LEE McCULLOCH’S dramatic injury-time penalty kick secured all three points for Rangers and kept the club’s remarkable away run in League One going.
After a rather flat 90 minutes in which the Light Blues were not always at their best it was the home side’s Pat Clarke who was guilty of a clumsy challenge on David Templeton inside the box.
With the stadium already emptying referee Alan Muir pointed to the spot and super skipper McCulloch stepped up to send Greg Paterson the wrong way with an ice cool finish.
The result at the final whistle means Rangers have now won all 14 of their away fixtures in Scottish football’s third tier this season and they have scored 37 goals, conceding just three.
Ally McCoist made two changes to his team following Tuesday night’s 2-0 victory over Stranraer at Stair Park. Both Templeton and Dean Shiels started with Arnold Peralta and Steven Smith dropping to the bench.
Prior to kick off 49 points separated the sides in League One and the Light Blues had scored 11 goals in three games against the men from Methil this season without reply.
The fourth meeting would be a far stuffier affair and it started slowly with both teams getting used to the Bayview surface in the early stages without testing Cammy Bell or Paterson in East Fife’s goal.
After 12 minutes however the first goalscoring opportunity fell to Shiels. Templeton’s clever pass found the Ulsterman inside the 18-yard box on the right but he shot across the keeper and wide of the far post.
The Fifers, with former Ibrox star Stephen Hughes in the centre of midfield, then attempted to put sustained pressure on the Gers backline for the first time with Gary Fisher coming close to breaking the deadlock.
The number eight’s rising left foot shot from outside the box narrowly missed the top corner at Bell’s near post although he looked to have it covered. This was to be Fisher’s last contribution to the game as he walked off the pitch clutching his arm after a collision.
On the half hour mark a chance then fell to Law. Lee Wallace’s shot from distance was deflected into the midfielder and his right foot toe poke hit the post before Paterson saved Mohsni’s effort from the rebound.
It was better from Rangers though and when Templeton, Rangers’ best player on the day, jinked inside to create space his powerful effort was well held by the keeper.
The winger was starting to see more and more of the ball and on 35 minutes Rangers moved it from left to right before the ball arrived at Temps.
With Foster giving him an option he again cut inside but his low curler lacked the power to beat Paterson.
A McCulloch header from a Shiels cross then went narrowly wide and this was to be the last chance for the visitors who, like in their last visit to Bayview on October 26, would have to improve in the second period if they were to claim all three points on offer.
The early signs after the restart were not good for the league leaders as they were enjoying plenty of possession but struggling to find a killer pass or moment of real quality in the final third.
Prior to the hour mark Gary Naysmith must have been delighted with his players’ efforts as they continued to frustrate their opponents with nine outfield players sitting deep and just the industrious Liam Buchanan staying up the park.
On 65 minutes McCoist made his first change with Andy Little going on for Shiels in a straight swap. It was Templeton however who had his side’s next pop at goal, the number seven picking the ball up 25 yards out but his low drive went wide of the target.
Templeton looked the most likely to score and when he found space down the left channel his powerful shot brought out another good stop from Paterson.
With the clock ticking down a clever Lee Wallace free kick found Jon Daly at the back post. He nodded it down to McCulloch but the Fifers’ keeper was there to make the stop.
Templeton then tried to find the postage stamp corner of the net but Paterson was there once again to claw the ball away impressively.
Into injury time and with fans leaving the ground Templeton weaved his way into the box and Clarke caught him with a late challenge.
The ref correctly pointed to the spot and McCulloch stepped up to calmly send the keeper the wrong way.
It was cruel blow for the home side after they had put so much into the game but credit must go to Templeton for his desire to win the spot kick and McCulloch’s composure to tuck it away and secure all three points for his team.
EAST FIFE: Paterson; Cowan, Rutkiewicz, Mbu, Durie; McKenzie, Fisher (O’Neill 21), Hughes, Campbell, Smith (Clarke 81); Buchanan (Austin 87)
SUBS: Shaw, Thom, Stewart, Johnstone
BOOKINGS: Cowan, O’Neill, Rutkiewitz, Mbu
RANGERS: Bell; Foster, McCulloch, Mohsni, Wallace; Templeton, Law, Black, Aird (Crawford 86); Shiels (Little 65), Daly
SUBS: Simonsen, Smith, Faure, Peralta, Cribari
GOAL: McCulloch 90pen
REF: Alan Muir