TUES 8TH AUGUST 2006: A v ST JOHNSTONE (CIS Cup - First Round)
Having drawn with the title favourites on Saturday, it was a chance now to see how Dave Baikie's new team would fair against opposition from two divisions higher. What we saw was that we can more than hold our own and it's further proof that once the team finally gels and finds their goalscoring touch, we're certainly going to be a force to be reckoned with this season.
With a few chances made from Saturday's team, East Fife started the brighter and with just 5 minutes on the clock they had a terrific chance to take the lead following some inspired passing play. The move ended with John Martin hitting just over from inside the box, but the way the midfield cut through the St Johnstone defence looked very promising.
St Johnstone had a couple of ventures forward but only had a wide Paul Sheerin effort to show for it and indeed the main threat had was self inflicted and resulted from Iain Ross and Sam Linton colliding when they both went for a cross and although the ball spilled, any danger posed was cleared.
Martin had his second excellent chance of the match with 15 minutes gone, when Kevin Gordon brilliantly played him through. John had a lot of space and time but took one touch too many as he tried to pull out keeper Bryn Halliwell and the Saints defence recovered in time for Kevin Rutkiewicz to nip in with a goal saving last ditch tackle to force a corner.
St Johnstone had their own chance to take the lead four minutes later when some good work on the wing by Jason Scotland saw the World Cup striker cross the ball to the back of the box and Sheerin had a bobbing volley deflect for a corner.
East Fife had their third, and best, effort to take the lead midway through the first half when Jonathan Smart powerfully met a free kick in from the left, but Halliwell produced a spectacular save to tip the ball over and keep the scores level.
The Fife weren't just holding their own, they were taking the game to the First Division side and should have been coasting by this stage. A point not lost on the Bayview witch, Kerriann Paterson, who commented that we would "live to rue those missed chances". For a woman at a football match, she was surprisingly to be proved correct!
East Fife soon had another chance to take the lead thwarted when Scott Crabbe chased down a Goran Stanic backpass and the clearance fell to Gordon outside of the box. Kevin turned the defender but hit his shot into the side netting from 14 yards. Zebra injured his hamstring in the initial attack and the veteran hobbled off to be replaced by the younger Paul Ritchie.
The Saints had a rare attack just after the half hour mark, but Simon Mensing overhit his effort to the back post, with the Saints strikers queuing up for the cross. Smart then nearly got into trouble with a loose backwards header but the ball was easily cleared.
So the first half petered out and the teams went in to the interval all square at 0-0 but with the Third Division side in the ascendancy and the hopes of the Fife faithful bolstered.
East Fife had the first chance of the second half when a corner was headed over but then it became a proverbial game of two halves as St Johnstone took over the game for a spell to end the Fifers' hopes in deadly fashion.
Ross was unable to hold a looping ball in from Martin Hardie, under pressure from Scotland, and although the ball was cleared by Jamie McGowan, this was to be a precursor of what was to come.
St Johnstone had the ball in the net on 56 minutes but it was miles offside.
Tom Courts and Ryan Blackadder had a bizarre handbags moment as the hour mark approached as the Fife players tried to get some fire back into their play.
It was St Johnstone though that had that, and plenty of it, and they effectively killed the tie off with two goals in a two minute burst.
The first came after 60 minutes when new Saints signing, Derek Young, played a superb defence splitting pass to put through Jason Scotland and the Trinidad hitman, who had missed a string of chances in Saturday's draw against Clyde, easily stroked the ball home under Iain Ross for 1-0.
Before the Fife players and fans knew what had hit them, it was two, when Peter McDonald fired in a dangerous cross and Martin Hardie's looping header went over Ross and the Fife defence and into the net at the far post after 62 minutes.
If East Fife could recover their first half form then it wasn't all over yet and Dave Baikie tried to freshen things up with a double Craig substitution, with Smart and new loan signing O'Reilly coming on for Gordon and Martin.
Craig O'Reilly nearly became an instant Fife hero when he was brilliantly put through, but saw his first touch of the game head off into the night towards Inverness, with just the keeper to beat.
But soon it was three and it was Scotland again, who looked to be well offside from a McDonald pass, but the linesman didn't give it and the man that inspired a Top 40 hit rounded Ross and slotted home on the 70 minute mark.
Man of the people, Matthew McLean, puzzled many with why he hasn't been snapped up by a TV or radio commentary team for his insightful match thoughts as he remarked "it's not good now like".
It was nearly four on 73 minutes but ex Fifer Andy Lawrie's speculative effort crashed off the bar from 25 yards out, but Ross had it covered we're sure anyway!
Having dominated the first half, East Fife found their form again and so began a brief onslaught on the Saints goal, pulling one back after 76 minutes. Ryan Blackadder whipped in a dangerous corner and it fell to Craig O'Reilly just inside the box. The Dundee loan star's effort hit off Rutkiewicz and into the net and it was 3-1.
Then the Fife had two chances in as many minutes, but whereas St Johnstone made both of theirs count, we were unfortunate that neither of ours did.
With ten minutes remaining there was an almighty scramble in the St Johnstone box and I still don't really know what happened and how we didn't score, but Tom Courts didn't seem to know that the ball was crossed and there for the taking from just three yards out and it went out for a goal kick. Moments later and Jonathan Smart was unlucky not to head in from a free kick from a good position.
St Johnstone held out for the remaining minutes quite comfortably but it was tremendous fighting performance from the Fife and we can't wait now till Saturday, where hopefully we'll start converting some of these chances and make Albion Rovers pay.
C'mon the Fife!
FINAL SCORE: St Johnstone 3 - 1 East Fife
EAST FIFE: I. Ross, Smith, Linton, J. Smart, McGowan, Courts, Blackadder, Jablonski, Crabbe (Ritchie 28), Martin (O'Reilly 67), Gordon (C. Smart 67) [Subs Not Used - Dodds and Fortune]
ST JOHNSTONE: Halliwell, Lawrie, Stanic, McManus, Rutkiewicz, Dyer (Young 45), Mensing, Hardie, Milne (MacDonald 45), Scotland (Jackson 79), Sheering [Subs Not Used — Stevenson and Cuthbert]
3 points - JAMIE McGOWAN (did well for most of the match and mopped up any Saint pressure)
2 points - JOHN MARTIN (got in some great positions in first half)
1 point - JONATHAN SMART (a couple of slight lapses but did well again)
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