Dunfermline 0 Ayr United 0

Pars failed to score for the third game in a row in a stalemate that knocked Ayr off the top of the league.

Allan Johnston’s men kept the country’s top scorer, ex-Athletic striker Lawrence Shankland, quiet and had the better of the second half but just couldn’t find the net.

Aidan Keena and Joe Thomson both came close for the East End Park side but they had a scare right at the end when the Ayr hitman, who had scored seven in his previous three games, spurned a golden opportunity. 

The visitors actually had four ex-Pars in their line-up with Steven Bell, Andy Geggan and Michael Moffat joining Shankland.

Honest Men boss Ian McCall, another who graced the turf at East End Park, brought his side east looking to get back to winning ways while Dunfermline needed a good win to get their season going.

Athletic had a couple of half chances in the early skirmishes, Faissal El Bakhtaoui’s header lacking the power to trouble Ross Doohan while Kallum Higginbotham thumped a rising effort just too high.

Ayr’s shocking pink away strip may have seared the eyeballs but they struggled to do any damage in the first half hour with both sides short of a creative spark.

Declan McDaid had a shot blocked and Andy Murdoch’s trundler was deflected wide as the visitors tried to break Pars resolve.

Dunfermline claimed for a penalty when Declan Devine appeared to be shoved as he moved in on a Higginbotham delivery but ref Steven McLean waved the appeals aside.

Johnston’s men huffed and puffed but seemed to run out of ideas, with moves breaking down in the final third.

The real scare for the Pars arrived in the 32nd minute as Shankland showed his class with a defence splitting pass that sent Moffat in on goal.

Lee Robinson dashed from his goal to block the striker’s shot and Devine was on hand to hoof the loose ball out for a corner.

Athletic were living dangerously but managed to get to half-time without conceding. They could even have been ahead but Thomson couldn’t reach Higginbotham’s tempting cross that just needed a touch to send it beyond Doohan.

Another ball flashed across goal from the right wing but Keena failed to get enough purchase on the ball to send it into the net. 

In the 47th minute Higginbotham teased and tormented Bell before thumping a left foot shot that Doohan fisted away.

Dunfermline looked in the mood and a promising combination between Jackson Longridge and El Bakhtaoui ended in the latter’s drive cannoning off an Ayr leg.

That got the crowd involved again as the home support tried to lift their heroes and Keena was next to try his luck, but his effort thumped into a defender.

Thomson almost raised the roof in the 56th minute when the ball was half cleared to him, around 25 yards from goal.

He watched the ball drop from the sky and then hammered a superbly struck volley that was just too straight. Doohan was happy to gather at the second attempt but it was a ferocious hit.

Keena did well to create space for a shot but again it was cleared as Dunfermline enjoyed their best period of the match.

The striker then showed great skill to humiliate Michael Rose, pushing the ball through his legs for an audacious nutmeg before racing into the box and hammering in an angled drive that Doohan just managed to palm away.

El Bakhtaoui had a sight of goal but pulled the trigger early, when he was still advancing on the box, giving Doohan the chance to smother.

Bell was yellow carded after a clash with Keena, the striker crashing to the ground as he attempted to chase a long ball, and tempers were frayed again moments later. 

Sub Craig Moore could easily have seen red after a horrible late lunge on James Craigen after the Pars man cleared the ball but the ref booked him instead.

Shankland finally got a chance in the 88th minute when James Vincent lost possession cheaply but the Ayr hitman inexplicably steered the ball wide of goal and the home side could breathe again.