Fifers hold Queens in stalemate

EAST Fife’s first competitive home league fixture of the season saw them welcome relegated Queen of the South to Bayview.

Allan Johnston’s side are being tipped to bounce straight back up again, with the men from Dumfries remaining full-time for their Division Two campaign.

Methil boss Gordon Durie told the Mail in midweek that he too expected Queens to be in the running to return to Division One at the end of the season, and it was the visitors who started best.

With just a couple of minutes on the clock, Derek Lyle picked out Nicky Clark inside the box and the Fifers were lucky to be let off when the forward miss-hit his strike.

Glaring misses by Queens were to become pretty much the pattern of the game and Chris Higgins was the next to be guilty of squandering a great opportunity when he blasted over the bar.

Queens dominated the opening exchanges and had a claim for a penalty turned down when Daniel Orsi was bundled over in the box.

Referee Des Roache, though, waved away their protests.

It was lucky for the Fifers that Clark appeared to have left his shooting boots on the team bus as he was again allowed time to fire an effort towards Michael Brown’s goal midway through the first half.

After creating room for himself inside the box, the former Peterhead man dispatched an effort which flew just wide.

The same man then wasted yet another chance for the visitors as he headed over the bar when he found himself free inside the area.

Michael Brown has been one of Durie’s star men in the early part of the season and he was called upon to tip a point-blank header from Clark round the post shortly before the interval.

Whatever was said in the Bayview dressing room at half-time seemed to have the desired effect, as the Fifers looked a different side.

They almost took the lead when David Muir’s through ball to Scott Durie caused panic in the Queens defence, with goalkeeper Lee Robinson rushing off his line to collect.

The play began to swing from end to end and Fife ‘keeper Brown again had to look lively to nudge a Lyle drive over the bar.

East Fife were desperately unlucky not to snatch the lead in the second half when Paul McManus raced in past the Queens backline and fired in a shot from close range, which Robinson somehow managed to keep out.

As the substitutions began to roll, the Fifers’ dominance in the game also started to increase, with sub Scott McBride giving Durie’s side an extra attacking impetus.

The former Raith winger linked well with David Muir and Gareth Wardlaw, forcing the Queens defence to give away a foul on the edge of their own penalty box.

East Fife looked a radically different side from the one which had been dominated in the opening 45 and, as the game went on, if any team was looking more likely to net, it was the home men.

Muir was the next to pester Robinson’s goal and his drive from just outside the area dipped just the wrong side of the crossbar.

Queens’ boss Johnston was dismissed as the clock ticked down following his second booking.

East Fife – Brown, Cook, McCormack, Campbell, Wedderburn, Smith, Durie, Muir, McManus (Jamieson 80), Wardlaw, Sloan (McBride 65). Subs – Brewster, Malcolm, Collier.

Queen of the South – Robinson, McGuffie, Holt, Durnan, Higgins, Mitchell, Orsi (Reilly 55), McKenna, Lyle (Young 89), Clark (Hopkirk 80), Johnston. Subs – Black, Atkinson.

Referee – Des Roache. Attendance – 628.

Starcheck ratings – Smith 3 points, Brown 2, Muir 1.

Starcheck table – Michael Brown 8, Darren Smith 7, Scott McBride 3, Darren McCormack 3, Collin Samuel 3, Robert Sloan 2, Ross Brown 1, Steven Campbell 1, David Muir 1, Gareth Wardlaw 1.