Volatile Dunfermline v Falkirk clash ‘needs cool heads’

Referee Craig Thomson shows a red card to Dunfermline's Declan McManus during the match against Falkirk on 4 November. Picture: Michael Gillen.
Referee Craig Thomson shows a red card to Dunfermline's Declan McManus during the match against Falkirk on 4 November. Picture: Michael Gillen.
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Dunfermline goalkeeper Sean Murdoch insists it would be only natural to expect a hangover in today’s potentially explosive derby with Falkirk following the abuse of team-mate Dean Shiels.

Falkirk’s Kevin O’Hara and Joe McKee were both found guilty of excessive misconduct at a Scottish FA hearing after being accused of mocking Shiels over his missing eye in a clash between the teams in October.

The unsavoury incident only came to light after the last meeting between the teams in November, ensuring there is likely to be a volatile atmosphere surrounding this afternoon’s encounter.

Murdoch has joined manager Allan Johnston and Bairns boss Paul Hartley in calling for cool headsbut believes the sorry episode could ensure a greater incentive for the Pars, who had Kallum Higginbotham and Declan McManus sent off the last time the teams met,.

He said: “They’re always good games, with a good crowd and a good atmosphere, and it’s one we always look for.

“They’ve been pretty tasty this season, and hopefully we can come away with the three points. We certainly won’t need much motivation for this one.

“There’s been sendings off and they’ve been pretty feisty and it [the Dean Shiels abuse] did play a part in the last game.

“We’re all team-mates, we’re all friends of Dean as well. So, we definitely wanted to get one over on them. What happened to Dean, it was pretty poor on Falkirk’s behalf.

“But it’s done and dusted now. We just need to focus on the game now. Cool heads is maybe a good message, because we need 11 men. We don’t want to be wound up by what’s happened in the past.”

The abuse of Shiels, who had an operation to remove his right eye in 2006 after partially losing his sight following a domestic accident when he was just eight, is the latest unpalatable incident to overshadow an unfriendly rivalry that stretches back decades.

However, Murdoch admits it has not stopped supporters of other clubs telling him they would love to experience the derby.

He added: “I’ve had people contacting me, who said ‘we need to get to a Dunfermline-Falkirk game because on paper they seem great’.

“That’s fans of other teams, and they are good games to be involved in. It means so much to the fans, just as much as Celtic and Rangers, for instance. Okay, it’s on a smaller scale, but it means just as much to these fans.

“It’s a good game to play in, it really is. It means so much to the fans, and there’s bragging rights at stake.”

Meanwhile, Falkirk defender Jordan McGhee has warned his team-mates they will only shoot themselves in the foot if they allow today’s clash to turn into a battle.

Fresh from picking up their first win under manager Hartley in Saturday’s success over Queen of the South, former Hearts player McGhee, pictured, insists the players must keep their cool.

He said: “The team that keeps the head the most normally comes out on top in these games so all the boys will be focused and channel their aggression out on the pitch.

“We’ll try to play the way we want to play and hopefully we can go there and get a result.

“In your own head you know what you need to do and the players are all focused.

“I’ve played in two of these games now and I knew what to expect having played in the Edinburgh derbies. It’s more or less the same. It’s always a fast tempo, tackles flying in and everyone aggressive, especially at the start of the game. Maybe later on you can get a chance to strut your stuff.

“Whether you enjoy it or not you need to be up for it and be committed 100 per cent. The boys will be raring to go for the game. In the big games I’ve played in myself, you try to block out the crowd. Sometimes it’s hard but most of the time you’re focused on yourself and zoomed in.”

The weekend’s compelling 3-2 win over Queens has moved ninth-placed Falkirk to within five points of Dumbarton at the Championship basement and McGhee is hoping for a bright start to the new year to boost their survival prospects.

He added: “It would be a great way to start the year and that’s what we’re looking for, to try and lay a marker for 2018 and get back to where we should be.”