Dunfermline 0 Ayr United 1

An Ayr raid just before half-time condemned Dunfermline to their fourth league defeat in a row and a dismal start to the New Year.

Craig Moore’s disputed goal settled a match that Stevie Crawford’s men dominated but couldn’t turn possession into anything meaningful, although they did hit the post and top scorer Kevin Nisbet was denied on a number of occasions.

Back-to-back losses at home mean Athletic have also dropped out of the promotion picture, slumping six points behind Ayr.

Ethan Ross, the 18-year-old midfielder signed on loan from Aberdeen yesterday, was put straight into the team but there was no place in the squad for Harry Cochrane or Anthony McDonald.

That suggests the on-loan duo are returning to Tynecastle although the good news is that Greg Kiltie, borrowed from Killie, started and looks set to stay for the rest of the campaign.

Ross was wearing lucky number 13 – we hoped – and there was early promise when he scampered free down the left wing but his cross was just too high for Kevin Nisbet.

Kiltie’s slide-rule pass then found the striker lurking on the edge of the area but Ayr were out quick to block his blast at goal.

Dunfermline were in the ascendancy and Kyle Turner showed quick feet to evade a challenge and rifle a shot just over the bar after United failed to clear a corner.

Ross Doohan then wandered out from his goal but Ayr made a hash of the clearance and he was stranded, with the Pars support urging Ryan Dow to go for the unguarded net.

He tried to find a better angle though and the move ended with ex-Par Andy Geggan hauling Ross to the floor by the neck, picking up a yellow card in the process.

There was a lucky escape for the Honest Men from the free kick though as Turner sent in an inswinger that was missed by everyone and Doohan could only watch as the ball bounced back off his left hand post.

Mark Kerr’s men then hit the frame of the goal with ex-Par Steven Bell getting on the end of a free kick floated in by Stephen Kelly, but his header kissed the crossbar and went over. Kiltie showed his class in the 24th minute, picking his way through the away rearguard and exchanging passes with Nisbet before hammering a drive from 25 yards that skidded just wide.

Nisbet had the chance to open the scoring in the 33rd minute after Ayr lost the ball and Kiltie immediately pounced, swiftly sending it to Nisbet on the left side of the box.

The hitman steadied himself and hit it low but Doohan was out quick to make a fine block with his legs.

And that’s how quickly a match can turn as the visitors netted in the 38th minute with a goal the Pars felt was offside.

United kept the ball moving quickly across the greasy turf and Kerr worked it to Alan Forrest who had space on the edge of the box.

His cross-shot posed no danger until Moore slid in to side-foot the ball past the helpless Ryan Scully, with Dunfermline defenders appealing in vain for the linesman to put his flag up.

Aggrieved to be behind at the break, and having lost their previous three matches, this was a real test of character for Crawford’s men.

Nisbet had an early chance in the second half that he tried to guide towards the top corner but Bell managed to get in the way.

On the hour he had another chance with a free kick in a central position but his strike flicked off the wall and Doohan managed to get gloves on the ball.

Nisbet was at it again in the 62nd minute, testing the Ayr goalie with a thump from distance after Kiltie’s spadework, but it was a comfortable save.

Frustration set in, not helped by some inconsistent refereeing and Ayr’s time-wasting tactics, as Dunfermline chased a leveller and hurried their passes.

There was a real scare for both sides in the 73rd minute when Ayr striker Moore and Pars goalie Scully crashed into each other at speed while chasing a through ball, both were down injured for a considerable time with the Dunfermline man coming off worst.

Just as painful was the finish to the match for the home faithful, as Dunfermline huffed and puffed but struggled to create gilt-edged chances.