Play-off on a knife edge after 1-1 draw

Ross Meechan and Nathan Austin battle it out. Pic: George McLuskie
Ross Meechan and Nathan Austin battle it out. Pic: George McLuskie

East Fife got off to an absolute flyer at Bayview on Wednesday night but their promotion hopes still remain firmly in the balance.

The Methil side will travel to Ochilview on Saturday having drawn the League One play-off first leg 1-1 with visitors Stenhousemuir at home.

It’s certainly not a bad result to take across.

Given their end of season league position, it’s obvious Stenny have struggled this campaign, and the Fifers may be able to take advantage of the pressure they’ll be under to complete the job in front of their own fans.

Brown Ferguson’s men have home advantage, no goal difference no overcome and are the team from the higher league - they’ll be expected to go through.

But does a side who finished the season having not won a game of football since early March have the confidence to handle that level of expectation?

Remains to be seen, which is why East Fife’s draw at home may prove to be a better result than some think.

Of course it would have been great to take a big lead into the central belt and, after the stunning start they made to the game, that wasn’t out of the question.

The Fifers started at a ferocious tempo and took the lead after a couple of minutes.

Nathan Austin’s strike from an Allan Walker cross was blocked.

But the ball felly kindly to Ross Brown who was loitering with intent on the edge of the area.

The midfielder composed himself before drilling past Greg Fleming.

The match threw up an interesting side battle as brothers Greg and Allan took their places in each goalmouth.

It was Stenny ‘keeper Greg who was the busier and he had to be at his best to stop the Fifers going into a 2-0 lead.

With a training ground move now not unfamiliar to the East Fife support, Ross Brown’s corner was sent low and hard to the edge of the box where it was met by the in-coming Fraser Mullen.

Mullen scored two goals in as many weeks following a similar move earlier in the season, but this time his strike was stopped by Fleming.

Ferguson’s visitors managed to weather the early storm and then went on the front foot themselves.

Josh Watt and Paul McMullan in particular were a thorn in East Fife’s side and showed they’d need to be watched carefully in the return fixture.

The visitors started the second half well and restored parity when Alan Lithgow raced into the box to head home a McMullan corner.

Nathan Austin was the man supposed to be marking Lithgow, but boss Gary Naysmith said after the game the striker felt he was fouled in the build up.

He said: “To me it looked like a free header but Fash (Nathan Austin) is adamant that the boy has cleaned him out in the box and got his header in.

“Sometimes you get them and sometimes you don’t so I’m not going to moan about it.

“But over the piece a draw was probably a fair result and we’ll go again on Saturday.

“I’m disappointed because we never won and we’ve been in the habit of winning.

“But on the plus side if Stenny had put that performance in against us at the start of the season we’d have lost.

“The positive is that while we were nowhere near our best we never got beat.”