Ladbrokes Scottish Football League 1, Stair Park, Saturday 6th May 2017
Stranraer 2 (Malcolm 63’, Kassarate 84’)
East Fife 1 (Kerr 76’)
Man of the Match: Jason Kerr
Stranraer XI: Belford, Robertson, Dick (McGowan 90’), Barron, Neill, Bell, Thomson, Agnew, Donald (Wilson 72’), Gibson, Malcolm (Kassarate 82’)
Subs Not Used: Currie, Morena, McGuigan, Kemp
East Fife XI: Hurst, Slattery, Kane, Kerr, Duggan, Curran, Robinson, Penrice, Duffie, Paterson (Smith 70’), Watt (Reilly 55’)
Subs Not Used: Gordon, Cooper, Lamont, Austin, Brown
Referee: Steven Reid
East Fife travelled to Stranraer requiring a win and results elsewhere to go their way but in the end neither happened and they returned home empty handed. Manager Barry Smith made 3 changes to the side that went down to Airdrieonians last time out with Ross Brown, Kevin Smith and Jordan Austin making way for Luke Watt, Chirs Duggan and Scott Robinson.
East Fife were unlucky not to be ahead inside 5 minutes when Pat Slattery saw his header come back off the post after Scott Robinson’s initial effort was blocked. At the other end, Scott Robertson forced Mark Hurst to turn his long-range drive behind for a corner. The visitors suffered a scary moment on 26 minutes when Scott Agnew beat Hurst to a long ball over the top but luckily for the visitors James Penrice was back to clear the danger. The last chance of the half fell to Chris Duggan when cut in from the left and unleashed a shot that was deflected for a corner. There was little to write home about in the first half but the same certainly couldn’t be said about what was to come in the second 45 minutes.
3 minutes after the re-start East Fife were again denied by the woodwork, this time Chris Kane seeing his header from a Nicki Paterson free-kick bouncing back off the post before being turned behind for a corner. East Fife were upping the ante with Kieran Duffie and Duggan both having half-chances; the latter running along the edge of the box but was off-balance when he managed to get his shot away. East Fife should have been ahead just before the hour mark when they were presented with 3 great chances to open the scoring. First Jesse Curran could only find the side-netting from 5-yards after a good 1-2 with Duggan before Duggan got on the end of a cross from the right to head back across goal into the path of Slattery but the midfielder couldn’t direct his shot on target. Scott Robinson was then denied by brave defending by Morgan Neill to block his goal-bound shot from 5-yards.
Good defending by Duffie at the other end just manged to take the ball away from Agnew after Malcolm had got in behind the East Fife defence on 60 minutes. Scott Robinson then picked up a lose pass in midfield before racing in on goal and pulled an excellent save out of Cameron Belford low to his right. The visitors were then hit with a sucker punch on 63 minutes when Willie Gibson skipped past a couple of defenders to lay the ball off for Malcolm who put the ball past Hurst from close-range.
East Fife grabbed a deserved equaliser with 15 minutes left to play when Duffie header on Kevin Smith’s corner into the path of Jason Kerr who found the back of the net with an over-head kick from 2-yards. As East Fife pushed for a winner, Stranraer were content to hit on the counter-attack and went back in front with 6 minutes left on the clock when Gibson stole the ball in midfield and unleashed a shot that Hurst could only parry into the path of Aadou Kassarate who bundled the ball into the empty net. Agnew should have put the game to bed 2 minutes from time however Hurst was out quickly to block. The final chance of the match fell to East Fife when Kerr fired wide from 8-yards after good set up play by Duggan and Smith.
In the end, with Airdrieonians winning and Brechin holding on for a draw against Stenhousemuir, the result didn’t matter. East Fife threw everything at Stranraer but it just wasn’t enough.
After the match, Manager Barry Smith spoke to East Fife TV:
“It was a tight affair in the first half. I thought our boys, in the second half, started extremely well, we’ve hit the post twice, the ‘keepers had 3 great saves before a wee lapse in concentration lost us the first goal. Overall if we’d taken the chances we win. We didn’t deserve to get beat”
“It’s good that they’re disappointed but I think that’s the progress because in the early part of December they’re sitting second bottom and they’re disappointed that we didn’t make the play offs, that’s progress and that’s what we should be concentrating on. We’ve had a tough run recently, where we’ve had a lot of injuries, boys playing in not their right position through the injuries but they’ve stuck at it and there’s no game that I can say they didn’t work hard enough and that’s great credit to them. From our point of view it’s been a great season getting so close to the play-offs and we must try and build on that next year and hopefully the disappointment from today will spur them on.”