It was by no means easy, but the Warriors eventually made their way through to the second phase of the play-offs after this 3-1 victory over East Fife.
The extra time triumph following the 1-1 draw at Methil last Wednesday saw Brown Ferguson’s men go through 4 – 2 on aggregate to set up another double header against Queen’s Park that will determine whether the Warriors stay in League One, or take the drop to the basement league.
The play-offs are a terrific addition to the season’s structure and this nail biting event culminates at Ochilview on Saturday when another decent attendance is anticipated.
Boss Ferguson is just happy to still be in the mix. “East Fife made it hard for us as we expected,” he told Heraldsport. “The team showed terrific determination over the two games though and I am delighted they were rewarded with an aggregate result that keeps our fate in our own hands.”
That looked doubtful three minutes from time after the Warriors again threw away a lead when Jonathon Page was allowed to tie the match following Kieran Miller’s early strike, but ‘Muir surprised many by dominating the extra time and further strikes from Jamie McCormack and Craig Sutherland ensured victory for the Ochilview squad.
None of the later tension appeared likely following the home side’s blistering start.
The team showed terrific determination over the two gamesBrown Ferguson
The opener in less than two minutes was a beauty. Ross McMillan sent a wonderful pass inside the visiting right back that allowed Ciara Summers to race down the left flank. The former Rangers youth fired in a peach of a cross and Miller blasted high into the net from close range.
Colin McMenamin had cleverly lured the central defender away to give the continually improving Miller space and the veteran striker went on to give another tireless display that is often overlooked.
His goals and devotion to the cause is the main reason ‘Muir are still in with the chance of remaining in the division, but it was another stalwart who again performed magnificently when the Fifers fought back.
Falkirk Herald Starshot winner Greg Fleming also picked up numerous awards at the club’s recent player of the year bash and he retained that form with brilliant saves from Allan Walker and Derek Riordan before the break.
Jamie McCormack Just failed to get on the end of his cousin, Paul McMullan’s cross following the restart, but it appeared that the Warriors had surrendered possession to the visitors and were content to sit on their lead.
Page almost punished them for such a frame of mind in the 77th minute, but yet again Fleming threw himself full length across goal to prevent the winger’s stinging shot going in at the right post.
Eventually though, the Fifers did level when Page headed home at the back post from Kevin Smith’s delivery three minutes from time and when the clean through McMullan shot against the legs of Allan Fleming – brother of Greg at the other end – another half hour was inevitable.
As in the first half it was the Ochilview team that came out of the blocks best and with four minutes played McCormack held of a number of defenders to drive into the box and when his first effort was blocked the full back stabbed into the net to put his side back in front.
Craig Sutherland replaced McMullan in the 115th minute and less than sixty seconds later he rammed in a Bryan Hodge cut back from the byeline to settle the affair with his first touch.
“Maybe our early goal affected the players mentally because it was not part of the game plan to sit in as they did after that,” Ferguson said, “East Fife pushed us back at times though, but I thought we could have picked them off a bit better in normal time.
“We wanted them to start the extra time positively and they didn’t let us down. I was delighted for Jamie (McCormack) his goal was a really tenacious effort and got us off to a good start. Bryan Hodges’s set up from the byelinefor Craig Sutherland’s clincher was equally determined and I’m very pleased for every one of the players that they have given us the chance to stay in the Division.
The manager added, “Our surface can get hot when it’s dry and can be strength sappening, but I though our back line was superb in the latter stages.”
Whatever the result on Wednesday, Ochilview on Saturday is the place to be for those not of a nervous disposition.
The club will also hope for a good turnout of neutrals to witness what is certain to be a dramatic football match.