Football: Dons stumble as Hignett sees red

Dunfermline 1 French 88 Aberdeen 1 Perry 74 Attendance: 6,463
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RED-MIST day for Craig Hignett, and hardly a red- letter day for Aberdeen who squandered the chance to share the leadership of the Premier League with Rangers.

East End Park is the most obvious beneficiary of Sky's pounds 45m investment in Scottish football. Two new stands have risen over the summer on a ground that had altered little since the club's heyday in the 1960s. Indeed, it was exactly 30 seasons ago that Dunfermline reached the semi-finals of the Cup Winners' Cup with a bustling centre-forward called Alex Ferguson, who, of course, led Aberdeen to their greatest passage of history in the 1980s.

Europe is a forlorn hope for both clubs these days, but Aberdeen's ambition to be domestic title challengers once again saw them lure Craig Hignett from Middlesbrough in the close-season. The little forward has made an immediate impact at Pittodrie with two goals to help Alex Miller's team move into joint second place before this game. But the mark he left on this match was short-lived and less palatable.

Maybe it was the frustration of missing a gift-wrapped opportunity in the 22nd minute, when David Rowson cushioned the teenage debutant Michael Hart's cross into Hignett's path only for the striker to head wide from six yards. But Hignett was sent off just 60 seconds later for a futile incident with Dunfermline's Chris Templeman. The former Boro player lashed out with his arm as he shielded the ball, catching Templeman in the face, and the referee Stuart Dougal had no option but to dismiss him. It was Aberdeen's third red card in three league games.

An air of resentment coursed through their remaining first-half play and John Inglis's needless 43rd-minute foul allowed Scott McCulloch to roll a short free-kick to Scott Thomson, whose vicious 30-yard shot was wonderfully turned over the bar by Jim Leighton. Dunfermline have felt maligned by their description as the Wimbledon of the north, but their twin strikers, Gerry Britton and Andy Smith, did give Aberdeen's defence a torrid time.

However, it was left to Eoin Jess to provide the most skilful passage of play after 59 minutes. The striker, who remains far from Craig Brown's gaze - dropped for the World Cup and left out of the tie with Lithuania - exchanged passes with Billy Dodds before curling a right-foot shot from the edge of the area just wide of the far post.

Mark Perry's 76th-minute header from a clever cross by Dodds looked like enabling the Dons to shrug off Hignett's absence. But his moment of madness ultimately proved costly when Aberdeen conceded an equaliser in injury time, Hamish French burying a header into the roof of the net from Craig Ireland's knockdown.

l Rangers coasted to a comfortable 4-0 victory over St Johnstone yesterday, while Celtic, the champions, failed to beat a Dundee side who picked up their first Premier League point after being handed their first goal of the campaign in a 1-1 draw.

Rangers were prompted by a young Scot, Barry Ferguson, who created their first goal for Andrei Kanchelskis, had a hand in Giovanni Van Bronckhorst's second on the stroke of half-time and released Rod Wallace for the third. Jorg Albertz made it four with a penalty.

Celtic looked set to win at Dens Park when Craig Burley put them ahead after 69 minutes, but a penalty in the second minute of injury time, put away by Eddie Annand after he had been fouled by Enrico Annoni, gave Dundee a draw.