Five star Arbroath gave their travelling fans the perfect early Christmas present with a 5-1 thumping of East Fife at New Bayview on Saturday.
Yes, the Fifers were down to 10 men for almost two thirds of the match after Ross Campbell was ordered off for a challenge that was both dangerous and dirty.
But Allan Moore’s men were the better side and thoroughly deserved the win which has them six points clear at the top of SPFL League Two going into tomorrow’s derby clash against Montrose.
Having grabbed his first senior hat-trick against Bo’ness in the cup, Simon Murray was at it again as he bagged three goals and took home the match ball. Strike partner Paul McManus netted against his former team, with Jack Smith rounding things off late on.
Murray has now netted 16 goals in 16 starts for the Lichties, while McManus has 17 to his name. They are one of the country’s most lethal partnerships.
Murray praised the influence that veteran strike partner McManus is having on him after bagging a Bayview hat-trick. “We’ve scored 23 goals [in the league] between us at Christmas so that’s pretty impressive.
“I’m learning a lot from Paul because he’s been there and done that and I’m trying to get where he has been. We knew it would be a tough game but in the last half hour we seem to grow because we’re a fit and confident team.
“I didn’t think I’d get a hat-trick but it came and I’m happy with that.”
Allan Moore commented: “It was even until the sending off which changed the game. When we had the extra man I thought we played exceptionally well.
“We’ve scored a lot of goals. Simon Murray has come into this league and is relishing it. When he gets in on goal he’s a terrific finisher.
“Paul McManus’s goal has killed the game and from there we kept the ball very well.”
Murray put his side in the lead in the first half when he got the wrong side of Scott Smith, rounded Allan Fleming and netted.
But East Fife were level when Jon McShane hauled them level from the spot after ex-East Fife skipper Craig Johnstone tripped Caolan McAleer.
The game changed when Ross Campbell was sent off for a rash lunge on Hunter.
On the edge of the box the Fifers had plenty of players back to defend an Arbroath attack but Campbell for whatever reason decided to thud into his opponent. The impact could be heard from the stand and ref Colin Steven rushed to Campbell and flashed red.
Despite being a man down nobody could have predicted the East Fife collapse that followed.
The Fifers were made to pay straight away for Campbell’s actions when former Fifer McManus put Arbroath 2-1 ahead.
Murray added goals three and four from close range as Arbroath relentlesly pestered the Fife goal with another ex-East Fife player, Jack Smith, wrapping up the win in the dying minutes.