SPFL League One: STRANRAER 4 DUNFERMLINE 1: 16/04/16
It was a beautiful sunny day in Stranraer when Dunfermline arrived for their third last match in League One. There was a cold wind to spoil the comfort, not that that bothered Josh Falkingham, David Hopkirk and David Hutton who came into the side at the expense of Michael Paton, Rhys McCabe and Sean Murdoch.
The home side named an unchanged team from that which saw off fellow play off challengers, Airdrieonians in their previous match. That meant four former Pars lined up against their old club - Steven Bell, Ryan Thomson, Andy Stirling and Willie Gibson.
Stranraer kicked off and their no.9 Craig Malcolm got in the first shot of the game but was wildly wide and high. Then right on two minutes Ryan Wallace sped down the right wing and delivered a great ball into the six yard box and Michael Moffat was only inches away from heading home.
Two minutes later Gibson sent the game's first corner in from the right and Scott Robertson rose to head an effort over Hutton's crossbar.
Full of confidence having just signed a new contract on Friday Hopkirk was just closed out by Robertson when he was given a seventh minute chance. After a fair number of passes involving Hopkirk, Falkingham and Wallace, Ryan Williamson was wide right to centre a dangerous ball that Bell turned behind for a corner on the right but unfortunately that was too strong.
A clearance from his own half by Falkingham put Hopkirk through but the Stranraer defence outnumbered him and the chance was mopped up. Then in 18 minutes Gibson took advantage of Conner Duthie and unleashed a fierce shot from 25 yards out that just cleared the crossbar.
Stranraer created the next chance when Stirling broke through from half way but he could only force a corner off Brad McKay and when that came over from the left Bell rose to head the ball back across goal and out wide left. On 24 minutes a Gibson free kick picked out Robertson in the Pars box but he powered his header wide.
Williamson earned the visitors a 28th minute corner but when Wallace delivered an outswinger Duthie could only send his effort wide. Play switched back to the other end and two Stranraer corners from the left. Scott Robinson eventually cleared the danger. Wallace picked out Williamson on another overlap but this time Stranraer had two men on him and Liam Dick cleared.
Hopkirk launched a strong effort from 20 yards out but this was deflected off a defender for another corner but that changed nothing. Ten minutes from the break Moffat and Wallace exchanged quick passes to set up Hopkirk but his attempt from an acute angle was beaten behind by keeper Cameron Belford. The Blues defending of the corner from the right was far from impressive and Moffat was able to direct the ball towards goal only for Brad McKAY to tap home the opener. 0-1
Three minutes later the home team and their vocal supporters were denied a penalty when Gibson's shot came off Falkingham's arm as he dived across to try and block the shot. No penalty. Gibson then tested Hutton from a free kick but the Pars keeper got down well to hold the shot at right post.
The home side kept up the pressure with Thomson chesting the ball down for Mark McGuigan but his orange boot sent the 18 yard chance over the bar. It had been a first half that the Fifers had edged on possession but the home side had more shots at goal leaving the home support believing that they were slightly unlucky to be behind after the first 45 minutes.
Half time: Stranraer 0 Dunfermline 1
The second half started badly for the Pars losing a soft goal in just the fourth minute. The defence looked sluggish as Thomson met the ball in front of goal and he teed up McGUIGAN who turned the ball in at the right post. 1-1
Gibson was able to embark on a run on goal and Falkingham's yellow card was definitely 'for the team' as he halted the zippy winger. Gibson assumed responsibility but drove the 28 yard free kick wide left.
Boosted by the equaliser Stranraer pushed for another. Thomson fired a 20 yarder over the bar, Pettigrew made Hutton tip his shot over and then Bell headed over from the subsequent corner.
On the hour Moffat fed Duthie the ball wide right and he beat his man to get in behind the defence. Williamson was on hand to knock the ball down but forced on to his left foot fired the shot high.
When play switched to the other end Robinson conceded the corner on the left and Gibson's delivery was met by Craig MALCOLM to the great delight of the home support, even though their announcer credited Ryan Thomson with the goal. 2-1
Stranraer were to increase their lead just six minutes later. There were groans from the crowd as Gibson hit a strange low ball that travelled across the 18 yard line and appeared to be wasted. However Bell gathered and cut the ball back to the unmarked STIRLING whose shot swerved away from Hutton to find the net just inside the right post. 3-1
The Pars had subbed Shaun Byrne for Conner Duthie and then Craig Reid for Lewis Martin but the loss of Gibson through cramp was a blow to the Stair Park side.
Dunfermline's reply was unconvincing, Robinson cut the ball back for Talbot and his cross did find Moffat to head at the keeper. Reid came close when Wallace directed an 80th minute free kick towards the left side of the six yard box but the sub's run from deep just failed to achieve a netbound touch.
McKay was booked for a challenge on Malcolm and after few pushes and shoves, Cairney pumped the 30 yard free kick into the box where MALCOLM latched on to net the chance off the left post. 4-1
The match was well and truly over as a contest and the Pars impressive unbeaten away league record was gone.
STRANRAER: Cameron Belford; Craig Pettigrew, Scott Robertson (Scott Rumsby 89), Steven Bell, Liam Dick; Andy Stirling; Ryan Thomson, Paul Cairney, Willie Gibson (Calvin Kemp 73), Craig Malcolm, Mark McGuigan (Jamie Longworth 87).
SUBS NOT USED: Kyle Turner, Chris Aitken, David Barron, Max Currie (GK)
SCORERS: McGuigan (49), Malcolm (62, 86), Stirling (68)
DUNFERMLINE: David Hutton; Ryan Williamson, Brad McKay, Lewis Martin (Craig Reid 69), Jason Talbot; Ryan Wallace, Josh Falkingham, Scott Robinson, Conner Duthie (Shaun Byrne 61), David Hopkirk, Michael Moffat
SUBS NOT USED: Joe Cardle, Ben Richards-Everton, Faissal El Bakhtaoui, Sean Murdoch (GK).
SCORERS: McKay (35)
YELLOW CARD: Falkingham (53), Byrne (78), McKay (85)
REFEREE: Crawford Allan
WEATHER: Sunny 9C
NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes League One: (away) v Airdrieonians, Saturday 23rd April 2016, kick off 3.00pm at the Excelsior Stadium
Ladbrokes Championship: Saturday 18th March, Dunfermline v Ayr United kick off 3.00pm