Stranraer 2, East Fife 6
Shaun Niven at Stair Park
This was an important fixture for both sides looking to gain some momentum, with the Fifers bottom of the league and Stranraer just above them.
A catalogue of defensive frailties would follow in a match that was littered with chances at both ends but the Fifers’ finishing was much more clinical as they leapfrogged their hosts at foot of the table.
East Fife produced the opening attack and, when Paul Willis drove the ball across the box, Stranraer struggled to clear until Frank McKeown stepped in and eventually cleared at the second attempt.
The Blues quickly responded and, when Craig Malcolm was upended on the edge of the box, Chris Aitken stepped up and drilled the free kick goalwards only to be denied by a fingertip save from Andrew Collier. The keeper then denied Sean Winter, who shot low across him for the bottom corner but he got down low to get the faintest touch and divert another effort wide for a corner.
The Blues almost gifted a goal to the visitors when Mark Staunton lost concentration and allowed an innocuous pass under his foot and give possession to Paul McManus but Russell Cadwell, deputising for the suspended David Mitchell, was alert to the danger and produced a fine save to block the striker’s attempt. McManus then had an even better chance and he did everything right, beating the keeper with a shot that hit the far post and spun across goal before going out for a goal kick.
The signs were not heeded by the Blues and minutes later the visitors were in front when Bobby Barr, on loan from Livingston, showed how much he enjoys visiting Stair Park by skipping past Lloyd Kinnaird and stroking the ball under the defenceless Cadwell.
Malcolm almost sent Ryan Borris clear as Stranraer replied but a great tackle from Jordon Forster ensured he would not progress. Borris then latched on to a pass from Max Wright and unleashed a tremendous volley but Steven Campbell put his body in the way to block bravely.
Barr turned creator just after the half hour as the visitors doubled their lead. Beating Kinnaird, he charged forward and produced a pinpoint cross along the six-yard line that Paul McManus finished clinically.
Jamie Pollock then chipped a dangerous ball to the far post on the visitors’ next attack that saw Willis and Staunton collide with the post and each other and, although the Stranraer man appeared to come off worse, after a few minutes’ treatment both were able to continue.
Darren McCormack headed a corner over the top when he might have done better but again the Blues proved to be too fragile at the back as they promptly gave away another chance that East Fife didn’t miss. Willis got into a great position wide on the right and crossed for McManus and although the Stranraer defence managed to prevent him shooting the ensuing goalmouth scramble eventually presented a chance to Gareth Wardlaw and he smashed the ball home from barely a couple of yards out.
With the home fans getting restless, Stranraer pulled a goal back. Aitken crossed into the box and Ryan Borris challenged Campbell to the header. There was some doubt about who got the final touch but no doubt that it looped over Collier and into the net with the Blues midfielder getting the credit.
On the resumption after the break, Stranraer started brightly, McKeown chipped a lovely pass into the inside right channel for Borris to run on to. He got there and angled in towards goal before unleashing a fierce drive that Collier had to be lively to touch over. Stranraer continued to press and were denied again by the woodwork. Campbell headed clear and the ball dropped to Grant Gallagher who steadied himself and struck the ball sweetly on the drop only to watch in agony as the post saved the Fifers.
Collier then got down getting enough on a Malcolm header to ensure that even though it squirmed under his body, Winter was offside as he swooped to finish it off.
East Fife finally created a chance and Willis tried his luck from 20 yards but Cadwell did enough to bundle the ball away for a corner from which McManus should have scored but put his free header high and wide.
Just on the hour East Fife struck again. Barr was the architect as he flew past Kinnaird down the left and picked out the perfectly timed run from midfield by Pollock, who blasted the ball home.
Stranraer attacked and won a corner but from that set piece it was East Fife who broke and scored again. Pollock picked up a superb pass from McManus and slid the ball past the helpless Cadwell. The wheels had come off when a third goal in as many minutes sent some of the home support heading for exits and it was a calamity that summed up the Blues’ defensive performance only too well. Kinnaird was short with a back pass under pressure that allowed Gareth Wardlaw to steal possession, round the stranded Cadwell and roll the ball into the empty net.
Stranraer grabbed a consolation goal when Craig Malcolm headed home an Aitken free kick but with a quarter of the game still remaining there would surely be no way back. In fact there may have been had McKeown and then Malcolm managed to do a bit better with their respective free headers from crosses from Dean Agnew who had looked lively in his cameo substitute appearance but it was not going to be.
Keith Knox described the display from Stranraer as shocking. He said: “Individual errors and terrible defending means we are not making teams work hard enough to score and putting ourselves under pressure. We created enough chances ourselves but it was so disappointing and everything that we could have done wrongly today, we did.”
Stranraer: Russell Cadwell, Lloyd Kinnaird, Michael Dunlop, Mark Staunton (Robert Love 68), Frank McKeown, Chris Aitken (Kieren Wood 87), Sean Winter, Grant Gallagher, Craig Malcolm, Max Wright (Dean Agnew 68), Ryan Borris. Subs Not Used: Lewis Kinnaird, Robbie Kelly.
Goals: Borris 44, Malcolm 66.
East Fife: Andrew Collier, Darren McCormack, Scott Smith, Steven Campbell, Jordon Forster, David Muir, Paul Willis, Jamie Pollock, Paul McManus, Gareth Wardlaw (Scott McBride 80), Bobby Barr. Subs not Used: Darren Smith, Robert Sloan, Scott Durie, Connor Shaw.
Booked: McCormack, Willis, Muir.
Goals: Barr 23, McManus 32, Wardlaw 42, 64, Pollock 61, 63.
Referee: D Somers.