Hampden test is a bridge too far

Allan Walker controls play in the middle of the park.
Allan Walker controls play in the middle of the park.

East Fife could use any one of a number of excuses for their defeat on Saturday and, in fairness, all would be valid.

A loaded recent fixture list and a gruelling midweek trip to Elgin meant that by the time Gary Naysmith’s side, which played most of the game with 10 men, were asked to compete on one of the largest surfaces in the league against a good passing team, their energy was largely zapped.

It was probably a game too far for East Fife who lost their 2015 undefeated record by going down 1-0.

The fact the Fifers could have actually taken something from the game, had Jonathan Page’s second half header, chopped off for offside, stood is a testament to the will of the players.

It would have been a great point for East Fife against a Queen’s side who, despite home and a numerical player advantage, failed to really trouble Naysmith’s men apart from their first half Ciaran McElroy goal.

The one goal was all that separated the sides on a day when the Fifers were forced to play without stand out centre half Julen Extabeguren through injury and lost Nathan Austin in the first half after the striker picked up two bookings.

Chances were few and far between during the opening stages as East Fife failed to get their creative players like Sean Dickson and Derek Riordan on the ball.

After Tony Quinn had gone close for the home side they eventually took the lead when McElroy’s shot seemed to spin up off Jonathan Page’s boot and over Allan Fleming.

It was a fortunate opener for the home side and one which they went on to defend throughout the match.

Page himself was unlucky not to pull East Fife level almost right away when his header from a Gary Naysmith cross was cleared off the line.

Austin, who had been the East Fife hero in midweek against Elgin City, saw red towards the end of the first half after picking up two bookings.

His second came for a touchline foul but, in truth, the striker could have walked just a few minutes before for an act of petulance when he bounced the ball away after a chance had gone begging.

But East Fife’s players tried to dig their team mate out of a hole by salvaging a point.

Page again headed over from a Naysmith cross before the same combination thought they had pulled the Fifers level.

Naysmith’s delivery from a free-kick was again pin point for Page.

The centre half looked to have timed his run well and headed past Willie Muir.

The main stand official, though, saw it differently and flagged Page offside.