In the only League One fixture to survive the ravages of Storm Desmond at the weekend, Dunfermline reclaimed pole position in the table with a comfortable home win over struggling Brechin City.
The foundations of the victory, which sets the Pars up nicely for a crucial Somerset Park encounter with title rivals Ayr United, were carved by a masterful display by winger Joe Cardle.
Although unable to add to his impressive 10-goal haul for the season so far, he tormented the City defence with his powerful running and created first- half strikes for Faissal El-Bakhtaoui and Michael Paton which went a long way towards securing the three points for the Fifers.
“We knew we had to win today to get back to the top of the league,” said an upbeat Cardle afterwards. “We had to be very professional.
“We started the game well and it was nice to help Faz get a goal as he hasn’t scored for a while.
“I’ve always played out wide but recently the manager’s been encouraging me to come inside more, receive balls and get into positions to help the strikers and today it came off.
“I had one or two chances to score myself, but I’m happy as long as we’re winning. Goals are a bonus.”
Dunfermline dominated the first half against their relegation-haunted opponents.
After being denied by excellent goalkeeping from Brechin’s Graeme Smith, they took the lead just after the half hour when a trademark run and cross from Cardle found El Bakhtaoui and the French-Moroccan front man hit home his 16th goal of the season.
Cardle was again the architect when, just before half time, his cross was headed on by Lewis Martin to Paton, who steered the ball past Smith from close range.
The visitors rallied after the break and, after Sean Murdoch had been forced to make acrobatic saves to deny Jonathan Tiffoney and Brechin player-manager Darren Dods, Isaac Layne’s header gave the Angus side a lifeline.
The Pars’ two-goal advantage was restored almost immediately, however, with substitute David Hopkirk sending his shot past Smith less than a minute after having been brought on, enabling the home side to see out the game in relative comfort.
“It’s a great feeling to be top of the table,” reflected Cardle.
“Today’s win gives us a real boost for the visit to Ayr on Saturday.
“It’s going to be a massive game, and we’re all looking forward to it.
“We beat them in the cup last week and are hoping we can go down there and do the business once again.”
Glebe Park boss Dods remained positive despite his side’s fourth successive defeat.
“I felt if we had managed to hold on for five or 10 minutes after we scored then we would have had a chance,” he said.
“It was disappointing to lose another goal so quickly, but the players gave their all and fought right to the end.”