With nine points already safely secured and brimful of confidence after netting seven goals in midweek, Dunfermline were not expected to make such heavy weather of confirming their progress to the knockout stages.
Falling behind to Peter MacDonald’s first-half opener, the Pars were forced to come from behind to seal top spot in Group D. A double from summer signing Myles Hippolyte and a first goal from on-loan Dundee midfielder James Vincent ensured the Fifers will proceed to the last-16 as seeds and full of belief for next weekend’s Championship opener away to Dundee United.
“In the first-half we probably tried to score the perfect goal,” said Dunfermline manager Allan Johnston. “But, in the second-half, we were a totally different team and we created eight or nine really good chances. We could have scored a lot more goals.
“The main thing is getting through. I don’t know about getting seeded, you’re still going to get tough teams, no matter who you get. The important thing was getting another win, getting into the habit of winning and coming back from losing a goal.”
Dunfermline began confidently enough but it was Stirling who took a shock lead nine minutes from the break. It was a superb move from the previously passive Binos, with MacDonad clinically sweeping in his volley after Kevin Fell had brilliantly kept alive a cross from Jordan Allan.
The home side required a swift response and they got it just a minute after the interval. Louis Longridge spiralled a pinpoint ball over the top and Hippolyte avoided the offside trap to run clear and slot beyond Cameron Binnie.
Nine minutes later, the Fifers ensured they would qualify with a 100 per cent record. Durnan looped a pass through for Faissal El Bakhtaoui to scamper onto and, when the on-loan Dundee striker’s lob from a tight angle rebounded off the crossbar, Vincent headed into the empty net.
Thereafter, Dunfermline threatened to score at will. James Craigen, Joe Thomson, Jackson Longridge, El Bakhtaoui, twice, and substitute Andy Ryan could all have added to the lead before Ryan’s free-kick crashed off the bar to allow Hippolyte to nod in his second in injury-time.
“We played so well for the first 45 minutes and got ourselves into a great position, and then to conceded two sloppy goals was disappointing” said Stirling manager Dave Mackay, who was sent to the stand by referee Mike Roncone after complaining when his side were not awarded a second-half penalty for a push on Jason Marr.