Dunfermline defener Lee Ashcroft is convinced Kallum Higginbotham’s red card cost the Pars a long-awaited triumph over the Bairns – but the defender has accepted his team-mate’s dressing-room apology.
Allan Johnston’s men eased into a 1-0 lead thanks to Higginbotham’s 28th-minute penalty and were looking comfortable against a Falkirk side who have won just once in the league all season.
However, just 10 minutes after being given a half-time warning by Johnston, ‘Higgy’ – who had been booked shortly after his goal – appeared to catch Joe McKee with an elbow in an aerial challenge and was given his marching orders.
The 28-year-old’s dismissal swung the game in the Bairns’ favour and Jordan McGhee’s free-kick beyond a slipping Sean Murdoch piled the pressure on the Fifers.
With Declan McManus losing his temper with a push on Aaron Muirhead to earn a second yellow in injury-time, the visitors had to withstand an anxious finale.
But, with the full-time whistle being greeted with delight by the large travelling support of nearly 1,300, it was clear who was more satisfied with the point.
“Getting Higgy sent off at the start of the second half has cramped us a wee bit and then they got the goal shortly after,” said centre-half Ashcroft.
“We were camped in our own half but I think we defended well. After what happened, with Higgy getting sent off, I think a draw is a good result for us.
“He apologised to the boys. I saw it at the time but I don’t think he’s meant to do what he’s done. I think he was just trying to get his body in and get us a foul.
“I think the boy’s made a bit of a meal of it when he’s been down on the ground, and I don’t think that’s helped.
“With the home fans on the ref’s back it’s a hard one.
“The decision was made, he was sent off, and we just had to get on with it.
“We defended well and for them to score from a free-kick was a bit of a dampener for us.
“But 1-1, with 10 men, and at the end of the game with nine men, is not the worst result for us.”
A minute’s silence preceded kick-off as a mark of respect ahead of Armistice Day, but there was little courtesy shown by either team once the game began.
There were only 10 minutes gone when former Dundee manager Paul Hartle was spoken to by referee Craig Thomson, who in the end had to show 11 yellow cards and two reds in a vain attempt to cool tempers.
Dunfermline, who have not won away to Falkirk in six years, would have been more satisfied with the opening exchanges and got the breakthrough they craved just short of the half-hour mark.
Falkirk’s 17-year-old midfielder, Cieran Dunne, caught Nicky Clark just inside the box as he tried to clear and Higginbotham gleefully rolled in from the spot.
Within nine minutes of Higginbotham’s red card, however, Falkirk were back level, with Pars keeper Murdoch slipping as he failed to stop McGhee’s free-kick.
Deep into injury-time Nathan Austin’s header crashed back off the post and into the arms of a relieved Murdoch.