DUNFERMLINE only made one change from last week’s traumatic hammering at the hands of Morton, but you would have been forgiven for mistaking them for a different team against Hamilton. 

Tipped to challenge for the title at the start of the season, the Pars began the New Year desperately seeking points to stave off relegation. They collected all three this weekend with a 1-0 win against mid-table Hamilton, who had seemingly established themselves as the best of the rest in the Scottish Championship’s bottom half.  

The outcome could have been different had Hamilton’s Mihai Popescu put his foot through the ball when presented with a glorious chance in the opening minutes following a Hamilton corner. But the centre-back lacked a predatory instinct and Dunfermline were let off the hook. 

On a cold afternoon in Fife the stadium was blanketed by an icy fog. The heat was provided by an absorbing encounter on the field with both teams making an energetic start. But it was Dunfermline who gradually took control, with full-backs Aaron Comrie and Josh Edwards rampaging down the flanks. 

Their probing runs caused problems throughout, and it was a delivery from left-back Edwards which led to the only goal. His brilliant cross on the half-hour mark was begging to be headed in. Lewis McCann failed to do so and his shot was parried by Joe Hilton. The ball was then prodded just over the line, via the crossbar, by Ryan Dow, with the referee awarding the goal after the ball was cleared. 

Dunfermline had several other promising openings in the first half, with their full-backs bombing on and Stephen Lawless pulling the strings from an inside right position.  

Manager John Hughes says his side were fuelled by the “pain” of their 5-0 loss to Morton, and admitted he put his “head on the block” by naming an unchanged team – aside for the returning Mark Connolly, who was playing what is expected to be his final game for the club following the end of his loan spell from Dundee United. 

“I was looking for redemption from last week,” Hughes explained. “I said to them to go and prove people wrong – play on the hurt and pain of what happened at Morton.” 

The victorious manager added: “I felt in the first half we should have been two or three goals up. The first-half performance was as good as I’ve seen. The second half was different but I still think we had the best chances.” 

That was an accurate summation of the game, with Hamilton’s best period coming in the early stages of the second half. Ten minutes after the break, Pars keeper Owain Fon Williams leaped across the goal like a much younger man to deny Matthew Shiels from close range, with Hamilton again going close from the resulting corner. 

Signs of discomfort were perhaps to be expected of Dunfermline, who had taken the lead in a match for the first time in six league outings. 

The side recovered well however after Hamilton applied some pressure. Their newfound composure was epitomised by the silky skills of Lawless, who at one stage delighted the 500 Pars fans with a sumptuous nutmeg on the edge of the Accies box. Hughes had praise for the “classy” forward. “He’s got that wee duck and dive and great passes, plus his work ethic has been fantastic”. 

He also singled out the outgoing Connolly, who demonstrated his characteristic determination with a last-minute headed block from a powerful shot to deny a late Hamilton rally.  

While still bottom, the result allows Dunfermline fans to look at the league table without the familiar sense of trepidation. Hamilton – who had been on an impressive run of form – are now looking over their shoulders. 

"It was really disappointing from us,” manager Stuart Taylor admitted. "We wanted to continue the unbeaten run but we had to remember why we were on it. We just didn't do that in the first half and, down to that, we didn't deserve anything.” 

He added: "We asked for a reaction and in fairness to the lads, they upped the intensity. 

"But we didn't win enough battles or second balls - it's as simple as that."