Stephen Dobbie may be in the autumn of his career but, when he unleashes the arsenal of technique, intelligence and clinical finishing which has brought success north and south of the border, there is arguably not a better player in the Scottish Championship.
The 35-year-old was imperious at East End Park yesterday, netting a hat-trick for Queen of the South in 15 dazzling second-half minutes. He took advantage of sloppy Dunfermline defending to fire home from the edge of the box, converted a penalty kick before putting the finishing touches to a swift late counter-attack from close range.
Those goals – which took his tally for the campaign to 18 – were the tip of the iceberg as he tormented the hosts with his movement, vision and efficacy throughout what Gary Naysmith described as the most complete display of his Queens tenure.
Chris Kane, while somewhat overshadowed by his mercurial strike-partner, registered a brace with two clinical low finishes to break his league duck since joining on loan from St Johnstone and ensure Queens leapt into third spot.
“That is probably the best performance of my time here,” said Naysmith. “And it could have been more. I thought we were first-class from start to finish and our forward play was as good as you’ll see in this division.
“Dobbs [Dobbie] was unplayable, the Dunfermline players didn’t want to go near him, and I was delighted with Kano [Kane] too. I thought he was different class.”
Goals from Nicky Clark, who briefly afforded the hosts hope by making it 2-1 two minutes after the break, and a Declan McManus consolation were cold comfort for the furious home support, who saw their side drop out of the promotion places following a sixth league game without a win.
Manager Allan Johnston did not shy away from his side’s deficiencies.
“That’s the worst we’ve been,” he lamented. “We’ve lost five really poor goals and, although Dobbie was head and shoulders above everyone, you need to pick him up. We allowed him to dominate the game and were miles off what we are capable of.”