Five matches that were pivotal for Dunfermline

This season Dunfermline Athletic returned to the second tier after blowing away their opposition in stadiums around Scotland. Here are the games that proved the Pars title credentials.

Forfar 0-4 Dunfermline

Allan Johnston took his men up to Station Park, Forfar in an attempt to replicate their Challenge Cup form and defeat the then league-leading Loons. Dick Campbell’s squad had won three and draw the remainder of the first quartet of fixtures. The Pars trailed narrowly having been beaten previous in Aberdeenshire a couple of weeks earlier but bounced back with wins over Dundee and Stranraer at East End Park.

Many positive aspects came out of the 4-0 drubbing of the Angus-based side. Joe Cardle scored a hat-trick, his first of two. It was also the team’s first clean sheet, of which they ended up with 16. Athletic was thought to be capable of achieving a top half finish. However, they would go on to be automatically relegated before the final game of the season after tallying 21 points in their last 30 results.

With only a single victory in the last few seasons up there on the artificial turf, to win three times in a campaign was something worth savouring.

Airdrieonians 0-2 Dunfermline

Airdrieonians have caused headaches for Dunfermline for a while now. The Diamonds were the only team that had a winning record against the League One Champions. Just once did the Pars overcome the North Lanarkshire outfit, and that was at the Excelsior Stadium. Historically, it is no better. In Airdrie, the homers have won 45% of the matchups.

The beauty of this victory was that it coincided with a six-game run of consecutive clean sheets and kept the unbeaten spell going at eight. All of this maintained pressure on Ayr United, who were Athletic’s last conquerors and in pole position.

The Fifers were nothing special on the day. Although, that defensive solidity proved crucial in gaining entry to the second tier. That result in that span was one of if not the most satisfying of the lot.

Dunfermline 1-0 Stenhousemuir

Having just beat Ayr twice in the span of a fortnight at Somerset park, it was imperative that the Pars kicked on and did not slip up before the opening game of 2016 versus Cowdenbeath. That first hurdle was against a porous Stenhousemuir.

Stenny proved stubborn to break down that day, and stifled their opponents excellently. However, even with a makeshift backline, Athletic still managed to battle past the Warriors with 10 minutes left.

At the same time, the Honest Men were being beaten 3-0 in Balmoor. That outcome resulted in a nine-point swing at the top in the space of two weeks and ended Ian McCall’s title hopes.

Peterhead 0-0 Dunfermline

Dunfermline went 15 games unbeaten cumulating in the 0-0 draw in Aberdeenshire. The away outfit had just come through two grueling Scottish Cup ties with Premiership Ross County, the last side they would have wanted to face on the back of that would be a Jim McInally outfit. Yet, they kept Rory McAllister quiet and left with what they needed.

That point killed off any chance of the competitors catching up on the league leaders barring a complete collapse by Johnston’s men. At that time, Ayr was trailing by seven points and an inferior goal difference with 15 matchdays left.

Dunfermline 3-2 Ayr United

On the eve of Valentine’s Day, Ian McCall was looking to cause heartbreak in Fife once again. By no means was the final tie with the South Ayrshire-based side a must-win, but it would have been nice to avenge the defeat suffered back in September.

Ayr went two up with a couple of goals in a few minutes in the first half. However, before the half time whistle, Brian Gilmour was sent off while Michael Moffat converted from the penalty spot and gave the home outfit a glimmer of hope going into the second 45.

McCall’s outdated tactics came to be his downfall. The strikerless formation allowed Dunfermline to pile on the pressure and get the goals needed to take all three points. It showed the test of character that had been lacking in the side when a goal down.

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