SAT 31ST JAN 2004: A v HAMILTON ACCIES (SCOTTISH 2ND DIVISION)
East Fife somehow managed to leave new Douglas Park today without at least a share of the points. Unbelievable defending and even more unbelievable officiating didn't help, but the fact that the team only really went for it all guns blazing in the final quarter of the game also had as big a reason to play for the failure to come away with anything, much to the disbelief of the couple of hundred Fife fans that braved the elements to head through.
A new look East Fife line up saw Mikey Hall slot into the left back role, with new signing Ross Mathie forming a central defence partnership with Greig McDonald and Euan Donaldson pushing into left midfield and Jay Stein partnering Kenny Deuchar up front. New signing Kevin Bain could only gain a place on the bench.
After two dismal games, the fans actually had a livelier affair to watch from the get go, with Hamilton dominating early proceedings and easily looking the most likely team to score, whilst East Fife just seeming to manage to foul the Accies keeper every time we got a set piece.
Hamilton threatened first when that old thorn in the Fife side, Brian McPhee, had a brilliant header go just wide after 10 minutes. Two minutes later Mikey Hall seemed to clip the bar with a shot from 8 yards out. It was no surprise, however, when Hamilton's possession led to them opening the scoring after 19 minutes. A corner from the left was flicked to the Jacques Cousteau of Douglas Park, who was standing right in front of Gary O'Connor. Gary couldn't move and Jose Quitongo managed to flick his header high over O'Connor and Euan Donaldson who was on the post and into the top corner. 1-0 Accies.
The game died a bit after this flurry of excitement, with both team's going forward without really looking threatening. East Fife won a free kick on the edge of the Accies box after 37 minutes. Euan Donaldson's effort was blocked by the wall and Paddy Kelly's fierce follow up was blocked for a corner which came to nothing. A similar fate befalling Brian Blair's deflected drive two minutes later.
With half time approaching, a long ball from Hamilton was chased back by Greig McDonald who let the ball run on to Gary O'Connor, for whom it was never going to carry. Gary rushed out to clear, but his effort was blocked by the advancing Brian McPhee and the rebound could have ended up anywhere, but thankfully went out for a bye kick. Hamilton closed the first half strongly and with pretty much the last kick of the half, Aitken saw his effort deflected just wide.
Hamilton were easily the best team in the first half and the signs looked ominous for the next 45 minutes, but in a similar tale to the last game through there, the Fife started the second half like a completely new team, attacking from the start and actually looking threatening, as they shot towards the Sainsbury's end of the ground.
Two minutes in and a brilliant through ball to Jay Stein seemed to see him run the ball too far, but he managed to get a shot off at a tight angle and tipped past the post. A few minutes later and a Euan Donaldson corner was brilliantly met by Kenny Deuchar but he powered his header straight at Accies keeper Dave McEwan. This was to really signal to Kenny that it just wasn't going to be his day!
Hamilton showed that they were still dangerous when Accies number four went on a mazy run and despite being forced wide managed to get a dangerous cross in to Carrigan, who managed to get a shot through a crowd of players, but Gary O'Connor dealt with it with no problems.
With 54 minutes on the clock, an excellent passing move (yes, you did read that correctly), saw East Fife come close to levelling. Brian Blair missed a tackle, but the ball ran through to Kenny Deuchar through the centre, who held it up enough to allow Blair to run on to a through ball at the right hand edge of the box, before cutting it brilliantly inside back to Deuchs, but the keeper McEwan was quickly out to smother.
Then came the first of Accies amazing goal line clearances, with Kenny D's header being cleared off the line by Arbuckle.
Then the game died again for a bit, with neither team looking like scoring, but East Fife starting to get the upper hand in the possession stakes. Hamilton strangely took off Carrigan and Quitongo, who had both looked dangerous, and with that Accies whole attacking threat pretty much disappeared for the rest of the game.
With just under twenty minutes remaining, a long punt up the park from O'Connor (using the wind behind him to best advantage) bounced to Stein who easily outpaced the Accies defender and with loads of time on his side, decided to shoot himself, far too early, past the keeper's left hand post.
Jim Moffat introduced Brian Fairbairn into proceedings with fifteen minutes to go and right away, Brian and Jimmy Herkes looked like causing havoc out on the right wing and could be an exciting and dangerous combination for forthcoming games.
And then referee Eddie Mack started to lose the plot, going on a mad booking spree in the last eleven minutes, booking five players (Fairbairn and Deuchar for us) in what was not a dirty game. Most of the bookings were for dissent, which really says a lot for some of the decisions that both teams got.
With ten minutes remaining, Euan Donaldson's free kick deflected off the wall over the bar and the resultant corner fell to Paddy Kelly at the edge of the box and his powerful drive seemed to be tipped over by McEwan but the referee gave a goal kick and Deuchs was booked for his protests.
A few minutes later Kenny had both the ball and the keeper behind the line from a free kick, but the referee awarded a foul. A rare Hamilton attack saw Hamilton earn a free kick on the bye line, but Gary O'Connor easily held a powerful direct attempt.
The closing minutes then become a blur as East Fife pounded the Hamilton goal with Kenny Deuchar first forcing McEwan into a breathtaking save with a goalbound header, quickly followed by another goalbound header from the big man being headed of the line by Aitken. He had a third headed off the line at some point in the second half too, but as to when that was, as I say, it's all blurring into one now!
That was the last action of the game. Hamilton must have breathed a huge sigh of relief to get away with all three points. Overall, it was a much better performance than the last two weeks, but then, that wouldn't be hard! The second half saw us play some nice football and the team that finished the game would pretty much be the team I would like to see start next week. The defeat, unfortunately, puts us only three points from the second relegation place and with two tough games coming up, it's going to make every point crucial.
On a final note, Hamilton's ground must be the worst signposted ground in the country. Been there three times now and I still can't find the fucking thing! The car parks are also a disgrace and for a team to have so many ballboys, how the hell can it take them so long to get the ball back into play?!?! The officials should also not just take into account how the pitch is when deciding whether a match could go ahead. The weather for fans travelling to the game should also be taken into account as some of the road conditions on the way there were nothing short of treacherous.
Anyway, rant over. Let's just hope that Jim and Craig can draw on the plusses from the game today and get the guys motivated enough to take three points off the Bankies next week.
EAST FIFE: O'Connor, McMillan, Hall, G. McDonald, Mathie, Kelly, Mitchell (Herkes 65), Blair (Bain 65), Deuchar, Stein (Fairbairn 75), Donaldson Subs (not used): Graham and Russell
AFTN MAN OF THE MATCH: KENNY DEUCHAR just couldn't put the ball in the net, but did everything else but.