Sharp Saints coast past Methil men

Gareth Wardlaw
Gareth Wardlaw

THE 2012-13 pre-season fixture campaign kicked off for the Fifers against a St Johnstone side which was just a week away from competitive action.

With a Europa League qualifier to play long before the league campaign starts, the Saints were back in for pre-season early, and their fitness levels showed against Gordon Durie’s men.

But, despite the eventual 4-0 scoreline in St Johnstone’s favour, there were a lot of positives that Durie could take from a night when several new and unfamiliar faces were on show.

Durie handed starting berths to Scott McBride and Gareth Wardlaw up front, with trialist Collin Samuel playing on the right.

The first real opportunity came following some good work between trialist Andy King and Scott McBride which saw the former Raith winger fire in a cross which Samuel was inches away from connecting with.

Durie said following the game that he’d give his trialists another chance to shine on Saturday against Hibs, and it was King who looked the pick on this performance.

The little midfielder scrapped in the middle of the park and linked up well with the top two, even managing to fire a shot of his own goal-ward.

The Fifers certainly started brightly, but lost the opener when Gregory Tade flashed a cross across goal which found Sean Higgins unmarked, allowing him to beat Michael Brown from close range.

Saints began to stamp their authority on the game from there and forced Durie’s side to do a lot of chasing.

Nigel Hassellbaink may not look much, but the little midfielder gave the Fife backline an absolutely torrid time with his trickery.

Left back Craig Johnstone’s level of relief when Hassellbaink switched wings mid-way through the half could be matched only by Scott Durie’s despair on the right.

The former St Mirren man was unlucky not to get the game’s second goal when he hit the post following some good link-up play between himself, Gregory Tade and Higgins.

Wardlaw tried to haul East Fife back into the game when he fired a shot at Alan Mannus which the ‘keeper tipped over the bar.

Boss Durie made several changes at the half-time break but East Fife were unable to really threaten Mannus.

St Johnstone grabbed a second when The Fifers were unable to clear their lines at the back and the ball fell kindly for Hassellbaink who rifled home.

Saints boss Steve Lomas, who paid tribute after the game to the fantastic Bayview playing surface, introduced almost his entire bench with 20 minutes of the game left to go.

One of those brought on, Jonathan Tehoue, made it three within moments of his introduction when he picked up a slack pack-pass before giving Brown no hope.

As the Fifers began to tire and St Johnstone’s extra pre-season training began to kick in, Brett Williams made it four.

Overall Durie and his assistant Gordon Chisholm will be satisfied with the run out against the SPL men.

However, the manager said after the game that he was unhappy with the manner in which the goals were lost.

He said: “It was a good workout for us but you can’t give the ball away as easy as that against teams from a higher level like St Johnstone or else you’ll get punished, and that was the case tonight.

“It’s disappointing to lose four goals but the players are all in the dressing room right now absolutely exhausted.

“It’s all about fitness and we’ll kick on now and keep working until things really start for us on July 28.”

East Fife - Brown, Durie, Johnstone (Sloan 45, Brewster 56), Campbell (White 64), McCormack (Trialist 45), Smith (Muir (45), Trialist, King, Wardlaw (Munro 64), Trialist (Jamieson 45), McBride.

Sub not used - Collier.

St Johnstone - Mannus, Miller, C Davidson (Moon 69), Trilaist (Caddis 69), Wright, Adams (Trialist 83), Craig, M Davidson, Tade (Trialist 69), Higgins (Scobbie 45), Hassellbaink (Trialist 69).

Sub not used - Tuffey.