SAT 9TH SEPTEMBER 2006: A v MONTROSE (SCOTTISH 3RD DIVISION)
It had to happen at some point, our first league defeat, but the manner of the loss has questioned the belief many had in the team this season, as the team on display today had very little fight or creativity about it. An off day hopefully, or maybe the 5-0 curse, but it was certainly something to make sure that we don't get too complacent at the top of the pile.
East Fife dominated possession for spells of the game but it was Montrose who looked the more lively and were quick on the counter attack, creating several chances, whilst the Fife attack really struggled to get going.
East Fife had the first opportunity of the match in the opening minutes, when Craig Smart forced an easy save from Montrose keeper Andy Reid and the Links Park outfit responded by forcing John Dodds to save well from an Andy Rodgers header from a Paul Napier cross in from the right.
The Fife then took control of the game for a spell and had a great chance to open the scoring after 7 minutes when Stephan Fortune pounced on some defensive hesitation, rounded the keeper but shot just wide of the far post when he really should have done better.
Paul Ritchie came even closer moments later when his strong run at the Montrose defence saw his fierce effort cannon off the crossbar and over.
It was an open game, with play moving quickly between goalmouths and the home side were keen to let the league leaders know that they weren't going to be pushovers and they came close to opening the scoring themselves after 12 minutes, when Dodds allowed Scott Michie's low grasscutter of a shot fumble through his hands for a corner. Dodds then didn't come for the ball at the subsequent corner and was relieved to see Chris Tawse header fly over.
There then followed a period of sustained Fife pressure which saw a neat corner end with a fierce Jablonski shot being blocked, Ryan Blackadder having an effort tipped over for a corner and Fortune going just wide with another effort.
The best chance of all these fell to Ritchie on 26 minutes, but his header, from a Blackadder cross, went narrowly wide.
Montrose fought their way back into the game however and had a spell of pressure themselves that led to them taking the lead.
Dodds did well to hold a Michie effort on 34 minutes from the edge of the box, then was unlucky minutes later not to pounce on an Elliott Smith back header before Dodds just got to it. Michie was not to be denied though and the Montrose hitman hit home a Rodgers cross in from right with 37 minutes on the clock for 1-0.
And that was it for the first half. A half in which Montrose looked the sharper but East Fife had the better possession without really threatening too much.
Montrose came out the hungrier in the second half and it was the troublesome Michie who nearly did the damage again when he hit an attempted lob just over, eight minutes in, and as the hour mark approached, both Andy Rodgers and Greig Henslee were just inches away from connecting with free headers from a dangerous cross into the box.
East Fife had tried to freshen things up with Gary Kelly and John Martin and both made an impact and added a fresh impetus to a faltering Fife attack and with 16 minutes remaining the Fife nearly found the equaliser when Craig Smart narrowly headed over a tremendous long throw in from Jonathan Smart near the right corner flag.
But as East Fife pushed for the tying goal, Montrose nearly caught the Fife defence napping two minutes later when the greetin faced Rodgers showed some neat footwork and trickery before seeing his fine effort parried by Dodds and the danger cleared by some nice keepy-uppy skills from Blackadder.
Montrose then had the best chance yet to kill the game off when Michie somehow managed to head a corner over from right under the bar!
Former Fifer Steve Kerrigan had Montrose's last chance in the dying seconds of normal time, when he flashed a header inches wide from a Napier corner.
East Fife nearly stole a point though in injury time when they earned a corner and Jonathan Smart could only watch in disbelief as Montrose keeper Andy Reid produced a spectacular save to force his header over the bar and keep all three points at Links Park.
When the final whistle then came there could be no real complaints from the Fife for not taking anything from the game, but we'll certainly have to be a lot sharper and hungrier next Saturday against Berwick and to continue our Championship quest.
C'mon the Fife!
FINAL SCORE: Montrose 1 - 0 East Fife
EAST FIFE: Dodds, Smith, Linton, J. Smart, Courts, Fortune (Kelly 50), Gordon, Jablonski, Ritchie (Martin 70), C. Smart (O'Reilly 79), Blackadder [Subs (not used): Roberts and Doyle]
3 points - Jonathan Smart (untroubled at back and caused some problems with throw ins and set pieces)
2 points - Tam Courts (looked really comfortable in the middle throughout)
1 points - Stephan Fortune (we felt he was our best player in the first half and shouldn't have been substituted)
(Jonathan Smart nearly steals a point at the end)