Fifers’ play-off hunt goes right to the wire

METHIL;'EAST FIFE V Alloa; MARC MCCULLOCH'photo; WALTER NEILSON

METHIL;'EAST FIFE V Alloa; MARC MCCULLOCH'photo; WALTER NEILSON

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WHAT a difference a year makes.

This time last season, the Fifers were heading into a crunch relegation decider with Arbroath, hoping to cling on to their Division Two status.

A point that day was enough - but three this weekend, coupled with a Brechin loss against Ayr, will complete a stunning turnaround and secure a play-off spot with a prize of Division One football only a few games away.

The dream continued for another week following Saturday’s fine 3-1 home win over Alloa, which came courtesy of goals from Ryan Wallace, Matthew Park and Scott Durie. Kevin Motion grabbed a consolation for the Wasps, while Wallace also missed a penalty.

Fife ‘keeper Michael Brown, whose inspired recent form has contributed to the promotion surge, said after the game: “Last season, we were going into the last game hoping to stay in the league but now we’re looking at promotion.

“At the end of January we were joint bottom, so to be in this position now is great.

“There’s a great team spirit here at the moment and there are always plenty of jokes flying around at training - although we know where the line is.

“I had a couple of saves to make and I think we should have killed them off a lot sooner than we did.

“They got their goal and it gave them a lift, but we showed character to hold on.

“We know it’s not in our hands, it’s up to Brechin still, so all we can do is just win our game and see what happens.”

The Fifers could have taken an early lead when Bobby Linn’s free-kick had to be beaten away by Ryan Ewing.

Lloyd Young was the next to test the Alloa ‘keeper with a header from a Steve Hislop knock back.

The home side broke the deadlock when Wallace burst in on goal and rounded firstly Scott Walker and then Ewing before slotting home.

Then came the penalty miss before Park made it 2-0 when he rose highest to nod in a back post cross.

The Fifers had been dominant until then but it was the visitors who bagged the next, when Motion turned in a loose ball to haul one back.

The goal created a nervy end to the came but Durie’s solo run and strike ensured the play-off battle will go down to the wire.

Fife boss John Robertson said: “All we can do is keep winning and keep picking up points.

“In the first half we were absolutely superb but we needed that second goal.

“Credit to Alloa - they ended the game with four strikers on the park and the third goal was maybe a bit cruel on them.

“For us to be in contention going into the last game is absolutely tremendous.”

East Fife - Brown, Durie, Park, Ovenstone, McGowan, Muir, Linn, McCulloch, Hislop [Smart 90], Young, Wallace [Devlin 90]. Subs (not used) Fagan, Campbell, Lyness.

Alloa Athletic - Ewing, McClune, Dunlop, Gibson, Walker, Motion, McGowan, Ferguson [Prunty 79], Byrne, Smith [Noble 32], Taggart [Scott 62]. Subs (not used) Pitman, Robertson.

Referee - B Colvin.

Attendance - 846.

Starcheck ratings - Brown 3 points, Wallace 2, Linn 1.

Starcheck table - Bobby Linn 43, Michael Brown 33, Craig Johnstone 26, Kurtis Byrne 16, John Ovenstone 15, Ryan Wallace 14, Stevie Campbell 13, Matthew Park 9, Lloyd Young 9, Scott Durie 8, Steve Hislop 7, David Muir 7, Robert Sloan 7, Dylan McGowan 5, Stewart Murdoch 5, Jonathan Smart 4, Paul Tansey 3, Stevie Crawford 2, Marc McCulloch 2.