Dunfermline 8 North Berwick 10

IT'S "sink or swim" time for Dunfermline after a narrow defeat left them too close to the drop zone for comfort.

Head coach Gavin Emerson's men have now lost three games in a row and face a crunch National League Division Four clash at Murrayfield Wanderers on Saturday.

He said: "We're a much better team than we were at the start of the season and we're still safe for now.

"Three teams get relegated so it's sink or swim time for the boys.

Dunfermline Press: Scrum-thing special. The Dunfermline pack was dominant but the team couldn't capitalise. Scrum-thing special. The Dunfermline pack was dominant but the team couldn't capitalise. (Image: David Wardle)

"Last time we played Murrayfield we won by a point and we really need to get a win to get us back on track and restore that sense of belief.

"They're down in the bottom three and have so much to lose so they will be up for it."

READ MORE: Coach sets league target for Dunfermline's learners 

Promoted into a higher league at the end of last season, Dunfermline want to make sure they stay there and not get drawn into a nerve jangling relegation battle.

They're now sixth in the 10-team table, three points above Murrayfield in eighth.

Dunfermline collapsed to a 40-19 defeat at North Berwick on the first day but adapted well to their new surroundings and went on to win the next four league games.

However the Fife side have now lost the last three with the East Lothian side completing the double in a "very frustrating" day for the home XV at McKane Park on Saturday.

North Berwick were first to trouble the scoreboard with a converted try but Dunfermline responded.

Dunfermline Press: Dunfermline put boot to ball in the match against North Berwick on Saturday. Dunfermline put boot to ball in the match against North Berwick on Saturday. (Image: David Wardle)

Emerson said: "We scored a try not long after but didn't convert and then we kicked a penalty with maybe 20 minutes to go.

"They got a penalty, one we didn't need to give away, in the last few minutes to take the lead and that was it.

"Overall it was very frustrating as it was a game we could and should have won.

"We just have to take it on the chin and learn from it."

A dominant scrum gave Dunfermline the advantage but a combination of a malfunctioning line-out, handling errors, knock-ons and poor decision making meant it was a "wasted effort" by the forwards as the team couldn't capitalise.

The head coach said: "Normally our lineout is as good as our scrum but they had two really lanky jumpers that disrupted it.

READ MORE: Dunfermline toasts 'The Spirit of Rugby' at McKane Park

"We 'only' lost four or five but in a tight game you really need that to be working well.

"I feel, and the player group feels, that we're covering everything in training but we're just not transferring it into the games.

Dunfermline Press: Dunfermline's unusually creaky lineout malfunctioned against North Berwick.Dunfermline's unusually creaky lineout malfunctioned against North Berwick. (Image: David Wardle)

"We moved the ball really well at times but in general we failed to execute."

Emerson added: "I don't like to talk bad about referees but the amount of stoppages for penalties and infringements, both teams complained that they struggled to get any momentum in the game.

"That's not an excuse. We struggled to link multiple plays together and were unable to get any continuity.

"It was a really frustrating day and that's now our third loss on the bounce.

"Fortunately we came away with a losing bonus point and if we get a bonus point win this weekend it puts us back into fourth."

Dunfermline Press: Fair contest as Dunfermline aim to keep possession against North Berwick.Fair contest as Dunfermline aim to keep possession against North Berwick. (Image: David Wardle)

Dunfermline's second XV put in a "really positive" performance in their match on Saturday but didn't get their kicks as they went down 35-27 in a thriller.

Ten tries were shared equally between the Fifers and Dundee Uni Medics but it came down to a battle of the boot with the home side converting all five tries while the visitors could only manage that on one occasion.

Emerson said: "They came away with a loss but it was excellent improvement for the seconds and hopefully it will give them a bit of momentum and belief."

There was also a defeat for the Dunfermline under-16 side who put in a valiant effort before exiting the National Shield in the quarter finals.

Last year's Caley Cup winners faced a strong Gala side at McKane Park on Sunday and came up just short, losing 26-22.