Dundee 4 PARS 2, SPFL Trust Trophy, quarter-final

ATHLETIC have suffered a second cup exit in four days after a defeat to Dundee in the SPFL Trust Trophy quarter-finals.

After losing at Partick Thistle in the Scottish Cup, a semi-final clash with Fife rivals, Raith Rovers, in the lower tier competition was not to be as the Championship progressed at Dens Park.

Played at the third attempt, after two call-offs in as many weeks, former Par, Paul McMullan, slotted the home side ahead in the 29th minute, after James McPake's charges had made a bright start.

Lewis McCann, with his seventh of the season, brought Dunfermline level before the break thanks to a brilliantly taken headed equaliser, but Finlay Robertson restored the Dark Blues' advantage just before the hour mark.

Substitute Paul McCowan's late strike ensured it would not be a winning return for McPake, and number two, Dave Mackay, on their first return to Dens Park following their dismissal as Dundee's management team just under a year ago.

There was, however, still time for two goals in stoppage time, with Max Anderson firing home Dundee's fourth, before Craig Wighton replied with a fine curling effort for the Pars.

The League One leaders battled gamely, and enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges, creating some good chances, but it wasn't to be for them in the end as they are left to concentrate on their League One title bid.

"I think for maybe 84 minutes, or whenever the third goal goes in, we were well in the game," McPake said.

"I thought we started really well, had some good play. I think it was a good game actually, until the third goal goes in, and we were a bit unlucky.

"Fair play to the Dundee players. They were clinical at the top end of the pitch. We had some chances early on, but I think you can say it did maybe flatter them a wee bit, because it was such a good game.

"They've got good players that can hurt you, but I thought we were good on the night."

Pars boss McPake made four changes to his starting line-up from the team that were beaten on penalties by Partick Thistle on Saturday in the Scottish Cup.

Youngster Sam Young came into defence, while Kevin O'Hara, Nikolay Todorov and McCann were deployed in attack.

Missing out were the cup-tied Chris Mochrie, who had played for Dundee United 'B' earlier in the tournament, while Aaron Comrie, Wighton and Matty Todd dropped to the bench.

Former Athletic pair, Lee Ashcroft and McMullan, lined up for the Dark Blues, who announced some sad news ahead of kick off.

Their former midfielder, Patrizio Billio, who played for the Dens Park club in the early 2000s, passed away at the age of just 48.

Following an impeccable minute's silence in his memory was held, the visitors made a bright and quick start.

Inside the opening 10 minutes, Kyle MacDonald twice had efforts blocked; McCann headed over whilst trying to divert a Josh Edwards corner; O'Hara saw a low deflected shot well saved by Harry Sharp; and Kyle Benedictus tried to channel his inner Paul Scholes, firing a volley from a pulled back Joe Chalmers corner to the edge of the box not too far off target.

McCann curled another effort over as the Pars continued to press but, just short of the half hour, the hosts, who had worked their way back into it, took the lead.

A low ball played across the edge of the area from the left by Thomas found McMullan, in acres of space, who took his time before planting a shot beyond the helpless Deniz Mehmet in the Pars goal.

It was a blow for the visitors, but they regained their composure, and levelled nine minutes later in superb fashion.

Todorov started the move, picking the ball up in the middle of the pitch, around 20 yards inside the Dundee half, before spreading the play wide for O'Hara.

The forward, making his first start since September, having returned from injury against Peterhead 10 days ago, produced a peach of a cross from the right for McCann, who bulleted a fantastic header beyond Sharp.

Edwards and Chris Hamilton both sent efforts over early in the second half before Dunfermline boss McPake made a triple switch in the 54th minute.

Young, O'Hara and Todorov made made for Comrie, Todd and Wighton, with the latter immediately charging down a clearance from Sharp, which Todd, unfortunately, couldn't do much with on the follow-up.

However, just before the hour mark, Dundee took the lead for a second time.

After winning a corner on the right, they took it short and worked it to the edge of the box for Robertson, whose low drive through a crowd of players may have taken a slight deflection on its way beyond Mehmet.

The goalscorer, however, was soon forced off through injury, before Rhys Breen tried his luck from a free-kick, but couldn't find the target.

However, Dundee wrapped up the tie, and a semi-final with Raith, with seven minutes to go.

After being awarded a free-kick for offside from a Dunfermline corner, they went to the other end of the park and substitute McCowan, from the edge of the area, fired low into the bottom left-hand corner to make it 3-1.

Anderson's low drive into the bottom corner, at the near post, added a fourth for the hosts, before Wighton replied with a fine consolation for Dunfermline, who exit the competition.

Dundee: Sharp, Marshall (Kerr 45), Sweeney, Jakubiak (Rudden 63), Thomas (Sheridan 56), Ashcroft, Mulligan, McMullan (McCowan 63), Robertson (McGhee 67), Anderson, Cameron.

Sub not used: Legzdins.

Goals: McMullan (29), Robertson (59), McCowan (83), Anderson (90).

Booked: Thomas (50).

Pars: Mehmet, Young (Comrie 54), Benedictus, Breen, MacDonald, Edwards (Fenton 85), Hamilton, Chalmers, O'Hara (Todd 54), Todorov (Wighton 54), McCann (Tod 87).

Subs not used: Sutherland, Little.

Goals: McCann (38), Wighton (90).

Booked: MacDonald (27).

Referee: Craig Napier.

Attendance: 2,089 (458 away fans).