DUNFERMLINE were knocked out of the Betfred Cup this afternoon after going down to defeat at Dundee United.

Simon Murray’s 49th minute header and Scott Fraser’s 82nd minute free-kick sealed the three points for Ray McKinnon’s team, who go through as runners-up to Inverness Caledonian Thistle in Group C.

For Dunfermline, missing the services of Sean Murdoch, Andy Geggan and Gavin Reilly, there was no shortage of effort but a lack of creation in the final third is something they must build on before next Saturday’s Championship opener with Dumbarton.

Allan Johnston made two changes from the side that lost 5-1 to Inverness on Tuesday; suspended Geggan sat out with Ryan Williamson as Nat Wedderburn recovered from illness to feature alongside Lewis Martin.

The hosts are one of the favourites to win promotion from the Championship and they set out their intentions from the off, pinning Dunfermline back in the opening exchanges.

David Hutton had to be alert after only five minutes to block Scott Fraser’s low cross from the left that was looking for Simon Murray, who would have had a tap in had it not been for the booming clearance of Lee Ashcroft.

Two minutes later an even bigger opportunity fell the way of Murray when he seized on a poor Rhys McCabe pass to race in on goal, only for Hutton to again come to Athletic’s rescue.

Ben Richards-Everton had Dunfermline’s first effort soon after when he headed a Kallum Higginbotham corner over the top, but he was soon called into action at the other end to deflect Fraser’s shot over with his head after fine play between Tope Obadeyi and Willo Flood on the left created a shooting chance.

United continued to look threatening but the Pars were working their way back into the game, with Nat Wedderburn excelling in breaking up play and setting the visitors on their way.

They were however guilty of slackness in possession and it almost cost them dearly in the 20th minute when they lost the ball in midfield, allowing Murray to be played in again but Richards-Everton again shut out the United man before the Pars scrambled enough bodies back to clear the danger.

Dunfermline’s first effort on target came just after the half hour mark when Cammy Bell was forced into saving Richards-Everton’s header from a Kallum Higginbotham corner, and Joe Cardle went down inside the area claiming for a penalty only for his appeals to be waved away by referee John McKendrick.

As the clock ticked towards half-time, Higginbotham’s flighted free-kick found Richards-Everton at the far post, who in turn headed it back across goal for Wedderburn but the midfielder couldn’t react quickly enough to divert the ball on target.

However, the Pars made the worst possible start to the second period when they fell behind in the 49th minute.

Jamie Robson found himself in space on the left hand side and, with time to pick out a cross, found the head of Obadeyi, who diverted the ball towards Murray who headed beyond the helpless Hutton from close range.

The goal gave the home side a lift and experienced campaigner Flood fancied getting in on the act minutes later, trying his luck from range and not being too far off hitting the target.

Athletic continued to be guilty of conceding cheap ball and in the 62nd minute, they did so again midway inside the United half.

The hosts broke forward through the pacy Obadeyi and, with the aid of a deflection by the lunging Martin, sent an effort narrowly wide of goal.

Dunfermline found themselves in some promising areas but, all too often, a lack of support in the final third or the lack of a killer, incisive pass proved to be their downfall.

In the 72nd minute, after Flood had sent another effort wide for United, Michael Moffat did well to rob Coll Donaldson of possession on the left but, with limited support, could only force a corner, which the hosts managed to clear with relative comfort.

There was a blow for the Pars with 12 minutes left as Wedderburn was forced off through injury, and he was replaced by young striker James Thomas as the desperation for two goals increased.

Richards-Everton picked up a yellow card and conceded what proved to be a costly 82nd minute free-kick after pulling back substitute Henri Anier after getting the wrong side of the United forward.

Fraser stepped up to hit a beauty of a strike beyond Hutton and into the top corner to seal United’s place in the last 16 and knock Dunfermline out.

Dundee United: Bell, Toshney, Robson, Donaldson, Durnan, Flood, Murdoch, Fraser, Van der Velden, Obadeyi, Murray.

Subs: Spittal, Souttar, Dillon, Johnson, Anier, Telfer, Zwick.

Goals: Murray (49), Fraser (82).

Pars: Hutton, Martin, Talbot, Richards-Everton, Ashcroft, McCabe, Spence, Wedderburn, Cardle, Moffat, Higginbotham.

Subs: Smith, Paton, McMullan, Lochhead, Thomas, Fordyce, Gill.

Referee: John McKendrick.

Attendance: 4,951.