SPFL League One: DUNFERMLINE 1 STRANRAER 0: 11/04/15
19 year old Finn Graham starts. Byrne, Thomson in for Falkingham, Spence and Hopkirk. Faissal El Bakhtaoui (83) 1-0
Table toppers Stranraer returned to East End Park for what was the sixth meeting of the teams this season. Their manager Steven Aitken fielded an unchanged starting eleven with former Par Steven Bell able to return to their bench.
John Potter was without the injured Josh Falkingham (ill) and Lewis Spence (knee injury) and David Hopkirk was placed on the bench as Shaun Byrne, Ryan Thomson and under 20s captain Finn Graham came in. Finn's one and only previous appearance for Dunfermline was in the 1-1 draw against Rangers in May last season.
Athletic started the match seven points off the final play off spot, a home win was essential but was very dependent upon Brechin's result at home to bottom of the league, Stirling Albion. The Pars kicked off attacking the goal at the Cowdenbeath end.
First opportunity came from a Willie Gibson free kick in second minute. Skipper Andy Geggan headed the ball out of his box only as far as Jamie Longworth whose shot was wild and nearer the corner flag than the goal. Another free kick three minutes later picked out Frank McKeown in the Pars box but the defence cleared his nod down.
Dunfermline had a good chance on seven minutes when Michael Moffat rounded Scott Rumsby on the left side of the opposition box. Fifteen yards out he squared an inviting ball for Byrne but his touch was not good enough and he failed to get in a shot.
With quarter of an hour on the clock Alex Whittle cut in from the left but his chipped shot from 20 yards went wide right. The first corner of the match came the Pars way in 20th minute. Ross Millen pumped that over from the left and although he picked out Geggan beyond the far post his header was mopped up by the Stranraer defence.
Tenacity from Graham won his side a free kick on the right 20 yards out but Millen's useful delivery was squeezed out by the defence as a posse of Pars players attempted to get their heads on the ball. At the midpoint of the half Allan Smith went down in a last man challenge with McKeown but referee Mat Northcroft waved play on.
Stranraer were not exactly taxing the Pars keeper and Ryan Scully's long clearance created the next opportunity but luck evaded them as Jackson Longridge got the better of Smith.
As the half hour point arrived Stranraer made an assault on the home defence with Longridge eventually providing the testing ball but Scully reached that to clear. Longworth then threatened on the left side but Graham forced a corner on the left. From that the Blues produced a good delivery but the defence did its job and the danger was cleared.
It had been a half lacking goalmouth action but in 37 minutes Gibson gathered the ball on the left perimeter of the Pars box and his cross was attacked by Sean Winter but his effort was forced away.
A fine run by Whittle up the left then picked out Geggan but his attempted chip over David Mitchell was held by the red shirted keeper. At the other end Gibson sent a diagonal pass through the box and beyond the right goalpost. Stranraer followed that with a Winter cross into the Pars six yard area but neither striker could convert the chance.
Craig Pettigrew was shown the yellow card for taking both Smith and the ball but Millen's free kick from a dangerous position on the left was intercepted by Winter.
Half time: Dunfermline 0 Stranraer 0
No changes on either side for the start of the second half. Bright sunshine but a bitterly cold wind greeted the teams back. In 49 minutes Pettigrew collected the ball on the right and sent a diagonal pass along the deck for Longworth to sweep on but the ball cleared the left goalpost.
On 56 minutes Kyle McAusland became the first player to come off the bench in this game, replacing an out of sorts Shaun Byrne. Two minutes later Millen sent a strong cross in from the right corner flag that Moffat got his head to but failed to find the target. Next Thomson was on target with a 25 yard drive but Mitchell dropped to the ground to hold.
A Dunfermline free kick midway into the Stranraer half in 64 minutes was lobbed in towards the far post but Thomson couldn't rise high enough to get a header in. Graham got lucky two minutes later when he sliced a clearance on a Longridge cross and Longworth's effort went wide right. Then Geggan had a good shot on target all along the ground but again Mitchell held and then a McAusland shoit was blocked.
Tempers frayed in 73 minutes with Winter and Graham being shown yellow cards after the Pars player's mistimed tackle on Gibson. Still the home side tried for that opening, sub El Bakhtaoui fired a low effort at the keeper from 25 yards and a Millen free kick again found Mitchell's safe hands.
With eight minutes remaining the home crowd roared as Moffat and El Bakhtaoui took the game deep into the Stranraer box. The visitors cleared that one but next minute a Gibson pass out of the left back position was intercepted by Geggan and he sent away EL BAKHTAOUI who showed great composure to round two players and sink a right footed shot into the Stranraer net from 15 yards. 1-0
The visitors made a double substitution bringing on two strikers in Jon McShane and Stephen Stirling. They pushed up and tried hard to find an equaliser. A new ball was even required in added time but with some robust defending the Pars saw the win out.
A 93rd minute goal for Brechin City earned them the three points meaning the gap between them and Dunfermline remains seven points. Next up for the Fifers is a trip to Brechin and an opportunity to apply further pressure on the Angus side.
DUNFERMLINE: Ryan Scully; Ross Millen, Gregor Buchanan, Lewis Martin, Alex Whittle; Finn Graham, Shaun Byrne (Kyle McAusland 56), Andy Geggan, (c), Ryan Thomson; Allan Smith (Faissal El Bakhtaoui 69), Michael Moffat.
SUBS NOT USED: Ryan Williamson, Declan O'Kane, David Hopkirk, Andy Barrowman, Jamie Wilson (GK)
SCORERS: El Bakhtaoui (83)
YELLOW CARD: Thomson (67), Graham (73)
STRANRAER: David Mitchell; Craig Pettigrew, Scott Rumsby, Frank McKeown, Jackson Longridge; Sean Winter, Grant Gallagher, Chris Aitken, Willie Gibson; Craig Malcolm (Daniel Stoney 78), Jamie Longworth
SUBS NOT USED: Steven Bell, Scott Robertson, Stephen Stirling, Barry Russell, Jon McShane, Daniel Tobin (GK)
YELLOW CARD: Pettigrew (42), Winter (73)
REFEREE: Mat Northcroft
WEATHER: 7C Changeable with Sunny intervals
NEXT MATCH: SPFL League One (away) v Brechin City
Saturday 18th April 2015, kick off 3.00pm at Glebe Park
50/50 Half Time draw: Winning ticket 147101 won £500
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