What’s perhaps most significant about East Fife’s win at Cliftonhill is that, for well over a season now, these were exactly the kind of games the side was regularly losing.
How often have Fife fans, home or away, watched their side totally dominate teams in the early stages, play some decent flowing football, create chance after chance, fail to take any of those chances and then be hit by a sucker punch before going on to see the three points slip away?
It looked like it would be the same old story in Coatbridge on Tuesday night as Gary Naysmith’s men failed to turn a spell of really impressive early dominance into goals.
Sean Dickson, Ola Adeyemo and Kevin Smith were all the victim to last ditch defending or great goalkeeping as the visitors pressed.
You could see it coming and, true to form, East Fife again slipped up - literally in the case of Julen Extabeguren, whose loss of footing allowed Marc McKenzie to capitalise and send a fine lob high over Allan Fleming and into the net.
The decent band of travelling away fans held their heads in their hands at half time, thinking ‘here we go again’, as the team went in to the dressing room a goal down.
Home ‘keeper Neil Parry had been by far the busier of the two, and Rovers looked to be heading into a clear lead at the top of League Two.
But the Fifers reversed their fortunes in the second half and, instead of leaving the pitch at the end of the 90 with their heads held high after another good performance, but ultimately a defeat, went on the selfishly snatch a three points they knew were rightfully theirs.
There was certainly something in the game for East Fife and Sean Dickson dragged his effort wide before Allan Walker’s header was chalked off for offside.
A goal was coming and it duly arrived when Smith burst out from his own half and, with the Albion defence backtracking, punished them by firing high past Parry.
Dickson looks a real steal for East Fife and he absolutely tormented his marker all night as East Fife went in pursuit of the game’s third.
They deserved it, and they got it, when Gary Naysmith’s free-kick was inch perfect for Nathan Austin who finished from close range.
The game was flowing from end to end and fans could barely take their eyes off the action.
It was the hosts who drew level next when John Gemmell rifled a penalty past Fleming after Walker had tripped Ross Davidson.
A point would have been a decent return, but East Fife knew the game was there for the taking and grabbed the three points when Smith popped up at the back post to secure a late and dramatic win.
In their last three league games the Fifers have now bagged two draws and a win against the division’s top three sides.
It’s exactly the sort of point return which, if maintained, should see them finish in the final promotion play-off spot.
On the basis of performances from the past season or so it was an uncharacteristic East Fife win.
What that’s down to is anybody’s guess, but the January business of boss Naysmith cannot be understated with the acquisitions of the solid Jonathan Page, the classy Julen Extabeguren and the direct and exciting Sean Dickson giving East Fife so much more quality.
Adeyemo looks in need of game time but, based on reputation alone, it certainly looks like he’ll add to what is a vastly improved East Fife side from the one which ended 2014.