Brechin City 0 PARS 3

DUNFERMLINE maintained their place at the top of the Championship after a comfortable win at Brechin City on Saturday.

Lee Ashcroft's first half opener put Allan Johnston's men ahead before Declan McManus and Nicky Clark sealed another three points after the break.

The victory at Glebe Park kept Athletic top of the table, a point clear of St Mirren, while this weekend's opponents Dundee United are another point further back.

The Pars were without Joe Cardle, who suffered a hamstring injury against the Saints, and fielded David Hopkirk in his place in the only change to their starting line-up.

Expectation was on the visitors to win this match against the bottom dogs comfortably but it was Brechin who made the early running and, had it not been for Sean Murdoch, would have found themselves in an early lead.

From a corner, he firstly denied Jordan Sinclair with his leg before reacting to save Paul McLean's follow-up, while ex-Par Finn Graham was blocked by Nat Wedderburn ahead of Kelvin Orsi nodding over.

It was an early scare against a home outfit full of endeavour who made it difficult for the free-scoring Fifers in the early stages, but gradually Dunfermline began to take control.

McManus went close with a shot that was turned behind by Graeme Smith while, from the resulting corner, Callum Morris' header was cleared off the line before McManus and Clark were denied by an excellent double-stop by Smith.

Clark was again thwarted soon afterwards when his header was cleared on the line by James Dale but, in the 28th minute, City's resistance was finally broken.

It came from Kallum Higginbotham's corner from the left, which only found Ashcroft at the right side of the box as Brechin tried to clear, with the centre back sending a deflected low effort into the net.

Orsi forced Murdoch into a smart stop as Darren Dods' team tried to respond but Dunfermline looked more likely to add to their lead.

McManus was again by denied by Smith after being played in by Hopkirk, Clark went close with a glancing header before Higginbotham's speculative effort dipped just wide of target.

Wedderburn headed wide for the Pars when he really should have scored soon after half-time after meeting Higginbotham's cross and they almost paid for it when Murdoch saved well from Connor McLennan's stinging effort.

But the game was effectively sealed 10 minutes after half-time when Athletic grabbed a well-worked second goal.

Man of the match Ryan Williamson was the provider, latching on to a loose ball from Higginbotham's deflected shot and jinking away from the defender.

He ran into the box and, from the goalline, delivered an excellent centre for the unmarked McManus to head home from six yards.

With 70 minutes on the clock, Dunfermline added a third when Williamson latched on to Higginbotham's pass on the right.

His cross should have been cut out by Smith but, after the keeper missed it, Clark was there to prod home from close range for his eighth goal of the campaign.

The former Rangers hitman almost made it four when he cracked an effort off the bar late on as Dunfermline completed a professional afternoon's work.

Brechin City: Smith, McLean, McGeever, Crighton, Dyer, Dale, Graham (Watt 81), O'Neill (Spark 71), Sinclair, McLennan (Love 62), Orsi.

Subs not used: Layne, Fusco, O'Neil.

Pars: Murdoch, Williamson, Ashcroft, Morris, Talbot, Higginbotham, Wedderburn, Shiels (Splaine 78), Hopkirk (Smith 68), McManus (Ryan 78), Clark.

Subs not used: Martin, Aird, Lochhead, Gill.

Goals: Ashcroft (28), McManus (55), Clark (70).

Referee: John McKendrick.

Attendance: 1,214.