Tuesday 4 July 2017, 19.45, Ainslie Park
Lowland League side Spartans take on League One’s East Fife in a pre-season friendly.
An early season look at Spartans since seeing them win the Lowland League Cup Final on 21 May in their final game of last season. It’s their second pre-season game, with them having lost 2-0 at newly promoted Championship side Brechin City the previous Saturday.
Two former Spartans players have returned to the club for the new season. Willie Bremner returns from Australia while Jack Nixon returns from Stirling University. Jack Beesley and Chris Townsley have left to join Broxburn Athletic.
Spartans would be hoping to be challenging at the top end of the Lowland League table and the challenge of East Fife, following the visit to Brechin, sees them testing their mettle against higher league teams.
We last saw East Fife when they were promoted from League Two at the end of season 2015-16 at Clyde.
East Fife were established in 1903 and began life in the Fife League before joining the Eastern League for the 1904-05 season. They continued to move around with the Northern League being their home from the following season until 1909, when they joined the Central League. They stayed there until it became the Second Division of the Football League in 1921.
They reached the Scottish Cup Final in 1927 and in 1929-30, gained promotion to the top tier. It was only a one season stay, but they won the Scottish Cup in 1938 while in the Second Division, with victory over Kilmarnock in the final.
In 1948 they returned to the top division after winning the league. The same season, they won the League Cup and repeated the feat in 1950 and 1954, becoming the first team to win the League Cup three times. They also reached their third Scottish Cup Final in 1950. During this period they were consistently finishing in the top half of the top tier.
Relegation came in 1958 and they have only had 3 seasons in the top flight since then, in the early 1970s. After that short spell in the top league in the ‘70s, the rest of the decade and the ‘80s saw them go between the second and third tiers.
They remained in the third tier from 1988-89 until promotion in 1995-96, but it was a one season stay. November 1998 saw a move to a new purpose-built stadium. Reconstruction of the leagues created a new fourth tier and East Fife spent most of the first decade of the new century in that league.
2009 saw promotion to the Second Division and they stayed there until winning the league in 2015-16.
They finished an impressive 5th in last season’s League One. They will be playing their home games on an artificial pitch for the new season, having put it down in place of grass during the close season.
Manager Barry Smith left to take over at Raith Rovers at the end of June and former Albion Rovers manager Darren Young has taken charge.
Players who have left the club are Jordan Austin, Ross Brown, Alex Cooper, Jesse Curran, Kieran Duffie, Mark Hurst, Jason Kerr, Nicki Paterson, James Penrice, Scott Robinson and Luke Watt.
Paul Willis has been brought in from Albion Rovers, Kieran Miller from Stenhousemuir, Kyle Wilson from Kennoway Star Hearts and Mark Docherty from Dumbarton.
With their 3 League Cup wins and one Scottish Cup, they are the most successful club in Fife in terms of major honours won.
Both teams had a number of trialists on show.
There were around 150 in the ground as the teams kicked off.
A great turn on the half way line by East Fife’s Reilly in 3 minutes sent him scampering down the right, but he was eventually tackled.
Willis had a shot at the Spartans goal in 4 minutes from around 23 yards which wasn’t far wide.
East Fife were showing some neat one touch passing inside the Spartans half.
In 15 minutes, a clever ball by Spartans went between two defenders and into the path of Brown, whose shot at goal was just wide of the far post.
Reilly ran onto a loose ball on the edge of the Spartans box in 17 minutes and fired just over the junction of post and bar.
The Fifers put together a good move in 23 minutes with Willis finding Mutch on the left. He cut the ball back to Reilly who sclaffed his shot, but it took a nick before going behind. From the corner, Docherty’s delivery was met by the head of Kane, but it looped onto the top of the net.
A long ball forward by East Fife in 27 minutes saw Mutch chasing into the box with Spartans’ Corbett. The striker got his foot to the ball first, but couldn’t direct it on target.
Some neat build up play by East Fife in 31 minutes ended with Mutch playing the ball to Willis who sent a powerful effort over the bar.
Reilly broke forward for East Fife in 36 minutes and was caught by McFarland about 23 yards from goal. Willis took the free kick, but it was straight at the Stobie.
