Stenhousemuir and East Fife are level going into Saturday’s play-off crunch at Ochilview.
Stenhousemuir made two changes from the team that lost to Stirling Albion on Saturday with Jamie McCormack coming into the right back berth. Ross Meechan moved into the middle in front of the central defensive partnership with Ant Marenghi dropping to the bench as did Kris Faulds who was replaced by Kieran Millar.
East Fife had the momentum going in to this game and they looked as if they were going to build on this as they took the initiative in the early stages against a shaky Stenhousemuir side. There looked to be nervousness in the Warriors ranks and they were lucky to escape in the first minute of the game after indecisive defending but it wasn’t long before the Fifers took the lead as they went ahead in the second minute of the game. Greg Fleming saved a shot with his feet but the ball fell to Ross Brown and his low shot took a slight deflection as it went into the net.
Once the game settled down from this initial flurry of activity it was the Warriors who slowly began to set the tempo of the game and they came close to equalising in the 23rd minute following clever footwork by Josh Watt who made room at the corner flag but his cross was just too high for Colin McMenamin who managed to get a head to it but was unable to keep it below the crossbar. There was a scare for Stenhousemuir in 27 minutes when Greg Fleming came out to punch a corner kick but just got the slightest of touches on it as it went just past the far post. The keeper though did better to push out an Allan Walker long range effort in the 33rd minute.
In the closing stages of the first half though it was Stenhousemuir that looked more likely to score. Ciaran Summers and Josh Watt formed a decent partnership throughout the game and the latter almost saw a cross come shot sneak in at the back post in the 37th minute. A minute later Paul McMullan who had been fairly quiet made his first penetrating run
before picking out Bryan Hodge who fired over from distance. The closest that either team came to scoring was in the 42nd minute following a run by Meechan on the right who picked out Watt and his strike was cleared off the line by Scott Smith. Watt came close again after the resumption after he was picked out on the left and he turned his marker inside out before firing into the side netting.
It was not all Stenhousemuir though in attack mode as East Fife showed that they were dangerous on the counter attack in the 50th minute when a swift attack saw Kevin Smith cross to the back post for Nathan Austin who looked as if he would pounce but was denied by a great intercepting header by Summers.
That interception was vital as the Warriors equalised in the 61st minute. Alan Lithgow placing a header into the top corner after he rose above the home defence at a McMullan corner. There were few clear cut chances for either team as the game progressed but East Fife showed vulnerability at another McMullan corner kick in the 83rd minute but this time Hodge’s strike was deflected just wide.
The final whistle blew with the scores level and this means that it is all to play for in the second leg. This was a much improved performance overall and the Warriors showed character to come back from that poor start that appeared to be a continuation from Saturday’s display.
East Fife – Fleming, S.Smith, Brown, Etxabeguren, Page, Mullen, Walker, K.Smith [Cook 81], Leyden [Riordan 72], Dickson [L.Smith 58] and Austin. Subs not used – Millar, Campbell, McAleer and Adeyemo
Stenhousemuir – Fleming, Meechan, Summers, Lithgow, McMillan, K.Millar. McCormack, Hodge, McMenamin [Grehan 88], McMullan and Watt [Faulds 84]. Subs not used – Duncan, Marenghi, Moutinho, Sutherland and Shaw.