East Fife 1, Stranraer 2
Stranraer were saved by the bell – Steven Bell – as they completed a great week on their travels by chalking up a third victory with a late winner.
Stranraer have developed a happy habit of winning games and this was to be another important result that consolidates their place in the top half of the league table.
The Blues got off to a fantastic start with a goal with only 40 seconds on the clock. Sean Winter delivered a free kick that was only partially cleared. Andy Stirling and Grant Gallagher worked the ball into the inside left channel for Jamie Longworth, and the on-form striker smashed the ball into the Fifers’ net to make it five consecutive scoring games for him.
East Fife responded and their attack was crudely ended on the edge of the box by Scott Robertson who fouled Jack Smith. Liam Buchanan took the free kick and was only inches wide of the target.
Smith then had an effort of his own as he ghosted in at the far post to reach Johnny Stewart’s cross but Blues keeper David Mitchell had read the move and stood tall to make a fine save.
The Blues missed a great chance after 35 minutes to double their lead after more great skill by Stirling on the left. Leaving the full-back trailing, he crossed into the danger area where Chris Aitken had made a great run but under pressure from Joe Mbu he couldn’t convert the chance.
It didn’t take the Fifers long to punish Stranraer for that miss with an equaliser they just about deserved. Hughes had time and space to cross from the right and as the ball dropped between Scott Robertson and Frank McKeown, the ever alert Buchanan controlled it and rifled the ball past Mitchell.
East Fife started well after the interval and almost took the lead. Durie provided a great through ball for Smith inside the box and the youngster did everything right as he turned and had a shot but Mitchell made a great save. At the other end, Longworth and McKenna combined and Paterson had to look lively to beat away McKenna’s effort.
The Fifers introduced the experienced Pat Clarke and within a minute he missed a glorious opportunity. Nathan Austin linked up with Buchanan to feed the substitute and he somehow contrived to fire over the bar when it looked easier to score.
Both teams rang the changes as the half continued and with it looking increasingly likely that the next goal would be the winner, Lewis Barr for the home side entered the foray along with Martin Grehan and Steven Bell for the visitors.
Buchanan continued to cause problems and delivered a great cross to the far post but neither of his striking colleagues had read it and Mitchell was able to mop up the danger as the game headed towards the final minute.
Docherty played a long ball for Grehan to chase inside the penalty box. Paterson made contact in the challenge and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Up stepped Aitken and Paterson saved but he could do nothing about the rebound and Bell was quickest to react and he headed home his first goal for the club.
East Fife manager Willie Aitchison rued the missed chances and felt his team had dominated long periods. He was pleased with how his youngsters had performed but a couple of disappointing goals had ultimately proved very costly.
Stephen Aitken was relieved at the result and conceded that East Fife probably deserved something from the game. He was delighted that his team had managed to win while not being at their best but it was a sign of a good team that could get results when not at their best.
East Fife: Greg Paterson, Scott Durie, Craig Johnstone, Joe Mbu, Steven Campbell, Johnny Stewart (Lewis Barr 73), Nathan Austin (Cyrus Moosavi 60), Ross Brown, Liam Buchanan, Stephen Hughes, Jack Smith (Pat Clarke 57). Subs not used: Alexis Dutot, Kyle Wilson, Ryan Stewart, Michael Andrews.
Goal: Buchanan 42
Stranraer: David Mitchell, David MacGregor, Mark Docherty, Scott Robertson, Frank McKeown, Chris Aitken, Sean Winter (Steven Bell 69), Grant Gallagher, David McKenna (Martin Grehan 62), Jamie Longworth (Ryan Borris 91), Andy Stirling. Subs not used: Lloyd Kinnaird, Mark Corcoran, Chris Fahey
Goals: Longworth 1, Bell 90
Referee: M Northcroft