PARS 0-0 FC Edinburgh

ATHLETIC have extended their advantage at the top of League One despite being held to a frustrating scoreless draw by FC Edinburgh.

Falkirk's defeat at Queen of the South means that James McPake's team are now nine points clear at the summit, with eight games to go, but they will rue the opportunity missed not to go even further clear.

An, at times, physical encounter saw both dugouts involved in heated exchanges during the second half, and at full-time, as Dunfermline's three-game winning run came to an end.

They do, however, remain unbeaten at home, and with a record of only one loss in 28 League One games.

McPake, who said that Matty Todd, who was forced off early after taking a knock, and Rhys Breen, who went off with a suspected hamstring probably, would be assessed to find out the extent of any damage, described as his team's worst display of the season.

He said: "We're disappointed in the performance. Take away the result, it's the performance that disappoints us today. We were nowhere near what we can be.

"Probably, in my opinion, that's our worst performance of the season, over the course of that game.

"That's why I'm disappointed. I'm a human being; I want to win games of football, like all those players do. I want to perform well. We're big on how the performances have to be right to play for this football club. Today it wasn't there and that's everyone; that's myself, the staff, myself, it just wasn't a good performance."

From the team that started Dunfermline's last match, the memorable 2-0 win over Falkirk 11 days ago, McPake made two alterations.

Joe Chalmers missed out, while Chris Mochrie dropped to the bench, as Paul McGowan made his first start since joining on loan from Dundee, and Kevin O'Hara, came in.

The visitors fielded two ex-Pars in their line-up, in the shape of Scott Mercer and James Craigen, as they sought to pick up their first point against the League One leaders this season.

The three previous meetings resulted in a pair of 1-0 wins, and a 3-0 success, for Athletic, who looked to, at worst, maintain their eight-point gap at the top of the league.

Edinburgh - third at the start of play - were, though, looking to cement their place in the top four, and the Championship play-offs, and continue an impressive campaign following their promotion last term.

After a minute's silence in memory of John Sweeney, a member of Dunfermline's 1961 Scottish Cup winning team, who sadly passed away earlier in the week, the action began and the Pars were immediately on the front foot, with Todd heading Kyle MacDonald's centre wide.

There was a blow, however, in the eighth minute when Todd, having been fouled by Liam Fontaine, which had led to the Edinburgh defender receiving a booking, was forced off through injury, to be replaced by Mochrie.

Dunfermline, though, continued to probe and, from a McGowan corner, Chris Hamilton was denied by the smart reflexes of visiting goalkeeper, Robbie Mutch, after reacting quickest to Kyle Benedictus' knockdown from six yards out.

The bright figure of Kane Ritchie-Hosler tried to make something happen when, after picking the ball up on the left, he did well to cut inside between two opponents, drive forward and go for goal from 20 yards, but Mutch was equal to it.

The on-loan Rangers winger was a bright spark for the Pars, and he was unlucky again soon afterwards.

Craig Wighton played a through ball and Ritchie-Hosler did well to win it ahead of his opponent, and move into space to shoot on the angle inside the box, which Mutch did well to push away, and find a team-mate there to clear.

Josh Edwards and Mochrie both fired efforts from range off target as Dunfermline continued to try and find a breakthrough, but, right on the stroke of half-time, only a superb MacDonald clearance prevented them going behind.

A long ball forward was chased by Benedictus and Callum Crane and, with the Pars skipper looking for Deniz Mehmet to come and claim, the keeper hesitated.

That allowed the Edinburgh man to get a boot to it and, just as a team-mate was lurking, MacDonald was there to make a vital interception.

McPake made a triple switch at the break, subbing Hamilton, MacDonald and O'Hara for Comrie, Lewis McCann and Paul Allan, and shortly after the break, lost Breen to injury, with Ewan Otoo coming on.

Mochrie had another go from distance, sending the ball wide, before Allan, making his first appearance since August after injury - his last came against Edinburgh - spurned a good opportunity when chipped high and wide after Ritchie-Hosler did well on the right to tee him up.

There were appeals for a penalty when Mochrie saw a short charged down by a visiting defender, but referee, Peter Stuart, was unmoved, as Edinburgh continued to frustrate the hosts.

Dunfermline huffed and puffed and, aside from a Ritchie-Hosler shot that was deflected into the arms of Mutch, and some crosses into the box that failed to create a scoring opportunity, they were left to settle for a point - yet extended their lead at the top.

Match stats

Pars: Mehmet, MacDonald (Comrie 45), Benedictus, Breen (Otoo 49), Edwards, Hamilton (Allan 45), Todd (Mochrie 8), McGowan, Ritchie-Hosler, O'Hara (McCann 45), Wighton.

Subs not used: Todorov, Fenton, Mahon, Little.

Booked: McGowan (71).

FC Edinburgh: Mutch, MacDonald, Hamilton, Mercer, Shanley (Jacobs 89), Robertson (See 73), Fontaine (Stirling 89), Warnock (Handling 73), Murray, Craigen, Crane.

Subs not used: McIntyre, Anukam, Ramsbottom.

Booked: Fontaine (3).

Referee: Peter Stuart.

Attendance: 4,168.