Alloa are celebrating successive promotions as they returned to the First Division after seeing off Dunfermline 3-1 on aggregate in the play-off final.
Scorer: Dunfermline Athletic - Smith (72)
Alloa win 3-1 on aggregate
Referee: C Thomson
The commanding lead established by the Wasps in last Wednesday’s first leg never really looked in doubt, even if Allan Smith’s second-half strike for the hosts ensured that the travelling hordes anxiously awaited referee Craig Thomson’s final whistle. But an indignant Pars manager Jim Jefferies, whose team have been relegated to the third rung of Scottish football for the first time since 1986, launched a no-holds-barred broadside at the authorities for forcing the club into the relegation decider.
The Fifers, bereft of experience following squad redundancies, failed to recover from the 15-point punishment that was meted out by the Scottish Football League last month as a result of their descent into administration. Just weeks after the club’s Under-20s competed in the Scottish Youth Cup final at Hampden, Jefferies now fears his youth set-up will be obliterated by a further round of cost-reduction measures as they prepare for life in the second division. The former Hearts manager even confronted SFL chief executive David Longmuir at yesterday’s match.
Jefferies said: “The damage was not done on Wednesday. The damage was done by David Longmuir and five of them in the committee that sat in on a meeting. This rubbish about points deduction should be looked at more closely. I don’t think any points should be deducted. Do they actually sit down and think of the consequences of it?
“It’s not the owner that suffers, it’s the supporters and players. Take sanctions against people that run football clubs and have not done it the right way. I think David Longmuir and the people on that committee should hang their heads in shame. I’m going to have to sit down and get a new budget. We can’t run a youth system because we can’t afford it. The 15 points has destroyed that.”
Jefferies accused Longmuir of trying to play down his involvement over their punishment. He added: “I saw David at the game and I made my feelings known. I was not happy with the answer, which was that he was only the messenger. For me that’s a terrible thing to say. I asked him, ‘were you in the meeting?’ He was in the meeting, he is head of the Scottish Football League, he was part of it so don’t try and weasel out of it by saying ‘I’m the messenger’.”
The final whistle brought fiercely contrasting raw emotion on the pitch. As Alloa gleefully celebrated their back-to-back promotions in front of their band of fans, the Dunfermline players slumped to the ground; the result took them to their nadir in a season in which they endured wage delays before the inevitable collapse into administration.
While sparing a thought for Dunfermline, Hartley was taking in the enormity of his feat after just two seasons as a manager. “You could never have imagined this happening,” he said. “When you take the job over, you just don’t know how it is going to turn out, but what a roller-coaster we’ve been on for the last two years. It’s fantastic. Some of the guys have been with us two years and I’ve told them to enjoy it. I thought we were brilliant. They’re a great bunch of boys. We’ll enjoy tonight and then we need to get back to work again. As a manager they were two high-pressure games and we’ve come through it with flying colours.”
Roared on by the majority in the 5,110 crowd, Dunfermline made a lively start as they set about trying to reduce the first-leg deficit.
The hosts probed without testing goalkeeper Scott Bain and Alloa striker Kevin Cawley should have opened the scoring after 23 minutes when he picked up Ryan McCord’s pass in the box, but the forward fluffed a tame shot at Michal Hrivnak from close range.
Cawley wasted another chance after running clear of Kerr Young as Hrivnak made a great block with his leg.
Hartley’s team began the second half playing like they were the side three goals down on aggregate. Calum Elliot placed a shot wide before Ben Gordon fired another effort off target. But Dunfermline rallied again just when it began to look like they had lost hope.
A stinging Josh Falkingham drive was brilliantly saved by Scott Bain inside the area, but Smith found a way past the goalkeeper in the 73rd minute. Falkingham’s deep cross was chested down by the teenager and he hit a low, first-time shot into the net from ten yards.
The Pars’ fate was effectively sealed five minutes from time when referee Craig Thomson showed Stephen Husband a straight red card for a high and wild challenge on substitute Darren Young.
Dunfermline: Hrivnak, Millen, Whittle, Young, Potter (Dargo 46), Kane, Geggan, Husband, Smith, Falkingham, Thomson. Subs not used: Byrne, Martin, El Bakhtaoui, Goodfellow
Alloa: Bain, Doyle, Meggatt, Gordon, Marr, Simmons, Moon, McCord (Young 60), Elliot, Holmes, Cawley. Subs not used: Tiffoney, Grehan, Doherty, McDowall.