BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
Dunfermline have endured a nightmare since administration was visited upon the club in 2013, but hero Faissal El Bakhtaoui admits the League One title was sealed in ‘dream’ fashion.
The French-Moroccan proved his big-game credentials as his hat-trick earned the Pars a 3-1 victory over Brechin City that secured promotion back to the Championship, thanks to Cowdenbeath’s surprise win at Peterhead.
Though his eighth-minute opener was scrappy, the subsequent two strikes were right out of the top drawer.
His second, volleying in a deep Jason Talbot cross midway through the first-half, was a remarkable piece of finishing, but his hat-trick-clinching third in injury-time was breathtaking.
A cross from substitute PJ Crossan was tempting and El Bakhtaoui’s acrobatic volley over his left shoulder was simply superb.
After three years in the third tier of football, Scottish football should be thrilled that the Fifers are on the rise again
They have lost just three league games this term and have scored 78 times to seal their title win with five games to spare.
And it was fitting that the 29-goal El Bakhtaoui was again the talisman on a day of nerves, joy and relief for the community-owned outfit.
He said: “It’s my first hat-trick for the club, we won the league and we are champions!
“It was an unbelievable day for me and for the lads as well. We’ve been great this season and I’m so happy.
“To score that goal at the end was a dream. It’s the best goal I’ve scored for Dunfermline, 100 per cent.
“At half-time, the manager told us Cowdenbeath were winning 1-0 and the fans were telling us, they were saying ‘c;mon, c’mon’.
“We got a bit nervous but at half-time we said: ‘We can be champions after the game, so let’s do this’. At half-time, we had 45 minutes to be champions.
“I was there when things were hard at the club, but I didn’t play much. This is a massive club and the fans are behind us as well.
“The club deserves to be at a higher level than League One.”
El Bakhtaoui joined Dunfermline in 2012 after only playing the five-a-side indoor game of Futsal in France.
It has taken him a while to get used to 11-a-side football and life in Scotland, but he has blossomed this season and spurred the Pars to their title win.
With his contract expiring in just over a month’s time, it remains to be seen whether the the League One trophy will be the prolific marksman’s parting gift as other clubs circle in search of his signature.
His second and third against Brechin will have convinced many of his quality.
He added: “When I came over, I signed for two years and Jim Jefferies put me on the bench every week and I played for the under-20s.
“But I was still learning, because I came from playing Futsal.
“I worked hard in training and scored some goals and Jim Jefferies offered me a new contract.
“He told me he thought I had something.
“The last thing I won was probably a Futsal tournament at school – but this is a bit different, it’s unbelievable.”