SAT 2ND DECEMBER 2006: H v QUEENS PARK (SCOTTISH 3RD DIVISION)
Today's game was a huge step in securing the Championship for Bayview, as East Fife secured three points against the nearest challengers and have now opened up a commanding eight point gap, but we certainly can't get too carried away yet .
It was tough at times, not helped by disgraceful performances from the Queens players who dived, kicked and conned their way to a string of terrible decisions from an inept referee, who played over seven minutes of stoppage time. They're not good losers and neither are their fans. Surprising as you'd think they'd be used to it by now.
John Martin regained a place in the starting line up after last week's heroics, with Jason Dair being the man to sit out, but apart from that it was same as last week and the game kicked off in swirling, blustery conditions meaning it was never going to be a classic.
And the first half certainly wasn't!
Queens Park certainly looked the brighter team in the early stages, winning a string of corners, but to no real attacking threat and there was no real goalmouth action for the first half of the half in fact.
As the midway point ticked by, Tam Courts was forced to dive to head for a corner from 5 yards out after a dangerous ball in, but once again the Spiders wasted the opportunity.
East Fife's first attempt of any note on the Queens Park goal came after 28 minutes, when Ryan Blackadder's shot was easily blocked at the edge of the box.
Five minutes later and Blackadder was involved again, lofting his 22 yard free kick into the box. East Fife managed to clear the ball themselves and it was picked up by Neil Jablonski. Jabba played the ball out to Kevin Gordon at the edge of the box and his cross was met by John Martin at the back post, but the striker headed wide from 10 yards out.
East Fife were now starting to look like an attacking threat and Jabba was put through but Mark Cairns in the Queens goal did well to block his effort for a corner, with Jabba just unable to control the ball in time to unleash a shot.
Queens responded with a long punt from the half way line which the ever dangerous David Weatherston did well to control and turn and volley, but his effort was easily held by Iain Ross.
The last chance of the half fell to Jonathan Smart, but his header from another Blackadder free kick was also easily held by Cairns.
So half time in a pretty dull, but niggly game and the teams deservedly went in goal-less.
Was it going to be another game of two halves, with a different East Fife coming out after the break? Yup!
And we didn't have to wait long to see the full effects. Three minutes in fact!
East Fife had a throw in on the right and up stepped Smart for one of his long specialities. The throw in was cleared and Smart collected the ball himself 20 yards out, before delivering a beautiful cross to the back post with the outside of his foot. Craig O'Reilly was there to knock the ball across the face of the goal, but Jabba and Martin were unable to connect. The ball came to Kevin Gordon though, who hit it high into the net from six yards out. 1-0 Fife!
The game then became heated as Queens threw a hissy fit and a mild stramash in front of the benches saw Tam Courts booked for the Fife and Paul Ronald received yellow for Queens Park.
East Fife nearly made it two as the hour mark approached but Jamie McGowan's powerful header from a Blackadder corner was headed off the line.
Moments later and Cairns was forced to save a Gordon volley from 12 yards out, as East Fife turned up the pressure.
Queens Park looked for the equaliser and when Anthony Quinn went down easily outside the Fife box, the referee waved play on, but then blew for a free kick when the Spiders lost possession. Paul Paton's curling free kick then flew inches by.
Gordon had another great chance to double the advantage on 68 minutes, but Cairns saved his fierce 12 yard effort with his legs.
The tackles were now flying thick and fast and Martin was brought down by a vicious tackle on the edge of the box by Richard Sinclair, after being brilliantly put through. Despite looking like he was last man, Sinclair only received a yellow.
Queens Park then really started to turn on the pressure, but although East Fife looked under the cosh for long periods, there was no real goal threat being posed and with six minutes remaining Mark Ferry had Queens' last real chance, but his effort was blocked for a corner.
Referee MacDonald then proceeded to play 7 minutes and 10 seconds of stoppage time, during which an unmarked Craig Smart blasted over from 10 yards out and Paul Ritchie outpaced the Queens defence but saw his fine effort hit the side netting.
To sighs of relief, the final whistle finally came and East Fife marched on at the top. It was scrappy and tense, but three points is three points and I don't care how we get them.
C'mon the Fife!
FINAL SCORE: East Fife 1 - 0 Queens Park
EAST FIFE: Ross, Smith, Linton, J. Smart, McGowan, Courts, Gordon, Jablonski, O'Reilly (Ritchie 90), Martin (C. Smart 80), Blackadder. [Subs (not used): Dodds, Doyle and Dair]
3 points - Jonathan Smart (dealt with everything)
2 points - Tam Courts (put himself about they way he needs to)
1 point - Neil Jablonski (no goals, but top effort)
[For more pictures of today's game, check out Jim Corstorphine's excellent photo's HERE.]