In what was almost a play-off for a Championship promotion play-off spot Dunfermline made what could be a significant move, securing three points against fellow contenders Queen of the South thanks to a Nicky Clark hat-trick. With Dundee United allowing victory to squirm from their grasp in Greenock it enabled Allan Johnson’s side move into the all important top four for the time being at least.
There will no doubt be many more finger nails to be chewed before it’s all done and dusted but having taken 11 out of a possible 15 points in their last five games Johnson’s side do have that most valuable of commodities – momentum. “We’re where we want to be,” observed the Dunfermline manager. “It’s up to us now, we’ve got three home games left. We’ve got to make sure we’re on the front foot and getting the results we want, starting with Livingston on Tuesday.”
Clark’s contribution to presenting the Pars with this opportunity can hardly be understated but he to endure some frustrating moments before he made the breakthrough yesterday. The outstretched leg of Queens goalkeeper Jack Leighfield denied him and another goalbound effort by the striker was deflected wide by a last ditch intervention from Kyle Jacobs.
Clark finally found the back of the net after 33 minutes, sending a glancing header past Leighfield off the industrious Fraser Aird’s cross. A bit like the buses another arrived shortly afterwards as he emphatically hit home a stinging angled shot.
So lightweight and insipid had the visitors been in those opening 45 minutes it seemed entirely plausible to suggest that the game was done and dusted. However credit to Gary Naysmith and his men as they somehow summoned up a degree of belief and determination to claw themselves back into contention. They were also abetted by some lackadaisical defending by the home side. The warning lights were flashing as Lyndon Dykes and then shortly afterwards Dominic Thomas both gave Lee Robinson’s reflexes stern tests as Queens began to find their range.
Eventually they engineered a way through to set up what had previously been an unforeseeable tense finale. Left back Jordan Marshall’s shot didn’t appear to be the most fiercely struck but it got the better of Robinson. There was a fair amount of unease tumbling down from the home stands at East End Park and relief was only provided just on the final whistle when Clark applied the finishing touch to a Ryan Williamson cross to secure his second hat-trick in the space of ten days.