Fifers made to rue missed first half chances
It was a case of ‘what could have been’ for East Fife who were taught a second half lesson in killing teams off by Montrose.
Stevie Crawford’s side went into the game deep in relegation trouble while their visitors are enjoying a magnificent run of form at the opposite end of the division.
The two needed the three points for vastly different reasons and early on it looked as if the game would go with the form book.
Montrose started well and East Fife had to be on their toes to block a couple of Liam Callaghan deliveries.
But the Fifers soon grew into the game and created a few magnificent chances to open the scoring – chances they would later rue.
Kyle Connell was his usual busy self and his excellent turn and shot was blocked by the face of Andy Steeves.
The on-loan Kilmarnock striker was in the thick of things again when he picked up on a slack pass in the Montrose defence and scampered clear on Arron Lennox’s goal.
Connell got his shot away but found Lennox equal to it.
It’s doubtful that Montrose would have expected to be doing the volume of defending they were as East Fife kept up the pressure.
Lennox was being overworked but kept the scores level with a terrific save from Danny Denholm’s dipping volley.
If there is any crumb of comfort for Crawford for the remainder of the campaign then it’s the knowledge that his players do have the ability to cut teams like Montrose open like they did, more than once, at the weekend.
East Fife went in at the break with their tails up but it was the visitors who started the second half much the better.
Paul Watson’s drive whistled past Scott Gallacher’s post with just a couple of minutes played.
The home side were being increasingly penned deep inside their own half by Montrose and they made them pay when Blair Lyons finished from close range.
Losing another goal within minutes of shipping a first has been something of an unusual character trait for East Fife this season and it reared its unwelcome head again on Sunday.
Within barely seconds of Lyons opening the scoring the same man made it 2-0 when he got a touch to an Andy Steeves cross.
To their credit East Fife tried to force their way back into the game but their hopes were dented when they were reduced to 10 men when Connell saw a straight red.
Fife boss Stevie Crawford said: “I was happy with the first half, we created a number of opportunities.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been on top, we haven’t scored that goal and we all know that when you don’t score you can end up getting your fingers burnt, and that certainly was the case in the second-half.
"We find ourselves in a difficult situation, there’s no getting away from that.
"But we have to remain positive that we’ve not played against the team in second place and not created chances.
"We’re disappointed in the manner that we lost the goals but there was a response for a spell.
"Then there was the incident with Kyle getting sent off which left us with an uphill battle.
"I’ll look back at the game, as I always do, and see where the mistakes were made.”