The turnstiles of East End Park creaked open for the first time in 16 months on Saturday and the 1000 supporters in attendance were treated to a stellar showing.
Dumbarton have not had their troubles to seek so far this season and, given the Sons’ Covid concerns, the Pars were always likely to emerge victorious against their depleted League One opponents.
Nevertheless, they did so with pace, panache and bravado as strikes from Nikolay Todorov, Craig Wighton, Kevin O’Hara, Dom Thomas and a Gregor Buchanan own goal secured a 5-1 triumph.
🎥 Watch the #DAFC goals from yesterday's 5-1 win.
Full highlights later 🏁 pic.twitter.com/5UvCQwrto8
— Dunfermline Athletic (@officialdafc) July 17, 2021
Fans making that post-match walk along the Halbeath Road — a routine sadly missing since March 7, 2020 — were left with much to dissect and plenty about which to be positive.
Kyle Macdonald, 21, is swiftly emerging as the revelation of Dunfermline’s early campaign and, from a fringe player last term, must now be among the first names on the team-sheet.
His marauding showing at right wing-back in Grant’s adventurous 3-4-3 was sensational, with the former Airdrie kid providing a hat-trick of assists — one for each striker, Todorov, Wighton and O’Hara.
Of those assists, the first came after 52 seconds and the third was on the 71-minute mark. He did not slow down or wilt at any point despite putting in a prodigious amount of work.
“Every day, Kyle’s numbers are well up because he wants to improve, wants to get better and has an unbelievable commitment to his game,” lauded Grant. “He is reaping rewards from that.
“I thought he did both sides of his game remarkably well today and I’m delighted for him because he is a fantastic kid with an unbelievable attitude.”
Dom Thomas’ happy feet
Thomas, captain’s armband on his bicep and thriving in a central midfield role, was another standout.
Considering he has spent the majority of his career playing as a winger — with open grass ahead of him and space to play with — his awareness and composure in the middle of the park deserves to be spotlighted.
— Dunfermline Athletic (@officialdafc) July 18, 2021
The ex-Kilmarnock youngster regularly danced away from tight spots, picked the right passes and was positionally sound throughout.
Thomas also provides verticality from the heart of midfield — something missing for the Pars last term until Ewan Henderson found his groove in the final months of the campaign — with his dashes into the box. One of those was rewarded with a goal on Saturday.
In their maiden home game of the season, Dunfermline were determined to lay down a marker and illustrate what Grant’s Pars will be all about, tactically and philosophically.
And the opening ten minutes was a fearsome whirlwind of movement and pressing; bodies bombing forward, players hunting in packs and energy levels through the roof. As such, the Fifers were two goals to the good within 172 seconds.
That was a pattern which continued throughout the 90 minutes, albeit the intensity went through peaks and troughs, simply due to the fact it would be impossible to keep up that constant vigour in 25-degree heat (two water breaks were required).
Win or lose, one suspects Dunfermline will be great fun to watch this term.
No resting on laurels
With Dunfermline leading 4-0 at the time and cruising to a comfortable, comprehensive victory in the glorious sunshine, Grant could have been forgiven for permitting a brief moment of slackness.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The new Pars boss is actively, and publicly, setting high standards.
The Sons briefly reduced arrears to 4-1 in the second period when Josh Edwards delivered a throw-in back to Ross Graham — rather than looking to make a forward manoeuvre — and the on-loan Dundee United defender surrendered possession.
Ross Maclean was the man who took full advantage, producing a squirrelly low shot from 18 yards which found the corner of the net.
“The big disappointment was the way we lost the goal from our throw,” said Grant. “That is something that we have spoken about prior and that is the thing that is sticking in my throat most.
“We threw the ball back the way. It is just wee simple things like that you get annoyance from.”
He added: “We will try and eradicate those [mistakes]; get rid of the silly mistakes before we come up against big challenges throughout the season. That is where you see the braveness.”