SPFL League One: STRANRAER 3 DUNFERMLINE 1: Date 01/03/14
For the first fixture in Spring, Dunfermline were back in Galloway for what could be a play off semi final rehearsal. Should these sides remain in their current positions then they would meet again in May. Jim Jefferies made one change from the side that started on Tuesday night against Arbroath; Ryan Williamson replacing Ross Millen. Allan Smith returned to the bench after toncillitis had kept him out.
Stranraer made two changes from the eleven that played Rangers in midweek. Jamie Longworth and Sean Winter made way for Stephen Stirling and David McKenna.
The Pars kicked off attacking the goal at the open north end and Faissal El Bakhtaoui got a shot in within 25 seconds but just 23 seconds after that the home side had a great opportunity when Martin Grehan nipped in between Callum Morris and Ryan Scully but the Pars centre half redeemed himself by clearing the shot off the line.
It had been an eventful opening minute but the visitors soon gained possession which they were to dominate 60% to 40% for the whole game. Ross Forbes shot wide from 30 yards but Stranraer continued to press with McKenna sending over a difficult cross from the left that Jonathan Page headed clear. Martin Grehan was offside as he got in a shot from the right but next the striker threatened to get round Callum Morris on the left side of the penalty box and a tug on the jersey was clear for all to see. Referee Greg Aitken pointed to the spot and GREHAN gave Scully no chance with the seventh minute penalty. 1-0
Stephen Stirling was yellow carded for his challenge on Josh Falkingham before in tenth minute Stephen Husband hit the crossbar with a rocket of a shot from 35 yards. Next Forbes powerful run was halted by Scott Robertson on the edge of the home box earning the second yellow of the day but Husband launched his setpiece over the crossbar.
At the other end Stephen Stirling slipped through on the right and his effort from an angle dropped narrowly wide left. A Stranraer corner was then turned over the Pars bar as the Stair Park side carved out another chance. On 21 minutes Williamson got in behind the defence on the right side and Lawrence Shankland tried a neat flick at the near post but David Mitchell was alert and held the ball at his feet.
Three minutes later Grainger sent over a free kick from the left edge of the Stranraer box but Shankland's header down into the six yard box was cleared. A 29th minute free kick from Forbes changed nothing and in a follow up Forbes drove just outside the left goalpost.
Shankland was hauled down by Frank McKeown to give Dunfermline a 35th minute free kick that was quickly taken but Falkingham was denied at the right post. Williamson then forced a corner on the right and when Stranrarer cleared Geggan followed up with a strong net bound shot that Mitchell parried and Shankland failed to accept the sitter to finish, somehow he managed to drive it wide right.
The Fifers were to pay dearly for the miss because Stranraer went up the park and scored a second. It was McKENNA who smashed the ball past Scully after Page could only manage to tee up the goal as he tried to head clear a cross from the right. The 39th minute goal made it 2-0.
A Falkingham corner from the left in the final minute of the first half was headed wide by Morris and the Pars went in to meet Jim Jefferies two goals behind. It had been a fair first half for the Pars going forward but two mistakes had handed Stranraer a comfortable advantage.
Half Time: Stranraer 2 Dunfermline 0
Alex Whittle replaced Josh Falkingham for the second half and Forbes got in an early shot that the home fans jeered for being well off target. A corner and a free kick were then dealt with by Stranraer in the opening ten minutes. Whittle forced a corner on the left but Mitchell fisted clear Husband's inswinger.
A misheaded Morris header then set up Grehan but he too failed to connect properly and the 29 year old's sclaff was collected by Scully. Williamson and Whittle were allowed possession on either side of the box but failed to trouble Mitchell then a Williamson cross was deflected over his crossbar as the Pars got much closer to goal.
A good cross in 65 minutes was well connected by Shankland but Mitchell punched his powerful header over the bar and the Stranraer keeper continued to keep the Pars out with a timely fist on the corner and then gathering a Williamson cross at his near post. Shankland them scooped a fine effort at the end of a Grainger free kick but the ball came back off the far post.
The Fifers had looked the most likely to score but it was the Galloway men who scored the third goal of the game in 72 minutes. A cross from the left created the problem and when the first effort from Grant Gallagher was blocked McKENNA drilled the ball past Scully 3-0.
When Whittle was impeded by Andrew Stirling on the left side of the box Dunfermline were awarded a spot kick and GRAINGER converted that although it went in off the left post. 3-1 with twelve minutes remaining. Grainger then came close to scoring again as his shot from distance only escaped narrowly wide right.
Pressure was piled on the home goal with a couple of what might be termed stramash incidents and a chance created by Williamson being cut out as he tried to find Shankland. The home defence held out including the last action which was at a Pars corner but typically that too fell outside target. A win that the home fans thoroughly enjoyed and one that meant Rangers were just four points off promotion. It looks like Dunfermline will be facing another trip to the south west in May.
STRANRAER: David Mitchell, Scott Robertson, Frank McKeown (c), Scott Rumsby, Mark Docherty, Stephen Stirling (Sean Winter 62), Steven Bell, Andrew Stirling (Lloyd Kinnaird 82), Grant Gallagher, David McKenna (Jamie Longworth 74), Martin Grehan,
SUBS NOT USED: Adam Forde,David McGregor, Chris Fahey, Ryan Borris.
SCORERS: Grehan (7 pen.), McKenna (39, 72)
YELLOW CARD: S Stirling (8), Robertson (15)
DUNFERMLINE: Ryan Scully; Ryan Williamson, Danny Grainger, Jonathan Page, Callum Morris, Andy Geggan (c), Stephen Husband, Josh Falkingham (Alex Whittle HT), Ross Forbes; Lawrence Shankland, Faissal El Bakhtaoui (Ryan Thomson 68).
SUBS NOT USED: Ross Millen, Lewis Martin, Allan Smith, Shaun Byrne, Ryan Goodfellow (GK)
YELLOW CARD: Morris (7)
SCORER: Grainger (78 pen.)
REFEREE: Greg Aitken ,
WEATHER: Changeable 8C
NEXT MATCH: SPFL League One (home) v Stenhousemuir
Saturday 8th March, kick off 3.00pm