With Kevin Moon suffering a back injury in training, Derek McInnes opted to pitch new loan signing from Dundee United Greg Cameron straight into the team for today’s match at East End Park and he promoted himself to one of the substitute positions as Saints looked to extend their advantage over The Pars and try to narrow the gap at the top of the table.
However, it was the home side who started the brighter and Jim Hamilton wasn’t far away in the opening couple of minutes with a high looping effort from the edge of the box which bounced just wide of Alan Main’s left hand post.
It was the 5th minute before Saints made it to the home side’s 18 yard line but Liam Craig was too deep with a cross and although the ball was retrieved by Steven Milne the move petered out.
The home side continued to enjoy the best of possession and after Kevin Rutkiewicz had conceded a foul, Alan Main had to get down smartly to push away Morrison’s 25 yard free kick.
The game was only 11 minutes old when Dunfermline had a great chance to break the deadlock from the penalty spot. Gary Irvine was rash with a challenge on Mark Burchill and although the Pars striker made the most of it, it looked a fairly clear-cut decision and Irvine raised little in the way of protest. The former Celt stepped up to take the kick but with Main going the wrong way he fired his effort high and wide of goal.
That was a real let-off for Saints and they reacted by beginning to gain some better possession. Peter MacDonald snatched a shot wide of goal and Pars keeper Paul Gallacher did well to stop a curving long range effort from the left foot of Paul
There wasn’t a lot of pretty football on display and neither side seemed capable of holding onto possession or stringing together a series of passes but nevertheless there was still plenty of goal mouth action: a Simmons 20 yard free kick was blocked and then cleared before Mark Burchill was just inches away from giving Athletic the lead with a lob after Steven Anderson failed to deal with a through ball and Alan Main was caught in ‘no man’s land’.
With six minutes to go before the break debut boy Greg Cameron tried a turn and shot after good retrieval work by Steven Milne but Gallacher smothered his effort. However, the keeper recently permanently secured by The Pars from Norwich City was beaten with just 45 seconds left on the first half clock.
The move which brought the goal had its roots in a clearance from Greg Cameron which was picked up by Steven Milne and he released Andy Jackson clear down the right with an intelligent pass. The Saints youngster ran onto the ball ahead of the Pars keeper and he was able to fire it beyond him and into an empty net – another great finish for Jacko’s 13th goal of the season and the first in 225 minutes of league football between these sides this campaign.
That was virtually the last action of the half and it allowed Saints to go in a goal ahead – a scoreline which probably flattered them but a vital advantage nonetheless.
Buoyed by that pre-break boost of a goal, Saints took the game to their opponents from the start of the second half and the opening 15 minutes saw a Rutkiewicz ten yard snapshot from a Sheerin corner kick blocked and the Saints defender couldn’t find the net from a tricky chance from the rebound and then Liam Craig slashed the ball high and wide from a good position when a ball into the six yard area was clearly the best option.
The home side’s newly-appointed manager Jim McIntyre brought himself into the game and together with the earlier half-time introduction Kevin Harper the home side began to come into the game again and in a frantic few seconds Main produced a fine save from Jim Hamilton but could only watch on seconds later as the big Pars striker sent a header crashing off the face of the bar.
With 20 minutes remaining Allan McManus replaced Paul Sheerin, allowing Steven Anderson to move to right back and Gary Irvine into the middle of the park.
The final stages could have seen either side grab a goal – Andy Jackson was nearly through on goal but had to settle for a corner kick but it was defender Steven Anderson who came closest when he charged forward into space before unleashing a shot which swung just wide of Gallacher’s right hand post.
The home side’s main threat was from set-pieces - and they gained plenty of them - but the Saints defence held firm and Alan Main’s handling was confident and secure when it needed to be.
The final whistle was greeted by a huge roar from the noisy travelling support although attention quickly turned to a touchline confrontation involving Dyron Daal – introduced in the final moments of the match - and Danny Murphy and both players were shown straight red cards after the game by referee John Underhill.
A great win for Saints – the home side will probably feel aggrieved at not getting a point but every Perth man dug deep to secure this victory on a day when it allowed them to make a small in-road into the leads held by Hamilton and Dundee.
WEBSITE MAN OF THE MATCH: A busy day for GORAN STANIC who was involved in a lot of the action but he handled everything that came his way and managed the threat of half-time substitute Kevin Harper superbly.
SAINTS: Main, Irvine, Stanic, Cameron, Rutkiewicz, Anderson, MacDonald, Craig, Jackson (Daal), Milne, Sheerin (McManus).
Subs not used: McInnes, Weatherston, Cuthbert
DUNFERMLINE: Gallacher, Thomson, Murphy, Simmons, Harris (Crawford), Wilson, Ross (McIntyre), Young (Harper), Burchill, Hamilton, Morrison.
Subs not used: McManus, Murdoch.
New boy Greg Cameron in the thick of the action
The referee's assistant gets involved as Dyron Daal squares up to Danny Murphy at the final whistle - both players were red carded after the game