Queen of the South 2 PARS 1

ATHLETIC's promotion play-off hopes are over after they fell to a lacklustre defeat at Queen of the South on Saturday.

And, with just two games of the season to go, they are only four points clear of second-bottom Partick Thistle as the battle to avoid the drop intensifies.

Victory over Greenock Morton - who defeated Falkirk on Saturday and sent the Bairns back to the foot of the table - will mathematically ensure Stevie Crawford's men wont't be involved in the relegation zone but they'll need a much improved display to achieve it.

They've now lost five of their last six games and, although Jackson Longridge netted only their third goal in that run, strikes either side of half-time by Iain Wilson and Josh Todd secured a deserved victory for the Doonhamers.

Injured trio Tom Beadling, James Vincent and Danny Devine dropped out of Crawford's starting line-up, to be replaced by Ryan Williamson, Louis Longridge and Mark Durnan, but it was the hosts who started brightly.

Connor Murray fired an early warning shot wide of the Pars goal, and was denied by a fine save by Ryan Scully, with Dunfermline's best efforts in response coming from James Craigen and Faissal El Bakhtaoui, although neither really tested home keeper Deniz Mehmet.

On the stroke of half-time, Queens took the lead when, after picking up the ball outside the box, Wilson got a break away from a couple of challenges before shooting low into Scully's right-hand corner.

It got worse for the visitors seven minutes after the break when Todd, who is heading to Dundee in the summer, was given time and space to cut in from the left and shoot into the far corner of the net after failing to clear from a Queens throw-in.

Although they did press late on, with Bruce Anderson being denied by Mehmet before Longridge headed home, unmarked, from a Ryan Blair corner that was flicked on by Myles Hippolyte, it was too little too late as the points stayed at Palmerston.

Queen of the South: Mehmet, Mercer (Brownlie 49), Doyle, Maguire (Fordyce 81), Marshall, Stirling, Jacobs, Wilson, Todd, Murray (83), Dykes.

Subs not used: McGrath, Irving, Leighfield.

Goals: Wilson (45), Todd (52).

Pars: Scully, Williamson, Durnan, Ashcroft, J. Longridge, Todd (Higginbotham 62), L. Longridge (McCann 77), Craigen, Blair, El Bakhtaoui (54), Anderson.

Subs not used: Allan, Connolly, Morrison, Gill.

Goal: J. Longridge (90).