East Fife made it back-to-back victories in Ladbrokes League 1 on Saturday, netting three times in a breathless first-half to bag a 3-2 win at Arbroath. So, they’re on a roll, but can the Fifers topple title-favourites Raith Rovers on Saturday?
To find out more, we caught up with talented defender Mark Docherty – signed this summer from Dumbarton.
Here’s his take on everything from that Gayview victory, to playing under former teammate Darren Young, and the Raith danger men who need keeping quiet this weekend.
Ladbrokes News: East Fife pulled off a 3-2 victory at Arbroath on Saturday, making you the first visitors to score three goals at Gayfield for over a year. What impressed you most about that performance, from an attacking perspective?
Mark Docherty: We started the game very strongly, and got off to a great start with a goal inside three minutes. Yes, Arbroath gave us a helping hand, because it was an own-goal, but the move we produced in the lead-up to that goal was excellent.
We were a constant threat throughout that first-half. Young Greg [Hurst] was very lively, as was Nathan Flanagan who’s arrived from St Mirren. They showed their quality, and obviously Nathan delivered a goal.
The big two men up top work very hard as well, and to be honest I thought we could actually have scored more than three. Chris Duggan was on the scoresheet as well, so things looked very good on an attacking front.
LN: That game was preceded by a 1-0 league win against Alloa Athletic and a 2-0 Challenge Cup defeat to Peterhead. What’s your verdict on those two performances?
MD: The Peterhead game was disappointing. You typically get one of those games early in the season if there have been a lot of changes to the squad over the summer. We’re still trying to find out the way one another work, and that’s natural in a largely new side, with a new manager.
However, the Alloa game showed that we can already put in a solid display as a unit. Those partnerships are beginning to get there, gradually. And performances like that one will help boost our confidence together.
Alloa are a very good side at this level, with some top-class players that have a proven track record. To take three points in our first home league game against them was really important, and hopefully signals our intent for the rest of the season!
LN : One of the main factors in East Fife’s success during the past few years has been a very solid unit at the back. Having joined this summer, how have you found playing in this defence at Bayview?
MD: Things have got off to a good start. I know we conceded a couple of goals at Arbroath, but I think the conditions played a part in that – as did one or two individual errors.
That’s something I think we’ll iron out as the season goes on, and I’m not too concerned, because of the players we have on board.
The manager has added real experience by bringing the likes of myself and Ben Gordon, as well as really talented, hungry young guys who’ve joined from Premiership clubs, like Aaron Dunsmore [signed from Hibernian] and Craig Watson, who’s played in the top-flight for Hamilton Academical.
As I said, I think we’re in the process of forming a very solid defensive-line, especially with that blend of older pros who know the challenges ahead well, and talented youngsters.
LN: Another who’s arrived this summer is manager Darren Young, who enjoyed a very successful three years with Albion Rovers. What kind of style is Darren looking for from this side; and what’s he been like to train and play under thus far?
MD: It’s been great! I know Darren well on a personal level, having played with him at Alloa for a couple of years. He was my captain, and a leader on the park. And I think in a lot of ways, his style as a manager is similar to that.
He’s an honest guy who expects hard work, but also wants us to pass the ball and produce a good style of football which fans will enjoy. I think once the season kicks on and the manager is able to get more of his ethos across, we’ll improve.
Darren is still fairly new to management, and still learning, which is something he’s modest enough to tell you himself. The boys here have really taken to him so far, and he’s a very positive guy – someone we’re happy to work hard for.
LN: You face Raith Rovers at Bayview on Saturday. They’ve been in good form so far. Are you confident of ending their three-game winning streak? And who do you think are the danger men on their side that you need to keep quiet?
MD: I am, especially as we’re at home. The manager has focused on the fact we need to make Bayview a difficult place to come this season. We’ve done well on our own patch so far, but this is a strong test.
Raith have enjoyed a very good start, and have recruited some excellent players over the summer. I played under [Raith boss and former East Fife manager] Barry Smith, and he’s someone who can create a very well-drilled team.
I’ve also played alongside their three main attacking threats – Liam Buchanan and Greig Spence (at Alloa) and Lewis Vaughan, who came on loan to Dumbarton last season and played a huge part in the Sons beating the drop.
Those three bring both goals and creativity, so we need to nullify that threat to give ourselves a good chance of winning the game. It’s a big ask, but I’m confident that we can do it!
LN: League 1 is a division you know well, having played at this level for four clubs now – including winning promotion with Alloa Athletic in 2012-13. What do you think is a realistic aim for this East Fife side this season?
MD: Having come back down to this level after four seasons in the Championship, it’s reminded me what a good league it is. There’s still a high standard of players.
In terms of this season…I’m not going to kid myself, Ayr United and Raith are going to be right up there, and they’ll be the two favourites for the title. I think the focus for us should be on the remaining play-off spots, and trying to secure one of those.
With the squad the manager has built here, I think we’re strong contenders to make that top four, and there’s still a possibility that a few more players could join before the window closes.
LN: You obviously managed consecutive promotions with the Wasps. What are the main attributes you think a side needs to make it up from League 1?
MD: At Alloa, we had a brilliant team spirit, underpinned by guys who had previous promotion-winning experience. We’ve got that now, with myself, Ben [Gordon], Kyle Wilkie, and Jonny Page, who will hopefully be back from injury soon. Obviously Kevin Smith as well – he’s club captain at East Fife, and has so much pedigree.
There’s a great team spirit here, especially with the addition of young guys who are starting out in the game and want to make a name for themselves. Things take time to gel, but we’ve got all the elements for success here.
On a personal note, I’ve worked extremely hard throughout my career, and that’s been a big part of why I’ve enjoyed success. That’ll be no different this season, and that’s a work ethic I see throughout this squad.
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