Dunfermline 0 Dundee United 2

PARS remain winless in the Championship after Lawrence Shankland’s double kept United on top of the table.

The ex-Dunfermline striker struck twice in the first half and could have grabbed a hat-trick but his penalty was saved by Ryan Scully.

There was also one of the worst misses you’ll ever see by United sub Peter Pawlett.

Dunfermline took plenty of positives from the performance at Celtic Park, albeit they lost out in extra time, and that added to the expectation among fans as the league leaders came to town.

But this was a day to forget as the visitors, backed by a large and noisy tangerine army, ripped them apart in the first half.

Josh Coley and Andy Ryan were restored to the Dunfermline starting line-up with Kyle Turner and Josh Edwards dropping to the bench.

It was a case of friends re-United on both sides with Ryan Dow facing his old team – he used to have a season ticket as a kid at Tannadice – and a special East End Park ‘welcome’ to ex-Pars Nicky Clark, Paul McMullan and Lawrence Shankland.

They had the last laugh though as the visitors totally dominated with Dunfermline failing to create a chance worthy of the name in the first half.

Robbie Neilson’s men were quicker to the ball, they had more time and space and continually harried Athletic players on the rare occasion they managed to get hold of the ball.

Mistakes started to creep in as early as the ninth minute when Ryan Scully’s botched clearance went straight to Ian Harkes. He quickly transferred the ball to Shankland who shrugged off the attentions of Stuart Morrison and fired a shot over the bar.

Two minutes later he was on the scoresheet and it was all too easy as Sam Stanton found McMullan in midfield. He had time to turn and thread a pass through to Shankland without any Pars interference, and the striker held off Morrison to crash an angled drive past the keeper.

Morrison then duffed a clearance straight to Shankland who exchanged passes with Louis Appere and was just about to stroke home number two only to be denied by Paul Paton’s last ditch tackle.

Dunfermline’s players seemed to be everywhere the ball wasn’t and they struggled to get and keep possession, with poor passing and control dogging more than one man in black and white, while United were slick and moved through the gears effortlessly.

There were half-hearted shouts for a penalty when Andy Ryan’s cross hit Harkes while Dow did well to make space for a cross but it was too deep and the ball bounced harmlessly behind for a goalkick.

Shankland scored again on the half hour when McMullan tore past Lewis Martin and sent in a glorious cross.

The United striker got between Morrison and Lee Ashcroft to send in a downward header which Scully got something on but couldn’t prevent the ball rolling over the line.

Kevin Nisbet finally got some joy when he held up the ball and found Coley with a clever pass but the wide man picked the wrong option and by the time he found Ryan the chance was lost.

Dunfermline’s only real chance of the first half came from a corner in the 43rd minute but Ashcroft couldn’t direct his header under the bar.

There was almost an instant impact from half-time sub Kyle Turner who sent Aaron Comrie down the right wing. The cross was only half cleared and Turner took a smart touch to make space for the shot, only for Ben Siegrist to save.

Another blunder in the Athletic defence almost gave United a third goal in the 50th minute. Morrison coughed up possession to McMullan who jinked into the box and sent up a cross to the unmarked Shankland at the back post.

He unselfishly found Clark on the edge of the box but his shot with the outside of the boot just slipped by the post. Nisbet had a glorious opportunity to net in the 53rd minute when the ball was worked into the box and Dow dabbed it back to the onrushing striker. He was only 10 yards out but rushed it, the technique was poor and he thumped it wide.

Credit to the Pars, they kept trying and Turner’s ball into the box was attacked by Ryan. The ball fell to Ryan Beadling but he couldn’t repeat last week’s goal heroics and his shot lacked the power to beat Siegrist.

Credit to the Pars, they kept trying and Ashcroft should have done better than nod wide when Paton’s free kick found him at the back post.

United were content to sit back and hit on the break and Appere picked out McMullan on the run but his header was deflected wide.

The league leaders should have made the game safe in the 66th minute but sub Peter Pawlett was guilty of one of the worst misses you’ll ever see.

Shankland robbed Morrison on the right wing, as the defender tried to usher the ball out for a throw, and advanced on goal, rolling the ball across goal to the all alone midfielder.

It looked like a tap in but he somehow got it horribly wrong and sclaffed the ball wide of goal, an incredible escape for Athletic and a very red face for the United man.

Shankland was denied his hat-trick by a fine penalty save by Scully in the 76th minute.

Turner was harshly judged to have handled the ball when Jamie Robson drove a cross into his midriff from a yard away.

Euan Anderson immediately pointed to the spot but the keeper guessed right, throwing himself to his right to make the save and hold on.