Dunfermline Athletic

Airdrieonians 3 Dunfermline 4

Saturday, 11th Feb 2023

cinch League One: same again starting elevens for both teams. Gabby McGill (29) 1-0: Calum Gallagher (38) 2-0: Robbie Mahon (o.g.49) 3-0: Kyle Benedictus (60 pen.) 3-1: Matty Todd (66) 3-2: Matty Todd (81) 3-3: Nikolay Todorov (86) 3-4

A cold February afternoon in North Lanarkshire drummed up a match that will have Pars fans talking about and recalling for years to come.

This fixture which was postponed due to frost in December took Dunfermline to the Excelsior Stadium to play Airdrieonians there for the first time since April 2016. James McPake went with the same starting eleven as faced Montrose the previous week and new on loan signing Ewan Otoo was on the bench.

The home side named an unchanged starting eleven captained by former Pars skipper Callum Fordyce and including other former Dunfermline players Rhys McCabe, Gabby McGill and Callum Smith.

A large and vocal travelling support, 730 strong, had made the journey to Airdrie and they were certainly up for the fixture as their side wearing their third strip, attacked the goal at the east end of the stadium for the first half. It was the Pars who created the first chance of the game when Lewis McCann fed the ball to his right for Kyle Macdonald to tap the ball past his marker and hit a shot from the edge of the box that soared over the crossbar.

Chris Hamilton picked up a sixth minute yellow card in conceding a free kick 22 yards out and fortunately McCabe drove the setplay into the Dunfermline wall. At the other end McCann gathered a Macdonald cross and fired the ball through the Diamonds six yard box but there were no takers.

In 12th minute Deniz Mehmet was forced into action to stop a low effort from the right by McGill before a block by Josh Edwards allowed him to chip the ball forward for McCann to race all the way up the left and cross for Matty Todd to shoot from the edge of the box but his low attempt. It seemed like Craig Wighton had headed in a 17th minute opener as he connected with a Todd delivery from the right but referee Gavin Duncan saw some reason to disallow it.

The Diamonds keeper, Josh Rae, saw yellow when coming well out of his box on the left side and McCann went sprawling from his challenge. Unfortunately Joe Chalmers’ diagonal delivery slipped through the box and the home side survived a nervous moment. The tempo of the match was fast with neither team getting much time to dwell on the ball.

Aaron Comrie did well to deny Frizzell a shot in 28 minutes and the visitors defended his corner from the left but Dunfermline next paid dearly for losing the ball in their own half and a ball over the top was ideal for McGILL to latch on to an opportunity that he sent past Mehmet from 15 yards out. 1-0

A double substitution in 32 minutes brought Robbie Mahon and Ewan Otoo on for Hamilton and Chalmers but Airdrie did not relent any. Mehmet did well to turn away a Charlie Telfer shot but then Frizzell was about to end a good move by teeing up Calum GALLAGHER in front of goal and he made no mistake in scoring the Diamonds second. There were 38 minutes on the clock and it was 2-0.

Mahon’s 42nd minute shot from 25 yards out cleared the crossbar but the half would end without the league leaders managing a shot on target. Rhys McCabe’s side were well on top and there was going to have to a much improved performance in the second half.

Half time: Airdrieonians 2 Dunfermline 0

Chris Mochrie replaced Kyle Macdonald before the second 45 resumed and Rae had to tip a screamer of a shot by McCann from 25 yards out, on to and over his crossbar within 70 seconds. Dunfermline had two corners with no return before Euan Deveney scrambled away down the left flank and punctuated that with a cross that came off the shoulder of the unlucky MAHON to enter the net at the near post. 3-0

The away fans were on their feet and the Dunfermline players complaining bitterly to the referee in 56th minute when the, already yellow carded, Airdrie keeper slid out and handled the ball outside his box. No card was shown despite Gavin Duncan awarding an 19 yard free kick that Otoo smash narrowly over the bar.

There was a distinct feeling of injustice but the referee did show a red card to Callum Smith just three minutes later. From his own half Mahon made a run up the right side before exchanging a pass with Mochrie that played him into the Diamonds’ box. His on-target shot was blocked but dropped for Wighton who was denied the shot by the intervention of the former Par’s hand. Kyle BENEDICTUS stepped up and smacked the ball home low right with the keeper going for the other side, 3-1

With the deficit cut and the opposition down to ten men suddenly the hope of rescuing something from this match appeared possible. Kevin O’Hara was introduced in place of Rhys Breen as the Pars looked to exploit the extra man. Edwards powered an attempt into the sidenetting before in 66 minutes Mahon cut the ball back for TODD to crash home in off the left upright from 18 yards. His eighth goal of the season made it 3-2 with a quarter of the match still to play.

Now the game was firmly in the Airdrieonians half and at times the ball was headed around their box. The home keeper was warned by the referee as Lewis McGregor replaced Charlie Telfer. Nikolay Todorov was also brought into the fray with Lewis McCann being withdrawn.

There were nine minutes remaining when Benedictus found himself on the right, his pass picked out Mahon who squared for TODD to shoot home with the aid of a deflection, from 25 yards out. 3-3

O’Hara had a close one at the far post before in 86 minutes the incredible comeback was complete. It was Wighton who made ground down the left and his cross was expertly turned away from the keeper and in by TODOROV. 3-4

The scenes both on and off the pitch were of utter delight. The stewards suddenly arrived to make sure the Fifers fans’ joy would not overspill but this was a match in which remarkable or incredible weren’t words enough to describe it.

The added minutes were negotiated and the three points were in the bag. Too bad for the pessimists who sneaked out at 3-0 down, they missed a tremendous performance by a side that never gave up. Dunfermline restored their seven point lead at the top of League One but this was a huge boost to the morale and we have it all to do again next week.

AIRDRIEONIANS: Josh Rae: Cammy Ballantyne, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, Callum Fordyce (c), Euan Deveney, Rhys McCabe, Adam Frizzell (Justin Devenny, 67), Charlie Telfer (Ben Stanway 77), Callum Smith, Gabby McGill (Lewis McGregor 77), Calum Gallagher (Lachie Byrd 79).
SUBS NOT USED: Salim Kouider-Aïssa, Dean McMaster, Craig Watson, Bright Prince, David Hutton (GK).
SCORERS: McGill (29), Gallagher (38), Mahon (o.g.49)
RED CARD: Smith (59)

DUNFERMLINE: Deniz Mehmet: Aaron Comrie, Kyle Benedictus (c), Rhys Breen (Kevin O’Hara 64): Kyle Macdonald (Chris Mochrie HT), Chris Hamilton (Ewan Otoo 32), Joe Chalmers (Robbie Mahon 32), Josh Edwards: Matthew Todd: Craig Wighton, Lewis McCann (Nikolay Todorov 79).
SUBS NOT USED: Miller Fenton, Kane Ritchie-Hosler, Andrew Tod, Max Little (GK).
SCORERS: Benedictus (60 pen.), Todd (66, 81), Todorov (86)
YELLOW CARD: Hamilton (6)

REFEREE: Gavin Duncan
WEATHER: Cloudy 10°C

NEXT MATCH: cinch League One (home) v Airdrieonians, Saturday 18th February 2023, kick off 3.00pm

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