Yesterday saw his replacement Stevie Crawford’s debut in the home dugout, but for all the promise of a bright start and an interval lead, the roof fell in again as Championship leaders Ross County turned it around in the second half.
And as if that wasn’t bad enough for the Fifers, their continuing slide has now drawn them into a relegation battle.
There was an all too familiar thread to the tale that unfolded here despite changes in personnel on and off the field at Dunfermline. Throughout the campaign they have dominated proceedings on their own patch but been unable to put games out of their opponents’ reach. Yet again they held the upper hand in the opening 45 minutes, but despite going in at the break with a one-nil advantage courtesy of a composed finish from newly arrived on-loan Aberdeen striker Bruce Anderson, they knew it should have been a whole lot more.
Anderson impressed with his pace and immediate understanding with his new team-mates, but he also wasn’t clinical enough with a couple of similarly promising openings. Joe Thomson also ought to have stuck one away whilst the visitors put in a largely anaemic first-half display.
Was it enough? The answer came in the form of that horrible sinking feeling as County drew level within ten minutes of the restart. There was an element of genuine controversy as Billy McKay hooked the ball home after a Ross Draper effort looped into his path – the Dunfermline players protested vociferously that the Northern Irishman was offside but the match officials were having none of it.
The pattern of the game was transformed, with the Highlanders sensing that Dunfermline’s jitters in their own backyard were about to consume them again. Brian Graham almost had them ahead within 60 seconds, and minutes later McKay had the ball in the net again but, perhaps with the narrow margins of his earlier goal still in mind, this time the offside flag was held aloft.
The chances, however, were all coming County’s way. Eventually a piece of exquisite footwork by the experienced Michael Gardyne inside the box saw him create the space before lashing the ball high into the net to seal the points and keep the Dingwall men on top of the pile for another week.
“It was certainly not our best performance of the season,” reflected County co-manager Stuart Kettlewell. “We gave ourselves a foundation in the second half to go on and win the game.”