Fifers rely on a helping hand to reach play-offs

Liam Buchanan, number 19, pulls a goal back for East Fife.
Liam Buchanan, number 19, pulls a goal back for East Fife.

The pre-match talk from East Fife was focused on how glad they were to have their League One safety in their own hands at the weekend.

But with most of the game at Ayr left to play, it was pretty apparent they were going to need to rely on help from elsewhere to save their skins.

As Ayr banged in each of their four goals, focus increasingly turned away from what was going on on the pitch at Somerset Park and centred around events at the Excelsior Stadium.

With East Fife slipping to a heavy defeat, the only way they could be spared the drop was if Airdrie saw off Arbroath.

Thankfully they did just that, and the largest East Fife cheer of the afternoon wasn’t for Liam Buchanan’s consolation goal, but for Liam Coogans’ late second for Airdrie.

Boss Gary Naysmith spoke afterwards of his belief that some of his players had thrown in the towel after Ayr put themselves two goals in front.

If that was the case, in a crucial game of this size, then it’s unforgivable.

And given the gaffer’s mood after the game he had not long let those players know exactly what he thought of their efforts.

It was a game of high tension with the Honest Men still looking to cement their place in the promotion play-offs.

East Fife actually started the game pretty brightly and were unlucky not to take a lead in with them at the break.

A Kevin Smith strike was saved by the feet of David Hutton before the Fifers had a penalty claim turned down when Stephen O’Neill looked to be bundled over inside the box.

A Craig Johnstone cross bounced back off the bar and Buchanan was unable to knock in the loose ball.

But that’s where East Fife’s pressure ended and Ayr took the lead when Craig Malcolm got in behind the East Fife defence and beat Greg Paterson.

Malcolm made it two before going on to complete his hat-trick from eight yards.

East Fife looked rattled and by this point all ears and eyes were trained on score updates from Airdrie.

This was heightened when Ayr cruised to a fourth goal when Brian Gilmour cut open the East Fife defence and made it 4-0.

The travelling band of fans were given something to cheer about when Liam Buchanan bundled home from close range.

But the biggest cheer was reserved for a goal some miles up the road when Coogans relegated Arbroath and ensured the Fifers made Wednesday’s first leg play-off with Clyde.

This time, though, East Fife have nobody to rely on but themselves.