SPFL League One: STRANRAER 0 DUNFERMLINE 3: 17/10/15
Michael Moffat (4) 0-1; Ben Richards-Everton (32) 0-2, Antoine-Curier (72) 0-3
Alistair Campbell wrote:-
Having the luxury of playing after the other games in the division had finished, the Pars knew that a win would take them back to the top of the table. This was duly achieved, eventually in some comfort, although the Pars by no means had it easy initially...
Dunfermline made the long trip to Wigtownshire hoping that the return to league business would give them the opportunity to get last week’s disappointing result out of their system. Manager Allan Johnston freshened up the line-up giving Hopkirk a first start of the campaign and welcomed back Lewis Martin, thankfully recovered after his car-crash; Michael Moffat was the third change with Shaun Rooney, Ryan Wallace and Faissal El Bakhtaoui all dropping to the bench with the manager perhaps being wary of risking the last named after he picked up an injury at New Love Street. Former Par Brian Reid’s squad was along familiar lines, featuring 3 ex-Dunfermline players in their starting eleven - Steven Bell, Ryan Thonson and Andy Stirling.
The Pars kicked off towards the Cow Shed but were under early pressure and Murdoch had to pull off and instinctive save in the first minute when Ben Richard-Everton’s tackle deflected the ball goal-wards off McGuigan
At the other end the Pars made no mistake when their first chance came their way – Talbot’s quick throw was flicked on by Hopkirk, Cardle centred and MOFFAT had time to turn around and stab the ball home to give the visitors the lead.
Stranraer tried to hit back and a brilliant solo run from Ryan Thomson saw him drift past first Martin then McAusland but again Murdoch reacted quickly, diving at the former Par’s feet to thwart the danger.
On the other wing McGill beat both Joe Cardle and Jason Talbot before a clumsy challenge saw him go down in the box but Andy Geggan had managed to get enough of the ball to convince referee Craig Charleson to wave play on. There was a further scare on the quarter hour when Richards-Everton and Talbot both left an aimless Paton backpass for each other but again Murdoch was able to mop up.
Meanwhile the Pars spurned a brilliant chance when Shaun Byrne won a 50-50 challenge and was able to advance down the right before choosing to pick out Cardle on the left, but Joe wanted it on his right foot and took one touch too many. Two minute later a better chance went a-begging when Hopkirk took advantage of a Lee Mair slip and found himself one on one with David McGurn but the keeper saved well.
Midway through the half it was Stranraer’s turn to miss a sitter when Thomson scooped his shot over the bar from close range after some trickery from Stirling subsequent to a corner engineered the chance.
With both sides looking like scoring the next goal was always going to be vital, and it went the Pars way just after the half-hour. A Pars attack was cleared, Byrne retrieved the loose ball and had time to look up and pick out RICHARDS-EVERTON who had strayed forward and his header found the rigging, thereby recording his first goal at senior level.
It should have been three soon after when some neat touches saw Martin chip the ball into the middle but Byrne was on the stretch and could only divert the ball over the bar.
The game finally quietened down, with Pars still looking the likelier side, although a foul in stoppage time gave Cairney a chance to shoot from a central position but he blasted well off target.
There could have been more goals for both sides but the Pars would be happy enough with the situation at the interval.
Half time: Stranraer 0 Dunfermline Athletic 2
There were no changes to either side at the break but the home team started the better, Andy Stirling looking to be enjoying himself again, cutting inside and driving a shot that was headed clear. There was another scare when a dangerous cross into the 6-yard box missed everyone and saw Murdoch scrambling belatedly to his right only to let the ball go for a bye-kick at the last second.
The first substitutions arrived, with Longworth and Antoine-Curier replacing McGill and Cardle, the Stranraer man having an instant impact when he sliced through the Pars’ rearguard, before having to settle for a corner. However, the other replacement soon made a bigger impression with the third goal. A driving run from Moffat was diverted away from goal, but the Pars’ striker simply turned and chipped the ball back into the middle where ANTOINE-CURIER had the simplest of tasks to nod home.
It now looked like the destination of the points was settled and both sides completed their allocation of changes with the consequent disruption to the fluidity of proceedings. The Pars stuck with their 4-4-2 formation with McCabe on the right replacing Paton and Wallace taking over on the left as Hopkirk was withdrawn.
The Pars should have added a fourth. With 10 minutes left Moffat robbed the left-back Keenan but eschewed the early pass to Antoine-Curier preferring to create his own shooting chance. When that evaporated he set up Wallace but his effort was more reminiscent of that seen in the oval ball game as it sailed over the cross-bar and out of the ground. Moffat had another chance when he was left unmarked at the back stick at a quickly taken free-kick but his header was off-target.
An innocuous looking challenge conceded by Dunfermline at their left corner flag allowed the home team one last hurrah, the ball being worked to Stirling but after creating space with a 1-2 he seemed to go for the ball with the wrong foot and again failed to work the keeper.
That was that, and with the Pars seeing out the game comfortably it was left to the birthday boy “Big” Ben Richards-Everton to pick up the champagne for man of the match and test out his Gaelic in the post-match pitch-side interview.
STRANRAER: David McGurn; Craig Pettigrew, Lee Mair, Scott Rumsby, Dale Keenan; Paul Cairney (Scott Robertson 85), Steven Bell (Chris Aitken 77), Peter McGill (Jamie Longworth 67), Andy Stirling; Ryan Thomson, Mark McGuigan
SUBS NOT USED: Sam McCloskey, Kyle Turner, Liam Rowan, Max Currie (GK)
YELLOW CARD: Bell (12), McGuigan (49), Stirling (88)
DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch; Lewis Martin, Marc McAusland, Ben Richards-Everton, Jason Talbot; Michael Paton (Rhys McCabe 81), Andy Geggan, Shaun Byrne, Joe Cardle (Mickael Antoine-Curier 67), Michael Moffat, David Hopkirk (Ryan Wallace 75)
SUBS NOT USED: Lewis Spence, Shaun Rooney, Faissal El Bakhtaoui, David Hutton (GK).
SCORERS: Moffat (4), Richards-Everton (32), Antoine-Curier (72)
YELLOW CARD: Geggan (69)
REFEREE: Craig Charleston
WEATHER: Cloudy 11C
NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes League One: (home) v Forfar Athletic, Saturday 24th October 2015. Kick off 3.00pm at East End Park
Ladbrokes Championship: v Falkirk, Saturday 2nd January 2018, kick off 3.00pm