Falkirk 1 Dunfermline 1: Tasty derby ends in stalemate

Kallum Higginbotham clashes with Cieran Dunne in the first half. Picture Michael Gillen.
Kallum Higginbotham clashes with Cieran Dunne in the first half. Picture Michael Gillen.

Nine man Dunfermline hung on to a point in an enthralling derby at The Falkirk Stadium.

The sides have now shared FIVE red cards between them this season in this fixture and it was the Pars who lost the place this time.

Picture Michael Gillen

Picture Michael Gillen

Paul Hartley is still looking for a maiden victory, but his battling Bairns gave it everything, even hitting the post in the fifth minute of injury time through sub Nathan Austin.

But the physical element was what dominated this derby, a real thriller for the neutral.

The ill-feeling has been bubbling since the opening meeting this season, if not longer, when Lee Miller and Craig Sibbald red-carded, and it has yet to dissipate between the rivals.

Yet an explosive derby began in muted atmosphere of a well-observed minute’s silence the game became an enthralling, heated, physical encounter.

Picture Michael Gillen

Picture Michael Gillen

Ref Craig Thomson tried to keep a lid on it, but had to dish out eight yellow and two red cards to ex-Bairn Kallum Higginbotham and Declan McManus. It wasn’t out of character for the whistler who has handed out the most cards per game in the Championshipso far this season, but the majoprity this week were merited in a combative clash.

He also handed a penalty to Dunfermline in the first half for a challenge on Nicky Clark by Cieran Dunne. It was the second such clash in the box for the youngster who made two stands of the Falkirk Stadium inhale sharply with a wild lunge on Ryan Williamson 11 minutes in. The Par hurdled that one but Nicky Clark couldn’t avoid the rash swing of the boot from the 17-year-old that led to the Pars opener.

Higginbotham sent Robbie Thomson the wrong way but prior to the goal Falkirk had been excellent, showing their best since Paul Hartley took over.

New signing Louis Longridge had tested Sean Murdoch and the build-up and battling from the Bairns generally had been excellent.

Picture Michael Gillen

Picture Michael Gillen

But the goal took the sting out of their attack and despite a rallying response from the Bairns the Pars saw the remaining 15 minutes of the first half out.

After the break though it was all about the Bairns– and the ex-Bairn.

Higginbotham had been over-hyped all afternoon and earned his second booking, which could have been a straight red for an elbow on Joe McKee after ten minutes of the second half.

Dunne scampered clear and almost rounded Murdoch but the Dunfermline goalkeeper raced into midfield to deny him – though from the angle of the press box in the stand there looked to be a hand used by the Pars’ number one.

Picture Michael Gillen

Picture Michael Gillen

The Bairns had been on the attack since the re-start and they remained so with a numerical advantage.

They made it count too when Dean Shiels, another Par in the thick of the action for the wrong reasons in recent meetings, fouled Cieran Dunne who was being singled out by the visitors. This time it came back to bite and Jordan McGheebeat Murdoch from 25 yards with the set-piece.

Paul Hartley went for his first win and pitched Rory Loy on for Joe McKee and then

James Craigenfor defender Conrad Balatoni as the Bairns upped the ante and only a lack of composure in the box cost them all three points.

Lee Miller had two gilt edged chances – one where his touch let him down badly – and Loyscooped another over as injury time approached.

That was marred by a spate of handbags first over a clash between Declan McManus and Aaron Muirheadafter the Bairn was booked for a foul on Shiels, and the Pars man was also red-carded after running 20 yards to get push the Bairns right-back.

Lee Millerwas also grappled in the box by Lee Ashcroft after catching Sean Murdoch late trying to turn in a Nathan Austinheader that hit the post,