SAT 12TH MAY 2007: H v QUEENS PARK (SCOTTISH 3RD DIVISION PLAY OFF - 2ND LEG)
East Fife went into today's game full of hope and self belief. The mood was upbeat as a huge crowd assembled inside Bayview and it was standing room only. Unfortunately the reality soon kicked in - we were going to be a Third Division side yet again next season.
With Kevin McBride, Tam Courts, Paul Walker and Paul Ritchie coming into the starting eleven as changes to Wednesday night's team, and with John Martin being recalled from Kelty for a place on the bench, it looked like Dave Baikie had gone for an attacking line up.
The first goal was always going to be crucial. What Queens Park needed to do was to either hold the Fife scoreless for as long as possible or to silence the crowd by taking the lead themselves.
Unfortunately for those of a black and gold persuasion, they did the latter, when Paul Paton unleashed a 30 yard screamer, which gave John Dodds no chance as it shot into his bottom right hand corner. 1-0 to the Spiders and 5-2 on aggregate.
It wasn't looking good and it succeeded in almost completely silencing and deflating the large home support. There was to be no coming back.
Paul Walker almost replied immediately but his 20 yard curler hit the side netting.
The dip in atmosphere was matched by the dip in skill and play on the park and we had to wait until the 26th minute for the Fife's second shot on goal, when some rare passing play from the Fife and some nice interlinking between Elliot Smith and Neil Jablonski in particular, ended with Jabba setting up Paul Ritchie on the edge of the box and Paul swivelled superbly but his volley went just wide.
Queens Park responded when Mark Ferry shot high and wide from outside the box on 28 minutes and moments later a good move on the left from David Weatherston saw the ball end up at Ferry's feet and this time he shot just wide of Dodds' left hand post.
The last decent chance of the half fell to Paul Walker, with six minutes of the half remaining. A poor clearance from the Spiders saw Jonathan Smart pick the ball up midway into the Queens half and Smarty played a neat one-two with Lloyd Young, dummying the return ball to allow Walker space at the back of the box but his weak shot from 14 yards out was easily held by David Crawford in the Queens Park goal.
So half time. One down on the day. Three down on aggregate and with seemingly no way back into the tie unless there was a miracle performed at half time.
Sadly miracle workers were all busy today and it was just to get worse in the 45 minutes to follow.
Queens Park should have killed the tie five minutes into the half but Paul Cairney shot straight at Dodds from six yards out.
As the hour mark approached Alan Trouten delivered a brilliant cross to the back of the box and Weatherston forced Dodds into a scrambled save across the goalmouth.
East Fife tried to respond but Smart's 30 yard effort from a cleared Greig McDonald free kick was always going wide.
The Fife tried to kickstart some form of attack by introducing a double substitution on 61 minutes with Stevie Nicholas and Ryan Blackadder coming on for the two full backs Elliot Smith and Kevin McBride.
East Fife had the ball across the line but Crawford was adjudged to have been impeded from a barge, then McDonald forced Crawford to hold well with a header from a corner.
East Fife continued to try and push forward, but there was no real threat or worry there for the Queens Park defence and the Spiders had the midfield completely in control, as they had done for most of the game.
A cross to the back of the box found Craig O'Reilly unmarked, but the big man dillied and dallied too long and was unable to get a shot off and the ball was eventually played out to Blackadder who shot curled wide from the edge of the box.
East Fife's lack of firepower was soon punished and it was Weatherston's trickery on the left that was to prove to be their downfall once again, as his excellent cutback was hit in off the underside of the bar by Trouten, although there was suspicions of handball in the initial controlling of the ball.
With the Fife faithful expecting to see Martin introduced into the game, it was surprise when Kevin Gordon came on for an out of sorts O'Reilly and Gordon made an immediate impact setting up Ritchie but his effort was saved by Crawford.
As the game fizzled out to it's inevitable conclusion, the Spiders still had time to nick a third in the last minute, as a quick breakaway from an East Fife attack saw Frankie Carroll put straight through from his own half and he coolly slotted past Dodds, with Smart in deep pursuit.
The final whistle thankfully came and it was a 3-0 win on the day for Queens Park and a 7-2 triumph on aggregate as the amateurs returned to the Second Division for the first time since 2001.
And fair play to them. They were by far and away the better team over the two legs and played some skillful football on the way there, particularly in the first leg at Firhill. If they keep their squad together and keep true to that style of football then they might see another promotion beckoning this time next year.
As for East Fife, it's a big improvement on last year, but with the money spent and the lead that was achieved last year you have to feel disappointed that instead of eight derby games next season we have treks to Stranraer and Elgin to look forward too.
It was a disappointing way to bow out too though, with very little attacking flair shown today and a seemingly tactical unawareness of how to deal with what was happening.
Now isn't the time to point fingers and apportion blame though and we can only go away, lick our wounds and make sure that we return next season full of fight, full of spirit, full of a desire to succeed and to clinch promotion the easy way - securing the 2007/2008 Third Division title.
C'mon the Fife!
FINAL SCORE: East Fife 0 - 3 Queens Park
EAST FIFE: Dodds, Smith (Nicholas 61), McBride (Blackadder 61), Smart, McDonald, Courts, Walker, Jablonski, Rithcie, O'Reilly (Gordon 80), Young. [Subs (not used): Ross and Martin]
3 points - Jonathan Smart (outstanding, motivating and truely gutted at end)
2 points - Lloyd Young (tried to get things going from the middle)
1 point - Greig McDonald (no other real contenders and Greig's a trier)
[For more pictures of today's game, check out Jim Corstorphine's excellent photo's HERE.]