Midfielder Ross Forbes’ expertly executed free-kick proved the difference on the day as the Sinclair Street side claimed all three points against a club they lost to in all four meetings last term.
They did so with a depleted squad – Lee Kilday, Ricki Lamie, Michael Tidser, Conor Pepper, Caolan McAleer, and Kudus Oyenuga were all out – on top of losing both Gavin Gunning and Andy McNeil during the match after an excellent first-half performance.
Gaffer Duffy admitted he and his coaching staff were left cursing their luck in the dugout as the injury list grew and hailed his makeshift squad for refusing to feel sorry for themselves and digging deep to claim the victory.
He told gmfc.net: “We had a few casualties again, so that’s the frustrating thing about the game. But in terms of the performance we were terrific, and in the first half we were outstanding.
“The movement, the link-up play, the creativity allied to the work ethic. [It was] everything you could want in a team. It made us deserved leaders at half-time.
“The second half, you know it’s going to be difficult because of the changes we’ve had to make defensively, but we still looked a threat in the final third so I think over the balance of the 90 minutes we definitely deserved to win.
“I was just delighted. I mean, we ended up playing Jamie McDonagh at right-back, Michael Doyle at centre-back, Andy Murdoch coming in and had to change the goalkeeper as well.
“It’s one of those situations just now where we can’t seem to get a clear run and it’s all defenders, and that’s hard at our level. I mean, Gavin has been immense for us; him and Tam [O’Ware] have looked a good partnership.
“But we’ve got to shift everybody about and fair play to them. Once we got the balance right and got the line right – we weren’t too high and we weren’t too deep – we defended really well. The whole team was magnificent.
“I think if anything myself and Craig [McPherson] and the coaching staff get more frustrated [with the injuries] because you’re thinking: ‘When are we going to get a break?’
“I would say the last three out of four games we’ve had injuries to key players. Ricki got one, Lee got one, now Gavin and Andy have had to come off, and you’re thinking: ‘When’s it going to stop?’
“But the players didn’t – and that’s the most important thing. We can stand at the side and roll our eyes and get a bit frustrated, but the players didn’t. They really dug in and for them you’re always so pleased because the work they put in.
“I’ve said it time and time again, whether they make mistakes or not, they chase back and really burst it to get back in and give everything, and today’s performance was further evidence of that. I’m thrilled with the performance and the result.”
Defender Gunning was forced off with a hamstring injury after 38 minutes, while goalkeeper Andy McNeil had to be replaced in the last minute due to a nasty facial injury.
And Duffy added: “With Gavin we don’t know if it’s a torn or pulled hamstring, but obviously we know Gavin had come in out the blue and hadn’t really played.
“I said to him: ‘You’d think if it was going to go, it would have been with the three games in a week, particularly with the cup tie and then up at Tannadice.’
“We actually eased him off the training a little bit this week just to get his legs back, so it’s just one of those things that can happen when players don’t have a pre-season and that base fitness.
“They come into games and the game speed is entirely different from training. That acceleration and that power that you need in games, it sometimes takes its toll on the muscles. Unfortunately, that’s what happens.
“Andy got a head knock on the face from the deflected free-kick. Somebody just caught him with his knee or his foot as he went down on the ball, and with those type of things you can’t take any chances. Thankfully we’ve got two really good goalkeepers.”
Playmaker Forbes scored his third free-kick of the season when he netted against the Kirkcaldy outfit, and the Ton boss hailed the quality of his set-pieces.
He said: “It was a fantastic goal, a great goal, and that was Ross’s third this year. He’s got a terrific left foot on him, and although the goal was great, he also put one magnificent free-kick into the box towards the end of the game.
“That’s not to mention his corners his as well. He’s a real asset for us Ross and a terrific boy. He was barking at one or two – and I don’t mind that as long as it’s not overboard – and making sure everyone did their jobs.
“That’s really good, we need that, and he took a responsibility as one of the more experienced players in the team at 27. I thought him and Jamie [Lindsay] were outstanding in the middle of the pitch.
“I thought the front two were immense also. Gary Oliver was exceptional today … his link-up play, his creativity, he was strong. Jai [Quitongo] gave them real problems going in behind.
“They are two young players who have got a real future in the game and they deserve a lot of credit for working as hard as they did to occupy four defender and give us options.
“It gave us a platform to go and play and I think that for me, with all the various problems we had today, was really pleasing.”
Image main: David Bell
Image inset: Jonathan Mitchell