Stranraer 1, Dunfermline Athletic 2
Stranraer’s golden October was washed away in the torrential rain at Stair Park last weekend as the Blues failed to match the performances of recent weeks against a talented and youthful Dunfermline side.
Both sides started with the same line-ups that had played the previous weekend so that meant Dunfermline fans could see their former player, Steven Bell playing his third match as a trialist for Stranraer.
That situation requires immediate attention and Blues manager Stephen Aitken was hopeful that by the time Auchinleck Talbot visit Stair Park for Saturday’s Scottish Cup tie, Bell will have signed a deal to stay with the club.
The Pars looked hungry from the outset and it required alert defending from David MacGregor to deny Ryan Wallace. Stranraer responded with a shot from Grant Gallagher that bounded to safety off Kerr Young.
That effort certainly didn’t give any suggestion of what was to follow. A succession of passes saw the ball find Mark Docherty on the left and his lovely chip into Jamie Longworth still left him with much to do to shake off the attention of Alex Whittle but with a superb touch and turn he was then able to smash a low shot past Ryan Scully.
Although the Blues were buoyed by the boost of the opening goal, it was the visitors who continued to impress. Frank McKeown was tested under the pressure of a swinging Whittle cross and MacGregor produced a wonderfully timed lunge to win the ball from Ryan Thomson just as he was preparing to shoot.
But it was Stranraer who almost doubled their lead with a great counter-attack in the 24th minute. David Mitchell punted a long clearance up field and Longworth laid the ball off to Andy Stirling. He rolled the ball for Chris Aitken to let fly from just outside the box but the ball flashed agonisingly wide of the target. As the conditions continued to deteriorate, both McKeown and MacGregor kept the concentration switched on to block shots from Andy Geggan and then from Wallace to preserve the home side’s precarious advantage.
Dunfermline picked up the baton where they had left it and began the second half in a hurry, quickly earning a shooting opportunity when Bell scythed Wallace down just outside the penalty area. Stephen Husband stepped up and struck the free kick that seemed to beat a poorly positioned wall and Mitchell, who appeared distracted with rather too much ease.
The goal was the catalyst for Dunfermline to grab the initiative and Stranraer were further handicapped minutes later when Longworth indicated that a knock he had taken wasn’t going to clear up and David McKenna was brought on to replace him.
A break for the Blues saw McKenna find Bell but his sliced shot was helped on its way wide by a deflection off Callum Morris and the Blues first corner was easily mopped up by Scully.
The Pars sensed that the game had tilted in their favour and Shaun Byrne threaded a beautifully weighted pass into the box for Wallace to latch on but a superb challenge from Scott Robertson stopped him in his tracks. They both linked up again straight away but MacGregor blocked Wallace’s goal-bound effort.
In the 70th minute the pressure finally paid dividends. Stranraer had a couple of attempts to clear but failed to do so and Millen delivered a pass from wide to give Josh Falkingham space to turn inside the box. He did so with devastating effect and although Mitchell got a hand to the ball he couldn’t prevent the Pars from taking the lead.
The monsoon conditions made it difficult to produce any sort of flowing football and Dunfermline used them to their advantage to keep Stranraer at bay and the Blues were a pale shadow of recent weeks.
A philosophical Stephen Aitken mused that Stranraer had perhaps found this game one too many and not quite reached the level of performance they had achieved in recent weeks. They would use this as a reminder that they would have to keep showing the great application and work rate in training and carry that into the Auchinleck game, which will hopefully kickstart another unbeaten run.
Stranraer: David Mitchell, David MacGregor, Mark Docherty, Scott Robertson, Frank McKeown, Chris Aitken (Mark Corcoran 73), Steven Bell (Ryan Borris 90), Grant Gallagher, Martin Grehan, Jamie Longworth (David McKenna 51), Andy Stirling. Subs not used: Lloyd Kinnaird, Chris Fahey
Booked: Bell, Robertson
Goal: Longworth 12
Dunfermline Athletic: Ryan Scully, Ross Millen, Alex Whittle, Kerr Young, Callum Morris, Andy Geggan, Shaun Byrne (Robert Thomson 83), Stephen Husband, Ryan Wallace (Allan Smith 76), Josh Falkingham, Ryan Thomson (Ryan Ferguson 90). Subs not used: Craig Dargo, Lewis Martin, Fayssal El Bakhtaoui, Ryan Goodfellow.
Booked: Morris, Husband
Goals: Husband 49, Falkingham 70
Referee: E Anderson