Dumbarton 0 PARS 4

ATHLETIC stormed to the top of the Championship table after a clinical performance saw them stroll past Dumbarton yesterday afternoon.

Joe Cardle's early opener and Kallum Higginbotham's cool finish put Allan Johnston's high-flying side two goals up at the interval before substitutes Nicky Clark and Andy Ryan rounded off the scoring.

The home side finished with 10 men after former Par Andy Dowie saw red late on for two yellow cards as Dunfermline recorded their third league win on the bounce.

It also took their goal-haul to an impressive 13 in just four league matches and has provided encouragement that they can make a serious push for the title.

Unsurprisingly, Johnston named the same starting line-up that saw off Falkirk last weekend but there was a welcome return to the bench for Clark following a spell out with an ankle problem.

The Pars have been making a habit of starting games at a frantic pace and hitting the net early, and that scenario played out once more against the Sons.

Five minutes was all it took for them to move ahead through Cardle.

Higginbotham started the move, releasing Declan McManus on the right side of the penalty box, who took it beyond goalkeeper Alan Martin.

His cross found Smith, whose initial effort was headed off the line and onto the post by Sam Wardrop, before the Dumbarton man cleared another effort heading for goal.

But he could only clear as far as Cardle, who made no mistake from six yards for his eighth goal of the season.

The visitors continued to play on the front foot and, when their second goal arrived, it was one to savour.

Breaking forward from a Dumbarton corner, Higginbotham found Smith on halfway, who in turn moved the ball left for Cardle.

With Higginbotham making a lung-bursting run to support on his outside, Cardle slipped the ball into his path and he coolly slotted home across the keeper in the 27th minute.

Athletic were in control of proceedings but, following the second goal, the pace of the game dropped slightly, although they still looked menacing going forward.

Dumbarton did come close in the 72nd minute when Craig Barr headed a corner off Sean Murdoch's crossbar, but they were reduced to 10 men five minutes later when Dowie was given a second booking for an attempted trip on David Hopkirk, who ran through on goal but shot wide.

He did however provide an assist with three minutes to go when his excellent cross from the left found Clark at the far post, who made no mistake in heading home.

The rout - and Dunfermline's procession to the summit - was completed in stoppage time when Higginbotham's pass to Clark was cleverly laid off for Ryan, who confidently stroked home his first league goal for the Pars.