Blues robbed of eight-point cushion by late, late spot kick

East Fife 1

Stranraer 1

Stranraer were denied a victory in the cruellest of fashions on Tuesday night at a freezing Methil as East Fife snatched a point courtesy of a stoppage-time penalty.

It had looked like the Blues were deservedly going to open up a gap of eight points over their hosts.

However, that late equaliser means there is still some work to do to ensure Stephen Aitken’s men hold on to second division status for next season.

It only took a few minutes before Stranraer had carved out an opportunity.

The ball reached Robert Love who got a shot away but a good block by Steven Campbell averted the danger.

The Blues had the ball in the home net within 10 minutes.

Chris Aitken floated over a free kick and Grant Gallagher headed home but was adjudged to have fouled Craig Johnstone in the process and it was chalked off.

Craig Malcolm and Darren Gribben were causing problems for the home defence and it was the presence of Malcolm that caused Calum Antell to flap at a Ryan Borris cross but he did just enough to divert the ball away.

The Blues continued to look the more likely to score but despite their pressure the score remained blank at the interval.

An eye injury for Antell meant he didn’t reappear so Stranraer native Michael Brown ran out between the sticks for the home side instead.

Borris had a couple of half-chances but couldn’t find the target with either but the Blues’ pressure would eventually bear fruit just after the hour mark.

Aitken went to the right to deliver a corner which looked innocuous enough, even when Mick Dunlop headed goalwards from the near post but, with the home defence frozen, Gribben prodded the ball past Brown from about three yards out.

Stranraer were on top and although East Fife made a couple more changes to try to create more in an attacking sense it was the Blues who looked the more likely to add to the scoring.

Gribben had another great chance after Borris had made a break down the right but as the ball reached him he lost his footing at the crucial moment and the opportunity was gone.

David Mitchell made a save low to his left when Collin Samuel cut in from the right and hit a low shot.

East Fife tried to push forward going into the final 10 minutes to save their season but while enjoying some territory and possession, they created little.

The game looked to be heading for an end with Stranraer poised to clinch the victory that their performance merited.

Much to the Blues’ dismay it wasn’t to be as, with 90 minutes on the clock, East Fife were awarded a penalty after Michael Moore’s challenge on Liam Gormley.

Scott McBride stepped forward for the home side and drilled the spot kick into the corner.

The Blues advantage over the Fifers in the league stays at five points with the Methil side having four games remaining.

Stranraer manager Stephen Aitken was extremely disappointed in the manner the game ended, disbelieving as to how the team that had looked the better of the two throughout had not gained the victory that would have been just reward only to be denied by what he felt was a poor refereeing decision. Nevertheless a five-point cushion with five games to play remains a healthy position to be in and the team will look to bounce back from disappointment in the derby match at Dumfries at the weekend.

East Fife: Calum Antell (Michael Brown 46), Scott Durie, Craig Johnstone, 
Bob Malcolm (Liam Gormley 69), David Muir, Steven Campbell (David White 54), 
Bobby Barr, Paul Willis, 
Collin Samuel, Paul McManus, Scott McBride.

Subs not used: Gareth Wardlaw, Dale Keenan

Booked: Muir

Goal: McBride 90 pen

Stranraer: David Mitchell, Lloyd Kinnaird, Mark Staunton, Frank McKeown, Mick Dunlop, Chris Aitken, Robert Love (Sean Winter 77), Grant Gallagher, Darren Gribben (Michael Moore 71), Craig Malcolm, Ryan Borris (Jamie Campbell 89).

Subs not used: Armand Oné, Russell Cadwell

Booked: Borris, McKeown, Kinnaird

Goal: Gribben 62

Attendance: 426

Referee: P Robertson