By James Hunter at East End Park
St Mirren were left disappointed after being on the losing end of a seven goal thriller in the afternoon’s late kick off. It was a frustrating afternoon which saw the Saints take the lead twice in the first half through John Sutton before thinking they’d grabbed a point late on after a stunning goal from loanee Ryan Hardie. It wasn’t to be after Dunfermline scored a late winner to leave the Saints two points adrift at the bottom of the Ladbrokes Championship.
Caretaker manager Allan McManus made one change to the side that drew 1-1 with Dumbarton last week as the returning Rocco Quinn came in for Tom Walsh.
Saints began the early stages of the game in fairly bright fashion with Lewis Morgan flashing a shot from outside the box over the bar but Dunfermline took control with Joe Cardle having the first big opening of the match but failed to control the ball through from John Herron.
Cardle was a live-wire and was the recipient of a great cross from Nicky Clark that found the attacker unmarked in the Buddies box but he failed to get enough purchase on the header. Along with Cardle, Michael Paton was also having a good game and had a great chance from a free kick with 15 minutes on the clock. Clark was fouled by Gary Irvine just outside the box but Paton put the ball well over the bar when he should have at least tested Scott Gallacher.
After another good moment from Cardle, St Mirren started to grow into the game again and Stephen Mallan went close from long range, winning a corner for Saints. Just over a minute later St Mirren took the lead through John Sutton. It was the striker’s third goal of the season as he slid in to knock Lewis Morgan’s cutback beyond Sean Murdoch in the Dunfermline goal. It was the first time this season that the Buddies had taken the lead in a game in the league but it was to be short-lived when the hosts levelled the game 10 minutes later.
Nicky Clark headed home from a Jason Talbot cross to give the Pars what seemed to be a much needed boost before half time. But the home fans delight at being back on level terms wouldn’t last long as Sutton fired Saints back into the lead just before half time. A long ball from the right was scooped out of the air by Sutton who turned the defender and lashed a shot from the edge of the box low into the right hand corner of the net. It was a fantastic finish from the experienced striker to put Saints ahead for the second time of the match and give the side confidence going into the break.
Half-Time: Dunfermline Athletic 1-2 St Mirren
That confidence was evident in the early period of the second half with the Buddies going close to adding a third through Jason Naismith and John Sutton. However, those chances came after two scares from Joe Cardle and Gavin Reilly who both had good opportunities to get Dunfermline level. The chances for Cardle and Reilly were both similar as they creeped into the Saints box on the right hand side but both saw their chances go just wide.
Naismith went agonisingly near to getting his first goal of the season when he broke into the Pars box and saw his shot across goal go mightily close to nestling into the back of the net. This buoyed the away support and the team and it was Sutton who almost nabbed himself a hat-trick a minute later when he headed just beyond the post. The Englishman rose above everyone in the box to get on the end of Mallan’s free kick but was left disappointed not to have given Saints a cushion.
Dunfermline equalised for the second time in the match just after the hour mark in bizarre fashion. Nicky Clark saw his effort saved well by Gallacher and then the rebounded attempt hit the post before coming off Andy Webster and ending up in the back of the St Mirren net. It was a disappointing blow after a good start from the Saints, however Dunfermline had grown back into the game in the couple of minutes before the goal.
Allan McManus made a change with just over 20 minutes to go when he brought Tom Walsh on for Lewis Morgan. The introduction looked promising when, having only been on the pitch for a few moments, Walsh put in a tantalising ball across the box which evaded Murdoch but there was nobody in the red of St Mirren to attack the ball.
There was a belief from the Saints that they could go on to win the game and Mallan saw an effort from outside the area go narrowly beyond the post, much to the relief of Murdoch. However, only 2 minutes later some slack St Mirren defending allowed Clark to grab his second of the match. The striker peeled away from the visiting defence to sweep home a Paton cross.
There was fight in this Buddies team though and less than five minutes after Clark had put Dunfermline in the lead for the first time in the match, St Mirren fought back to make it 3-3. Ryan Hardie picked up the ball on the right hand side and cut in before firing off a speculative effort that rocketed into the back of the Dunfermline net.
The game was far from over though and Saints were to be the masters of their own downfall when Kyle Hutton attempted to play the ball back to goalkeeper Gallacher. Dunfermline substitute Farid El Alagui nicked in to put the ball beyond the keeper and give Dunfermline a precious three points.
Full-Time: Dunfermline Athletic 4-3 St Mirren
Dunfermline Athletic: Murdoch, Talbot, Martin, Ashcroft, Fordyce (Williamson 46), Geggan, Cardle (McMullan 78), Reilly (El Alagui 73), Clark, Herron, Paton.
Subs Not Used: McCabe, Higginbotham, Moffat, Hutton (GK).
St Mirren: Gallacher, Naismith, Baird, MacKenzie (Webster 43), Irvine, Morgan (Walsh 67), Mallan, Hutton, Quinn, Hardie, Sutton.
Subs Not Used: McDonald, Whyte, Shankland, Clarkson, Langfield (GK).
Referee: Greg Aitken.
Assistant Referee: Graeme Stewart.
Assistant Referee: David Dunne.
4th Official: Scott Millar.
Match report and gallery pictures by Allan Picken – © Allan Picken Photography.