Dunfermline Athletic 0 Queen's Park 3

AFTER watching his team suffer a second successive painful home defeat, James McPake's post-match assertion was stark - Pars are in a relegation battle.

As what he described as a "real bad run" continued with this three-goal defeat by Queen's Park, the Athletic boss admitted that making sure they consolidate their Championship status is now their priority, after they dropped to second bottom spot on Saturday.

Hopes had been high that Dunfermline could challenge for a spot in the Premiership play-off places at the season's end and, although an eight-point gap to fourth and those positions isn't insurmountable, making sure they aren't involved in any drama at the other end is now McPake's priority.

His injury-hit squad, who were beaten 5-0 by Greenock Morton last time out, saw their winless run extended to eight games by Queen's.

READ MORE: Pars are 'in a relegation battle' admits boss

Second half goals from Jack Turner, former Pars favourite, Dom Thomas, and Mackenzie Carse lifted one-time Pars coach, and ex-St Johnstone cup double winning boss, Callum Davidson, and his Spiders up from ninth to sixth in the standings.

Dunfermline, worryingly, now occupy the relegation play-off place - albeit, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, who have played a game more, are only above them on goal difference - ahead of a huge clash at home to Arbroath this weekend, who sit six points behind.

Dunfermline Press:

Whilst admitting his side face a fight to avoid the drop, McPake is adamant that they will not make an instant return to League One, and retains full belief in his players to turn things around.

"We're on a real bad run, we know that. The facts are there for that, how long it's been since we've won, the goals we're conceding," he said.

"We just need to come out fighting, we need to get this place going, whether it takes a change of shape, a change of personnel.

"We can go back and look at it and say about the injured players, and it's maybe now when you're looking and you're in these situations where you see the experience missing from that team.

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"Hopefully in the next week which, regardless of today, we're in the process of trying to add a couple of experienced bodies in. Hopefully that galvanises that group.

"For us, and I'm not trying to be smart, but we will get this right here. We're in a bad, bad position at the minute, but I'll go on record, and it's in no way trying to be the big man or anything, but we'll not get relegated from this league.

"We’re in a relegation battle for the rest of the season. We can forget play-offs, we can forget everything. We need to concentrate on winning a game.

"With the confidence I’ve got in that group and what we’re trying to do, and the staff around it, we’ll not get relegated from this league."

If they are to haul themselves clear of danger at the bottom of the table, Dunfermline will need to find a way to be more threatening in attack - they've now gone three games without scoring - and respond to setbacks in matches.

Until the Spiders opened the scoring midway through the second half, there wasn't much between the teams in this one.

The Pars, with Chris Hamilton dropping back into the middle of defence, and Aaron Comrie returning at right wing back, looked much more assured defensively, with a deflected Turner effort over the bar the only real danger they faced in the opening 45 minutes.

A Lewis McCann effort, which took a nick off an opponent on its way through to Queen's keeper, Calum Ferrie, and a Michael O'Halloran shot from the edge of the box, following good play by Ewan Otoo in the build-up, was, however, as close as the hosts came in a first period in which both teams cancelled each other out.

Thomas and Stuart McKinstry were off-target for the Spiders, who had a penalty appeal waved away when Ruari Paton went down under pressure from Xavier Benjamin, early in the second half as the quality and inspiration at either end continued to be lacking.

However, in the 66th minute, the visitors broke the deadlock when McKinstry's fine inswinging cross was met by Turner, who got ahead of Hamilton to head home from around 12 yards.

From there, the Pars found it tough to lift themselves and respond, and Thomas, who throughout looked the most likely to conjure up a bit of quality, produced a moment of individual brilliance to further wound his old club.

The Spiders captain picked the ball up on the right hand side and, although Otoo tried to close him down, it was too late as he unleashed a superb curling effort from the edge of the box that flew beyond the helpless Deniz Mehmet and into the top corner.

Dunfermline Press: Dom Thomas scores Queen's Park's second goal.Dom Thomas scores Queen's Park's second goal. (Image: Craig Brown.)

That was the cue for many home fans to head for the exits, but those who stayed saw their team concede a third with the last kick of the game when Thomas played the ball through for sub, Mackenzie Carse, who checked inside before slotting a cool finish into the bottom corner.

Dunfermline's players endured the frustration of the crowd at time-up, and McPake commented: "It’s great for us when we were winning games and we were walking off and the fans were cheering our names.

"That (criticism) comes with the job.

"We can’t let it affect them. Yes, they’re hurting, of course they are, we’re all hurting, but we need to move on to next week. We need to quickly move on, find a win, find a way to win.

"We were in that game and then had one setback. We need to find a way to deal with setbacks.

"That might be with the help of some experience, it might just be a change of something else.

"But it needs to turn and it will turn."