Montrose 1 East Fife 4
Nathan Austin’s hat-trick helped East Fife sail to the top of League Two - and leave Montrose’s perfect home record in ruins.
Austin’s stunning treble earned him the match ball as Scott Mercer also found himself on the scoresheet for the visitors.
Gable Endies top scorer Gary Fraser had put the hosts in front inside 20 minutes and it was Paul Hegarty’s side who looked likelier to go and win the game, until Austin levelled the game just before half-time.
The striker struck again after the break before Greg Pascazio received a red card for a high tackle on Kyle Wilkie; both managers agreed the decision was a soft one.
Mercer made it 3-1 with a brilliant finish with Austin completing the rout late on.
Craig Murray and Austin combined very well on the right flank in the second minute but the former’s progress was cut off by Gavin Malin; the visitors pinged the ball around the edge of the box but couldn’t find an opening.
Austin was involved again soon after when he looked to return a one-two to Wilkie with a lovely flick in behind Matty Allan, but Wilkie didn’t make the run and Ryan Ferguson cleared the danger.
Kevin Smith carved out the best chance of the opening 10 minutes when he received a long ball on the right before cutting a ball across goal, but nobody was there.
It was a similar move soon after involving Smith but again, none of the East Fife players could capitalise.
Smith was the visitors’ main outlet going forward but on the one occasion he passed Ferguson, the right back recovered to make a superb sliding challenge before Ryan McCord got back to clear.
The Gable Endies were just as dangerous going forward and were deservedly ahead on 20 minutes when goal machine Fraser flicked the ball past Ryan Goodfellow after a lofted ball into the box.
Malin saw a stinging effort from 20 yards saved by Goodfellow five minutes later as Montrose looked to increase their lead.
And the visitors went even closer when Ross Campbell hammered a low effort to the bottom corner but Goodfellow made a superb block.
Fraser should have made it two on the half hour when Ferguson cut the ball back to the striker but he put it past the post.
The hosts could have been well ahead after a series of chances but the game was levelled four minutes before the break when a long ball out of defence saw Austin beat Greg Pascazio and Allan for pace before he rounded Ross Salmon and equalised with an easy finish.
Montrose went close to going in front twice just after the restart thanks to Scott Johnston’s good work but it was East Fife who made it 2-1 when Austin bundled a rebound over the line after Salmon had saved his close range header.
The Gable Endies’ afternoon worsened when Pascazio was sent off for striking Wilkie in the face with a high boot before Mercer got the Fifers’ third inside the hour, steaming past Ferguson and rifling a terrific finish across goal from the left hand side of the box.
The game died a death from here but it was the hosts who looked the more likely, with Fraser and sub Adrian Mallagaray combining well.
But Austin would not be denied his hat-trick and he duly got his third and the side’s fourth on 78 minutes, dinking the ball over Salmon for a lovely finish.
Late chances were exchanged at either end but Gary Naysmith’s side held on to end the Gable Endies’ perfect home record.