Mutch headed on a through ball by East Fife in 38 minutes and Willis ran onto it and hit a dipping half volley just wide of the right hand post from the left hand side of the box.
A great ball by Gallagher sent Docherty away on the left for East Fife in 39 minutes. He cut the ball back from the by-line, but Tolmie managed to get the ball behind.
Allum controlled a high ball forward from Spartans in 43 minutes and laid the ball off to Spartans number 7. He returned the ball into Allum’s path and from just inside the box, he hammered the ball into the top corner to give the hosts the lead.
Spartans held the advantage at the break, which wasn’t really a true reflection on how the half had been. East Fife played some great football at times and were passing the ball well, but they lacked penetration and had been wasteful when chances did come. Spartans had worked hard and Allum hadn’t had a sniff until he took his chance.
A strong tackle by Thomson on East Fife’s Duggan on the edge of the box in 50 minutes saw the referee award the away side a free kick. Thomson had got at least some of the ball, but he got the man too. Duggan took the kick himself, but it was straight at the keeper.
A minute later and East Fife had another free kick, this time about 2 yards further away. Lamont took it and it came off the head of Thomson and went wide.
Guthrie played the ball wide to Spartans number 17 in 55 minutes. He returned the ball to Guthrie on the edge of the box, but his shot was wide of the post.
Lamont made a good run forward for East Fife in 60 minutes and poked the ball into the box looking for Duggan, but Stobie was out quickly to smother.
A minute later, Lamont passed to Willis as East Fife came forward again. He found Duggan on the right hand side of the box, but the keeper managed to turn his shot around the post.
In 66 minutes, Dunsmore found Willis on the right of the Spartans box. His ball into the middle was too hard for those making runs into the area.
Reilly got to the Spartans by-line in 68 minutes, but his ball across hit Wilson and spun wide of goal.
Aitchison squared the ball for McFarland in 70 minutes and his strike from the edge of the box was brilliantly tipped around the post by East Fife keeper Mason.
Wilson flicked on an East Fife through ball in 81 minutes and Willis chased it into the box before firing over the Spartans bar.
With 83 minutes gone, Duggan stole the ball from a home defender and shot for goal, but it was a comfortable save for the Spartans number one.
Spartans attacked with 5 minutes left and number 7 found number 17 who took the ball into the box and went down under the challenge of Docherty, but nothing was given.
A Spartans corner in 87 minutes was cleared to McFarland. He played the ball back to number 15 whose shot from inside the box was spectacularly turned over the bar by Mason.
The final minute saw Young cross from the left into the Spartans box. He found the head of Duggan but under pressure, he could only head wide.
Spartans held on to take the win.
For Spartans, Herd and Dishington stood out, while Kane, Docherty and Willis impressed for East Fife and Kelby looked good in goal. Kane was competitive in midfield in the first period and played at centre half in the second, while Willis supported Mutch up front in the first, while playing a little further back in the second.
East Fife played some good stuff but lacked a cutting edge. Spartans worked hard throughout. Certainly not a game that will live long in the memory, but a decent work out for both teams.
Full Time: Spartans 1 East Fife 0
Spartans: 1 Andrew Stobie (T), 2 Michael Herd, 4 Adam Corbett (14 45), 5 Blair Tolmie (Thomson 45), 6 Craig Stevenson, 11 Jamie Dishington (17 45), 8 Ian McFarland (T), 3 Alan Brown, 7 Trialist, 10 Ross Guthrie (T) (Aitchison 65) 9 Ross Allum (15 65). Subs: 12 Paul Thomson, 14 Trialist, 15 Trialist, 16 Blair Aitchison, 17 Trialist.
East Fife: 1 Kelby Mason (T), 2 Aaron Dunsmore (T), 5 Ben Gordon (T) (Young 71), 6 Gallagher (T) (Wilson 45), 3 Mark Docherty, 7 Ben Reilly, 4 Kieran Miller, 8 Chris Kane, 11 Brian Clark (T) (Duggan 45), 10 Paul Willis, 9 Ross Mutch (Lamont 45). Subs: 12 Mark Lamont, 14 Chris Duggan, 15 Kyle Wilson, 16 Darren Young (T), 21 Ryan Goodfellow.
Referee: Daniel Graves
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