SAT 28TH OCTOBER 2006: A v EAST STIRLING (SCOTTISH 3RD DIVISION)
East Fife continued their basement trilogy at Falkirk this week in one of those potential banana skin games that the mighty black and gold have fallen at many times over the years. Not today though.
An assured and commanding performance, on a surface not destined to produce great football, saw the league leaders not only come away with three vital points but extend their lead at the top in the process.
There was only ever going to be one winner between the sides and East Fife's class showed from the start and it was no surprise when the Bayview men took the lead after only 8 minutes.
A neat move up the left involving Ryan Blackadder and Craig Smart ended with the ball being perfectly played into the centre to Craig O'Reilly and the loan striker showed good control to volley low into the net from 10 yards. 1-0 Fife.
East Fife continued to press and won a free kick 22 yards out, but Blackadder's effort was easily saved by Anton Nugent in the Shire goal.
East Stirling let the Fife know that they weren't to be discounted just yet when Stephen Oates headed an effort wide from a good position.
East Fife soon regained control and as the midway point of the half ticked by, Kevin Gordon's dangerous low cross could find no takes in the Shire box.
Seconds later and Craig Smart was put through perfectly but curled his effort from the edge of the box just past Nugent's left hand post.
Shire responded with a long ball forward and Alan Ward and Elliot Smith were involved in a foot race, but John Dodds came out well to smother the ball at Ward's feet before he could get full control. The Shire striker was injured in the process and had to be taken off shortly after.
Ward managed to stay on the pitch long enough to see East Fife double their lead on 32 minutes, when Neil Jablonski took full advantage of a quickly taken free kick and his deflected effort mis-footed Nugent to nestle in the bottom corner of the net. 2-0 Fife.
Full credit to East Stirling though as they battled to get back into the game and they were unlucky to see Paul Stewart's fierce effort fly over the bar with 11 minutes of the half remaining.
As the game headed towards the interval, East Fife finished how they started, in the ascendancy, and a long throw from Jonathan Smart saw Jablonski's overhead effort cleared to Blackadder outside of the box, but Ryan's volley was saved by Nugent.
So, half time and a comfortable 2-0 lead.
The second half had started quite subdued but burst into life in a cracking two minute spell, which saw the Fife double their lead again and kill the game off in the process.
With 56 minutes gone, the Fife broke quickly from a Shire free kick and found themselves in a 3 on 1 situation, which saw Craig Smart choose the wrong option and give away possession. Elliott Smith soon won the ball back and his cross was met by Craig O'Reilly 12 yards out and he angled his powerful header into the net for 3-0.
Two minutes later and it was four, when Blackadder hit a sweet 20 yard volley low and off the post into the net.
The Fife had another couple of half chances as they played some silky soccer on a quagmire of a pitch.
Paul Tweedie forced Dodds into a save midway through the half but the Fife responded with a Jablonski chance being well blocked.
With 15 minutes remaining though, Tweedie had an excellent chance to gain a consolation goal, outrunning the Fife defence and forcing Dodds to make a fantastic stop with his legs. The Fife keeper wasn't sure where the ball ended up but thankfully Tom Courts was on hand to clear the danger.
The game was petering out but it was the Shire who had the last chance with a 3 on 2 break with three minutes remaining and only a last ditch Jonathan Smart tackle saved the day.
The final whistle came, but the biggest cheer of the day was yet to come as the Fife faithful returned to their buses and cars to find out the lead at the top had increased.
With a dangerous game against in form basement side Elgin next week, more of the same will see us consolidate our position and set us up nicely for a crucial double header with Berwick.
C'mon the Fife!
FINAL SCORE: East Stirling 0 - 4 East Fife
EAST FIFE: Dodds, Smith, Linton, J. Smart, Doyle, Courts (Hampshire 76), Gordon, Jablonski, O'Reilly (Crabbe 81), C. Smart (Martin 81), Blackadder [Sub (not used): I. Ross - Dair pulled out before kick off]
3 points - Craig O'Reilly (looking strong and dangerous up front now)
2 points - Ryan Blackadder (strong in the middle. a lot came through him)
1 points - Jonathan Smart (untroubled and composed at back)