Dunfermline Athletic 3, Stranraer 1
Games with Dunfermline Athletic have rarely given much cheer to Blues fans and even less so at East End Park where one draw in 16 visits represents a dismal return.
Given that context, the defeat on Saturday doesn’t sound so bad and was by no means assured until into the final 10 minutes. And while the result just about reflected the balance of play, it could have been much better had a couple of crucial second half chances been taken.
The Blues started brightly and had the first effort on goal when Martin Grehan squared across the penalty area for Grant Gallagher to shoot wide from 20 yards. At the other end, good defending under pressure from Frank McKeown cleared a dangerous Ross Millen corner.
Stranraer rallied and were awarded a penalty when Luke Johnston shoved into the back of Grehan but the normally reliable Chris Aitken saw his effort saved by Ryan Scully. However, the ball was never cleared and Mark Corcoran drove the ball back into the box where Martin Grehan stuck out a leg and diverted the ball into the net.
The lead lasted barely two minutes and when some indecisive defending resulted in a Corcoran clearance only reaching Millen on the right, he crossed and Andy Geggan reacted quicker than Scott Robertson and rammed the equaliser home.
Stranraer had an opportunity to go back in front when Corcoran and Grehan combined to see the ball fall to Gallagher but again from distance the midfielder was unable to hit the target.
Stranraer missed a wonderful chance on 36 minutes. Corcoran continued his great work on the left and delivered a perfect cross for Grehan at the far post but his cushioned effort was misdirected and ran safely across goal and missed the opposite post.
The second half began with a period of Dunfermline pressure. David Mitchell saved from Robert Thomson, and then palmed away a Geggan effort. Geggan then threw himself at a Millen cross but found the ball just out of reach.
While Dunfermline enjoyed the bulk of the play, Stranraer created chances and on 72 minutes a wonderful run by Corcoran saw him roast the fullback and pull the ball back to David McKenna who hit the outside of the post.
Minutes later, the outstanding Corcoran created another chance with another dazzling run and this time it was Aitken who struck the shot but his effort struck Morris and Dunfermline cleared their lines.
It was to be the home side who broke the deadlock with just eight minutes left. Ryan Borris was judged to have handled wide on the Blues right and the resulting free kick was driven in but never cleared. The resulting scramble saw the ball eventually fall to Johnson who swept the ball past Mitchell from six yards.
As the Blues pressed for an equaliser, the Pars killed the game off with a third goal. Falkingham took possession in the Stranraer half completely opened the defence with a superb pass to Allan Smith, who took the ball in his stride before drilling a low shot into the net.
Stephen Aitken felt the missed chances in the second half had proved costly after Stranraer had done well to weather a sustained period of pressure. Disappointed with the result there were plenty of positives from the game but perhaps with all the exertions in the past few weeks it had proved one game too many and he took heart that the four teams the Blues had played are the four teams at the top.
Dunfermline Athletic: Ryan Scully, Ross Millen, Alex Whittle, Luke Johnston, Callum Morris, Andy Geggan, Ryan Wallace (Shaun Byrne 84), Stephen Husband, Jordan Moore (Ryan Thomson 79), Josh Falkingham, Robert Thomson (Allan Smith 86). Subs not used: Chris Kane, Ryan Ferguson, Faissal El Bakhtaoui, Ryan Goodfellow.
Goals: Geggan 24, Johnston 82, Smith 86
Stranraer: David Mitchell, Scott Rumsby, Lloyd Kinnaird, Scott Robertson, Frank McKeown, Chris Aitken (Andy Stirling 88), Sean Winter (Ryan Borris 28), Grant Gallagher, Martin Grehan, Jamie Longworth (David McKenna 59), Mark Corcoran. Subs not used: David MacGregor, Mark Docherty, Adam Forde, Chris Fahey.
Booked: Borris, Grehan
Goal: Grehan 22
Referee: D Roache