You deserve the plaudits

Stranraers Cameron Belford saves under pressure during the weekend's 2-1 win. Pic by Jim Corstorphine.
Stranraers Cameron Belford saves under pressure during the weekend's 2-1 win. Pic by Jim Corstorphine.

Barry Smith heaped praise on his East Fife side after they fell just short in their pursuit of a promotion play-off spot.

The Methil club, last season’s League Two winners, took the 2016/17 season down to the final day as they kept up the pressure on the top four.

They headed to Stranraer knowing they had to beat the Blues and hope either Airdrie or Brechin City slipped up in their respective games.

In the end neither happened, meaning the club’s season was brought to an end.

But the fact the Fifers were still very much in the hunt going into the last day speaks volumes for what has been an impressive campaign back in League One.

Despite the disappointment, Smith said his side deserved the plaudits for holding their own in a division higher and battling in Stranraer.

“The boys gave it absolutely everything at the weekend,” said the Bayview boss.

“We hit the post three times and their ‘keeper has made some great saves.

“They scored just after we had a decent chance and were pushing forward.

“The way the results went elsewhere it wouldn’t have mattered anyway but the players deserve immense credit for taking it down to the last game of the season.

“They’ve gone from second bottom in December to being 90 minutes away from the play-offs.

“To have gone from that position in the league to being disappointed at not making the play-offs shows we’ve made good progress.”

East Fife certainly made a fist of reaching the play-offs, but the squad, which was light at the best of times, was stretched beyond breaking point during the run-in due to the unavailability of some key players.

While Kyle Wilkie and Tony Wallace missed most the season, the likes of Jonathan Page, Chris Duggan, Kevin Smith and Scott Robinson were all out of the squad at the season’s most crucial point.

“It went right through the spine of the team,” conceded the manager.

“There were players injured and suspended, especially at the latter point of the season, which didn’t help.

“We can certainly look at it as a factor.”

So now focus shifts towards next season.

The manager has stated his desire to get business done early with Kevin Smith, Pat Slattery and Chris Kane all recently agreeing new deals to remain at Bayview.

Smith has offered terms to three other players as he aims to retain the core of the squad.

“We already have the three signed up and there are contracts offered to Ross Brown, Chris Duggan and Scott Robinson at the moment.

“I’ve still to speak to the rest of the players.

“Some will get released and some will be offered contracts as well.”

Despite their solid season, the manager admits it may be difficult to keep hold of some of his star names.

“Football is a short career and if a player is offered the chance to get into full-time then that’s just the way it goes,” said the boss.

Jason Kerr, who has spent the past two seasons on-loan at Bayview, has been rewarded for his form in Methil by parent club St Johnstone with a new two year deal.