline manager Allan Johnston. “These are the games you want to win. They’re massive games, there was a good crowd, a good atmosphere. We won the battle but still had the composure to pass the ball. I’m sure Falkirk will be up there challenging come the end of the season, so it just shows you how big a result it was.”