SAT 3RD APRIL 2004: A v HAMILTON ACCIES (SCOTTISH 2ND DIV)
April. The month renowned for eggs, promotion and relegation battles and showers. This afternoon had all three as East Fife couldn't give a bit of space between themselves and Arbroath at the bottom, there was torrential downpour in the first half and the Fife defence cracked apart like an egg in the second.
With Jim Moffat being forced to make some team changes due to injury and suspensions, as opposed to his usual change in team lines due to backroom fall-outs, Gordon Russell made a welcome return to the defence and Brian Blair a not so welcome one in midfield.
The first half today really was murder to watch and it was shaping up for being one of the worst games of the season so far, and boy, have we seen some shitty games this term! At one point we thought we'd have the easiest match report to write ever and just have to type the word pish a hundred times.
The first danger of any kind in the match came after 15 minutes when there was a mix up between Gordon Russell and Gary O'Connor, with Gary being at fault for not coming off his line quicker to clear. They got away with it at the expense of a corner, which was headed high and over.
East Fife had their first chance five minutes later when Stein's cross into the box allowed Brian Fairbairn to rise unchallenged but he could only head wide when he should have done much better.
Hamilton went upfield themselves and Brian Carrigan beat the offside trap but he was unable to get a shot off and the danger was cleared.
The next few minutes were peppered with balls flying over the bar and Brian McPhee's elbow flying into Fife faces, but with 34 minutes gone East Fife had a great chance when good work from Brian Blair out right saw him cut the ball back to Brian Fairbairn from the bye line but Fairbairn wasted another good opportunity and shot wide.
I know what you're thinking, that's a fucking lot of footballing Brians! Sadly, there weren't many footballing brains on display in the first half.
Gary O'Connor signalled what was to come in the second half when the slippery conditions meant that he was unable to keep hold of a Hamilton through ball and it was eventually kicked out for a throw in, with Gary taking an accidental follow through kick in the head in the process. This may explain what happened later! I'm trying to look for excuses for him!!!
With time ticking down and thankfully only three minutes of the half remaining, Fairbairn ran onto a through ball in the box, but took far too long pissing about with it and it was eventually cleared with ease. Graeme Mathie caused Gary O'Connor a few problems at the other end when his deflection bobbled and changed direction as it headed towards Gary, but he managed to hold on to it and it probably looked more dangerous than it was.
East Fife had the last chance of the half, not that there was really many, and the best chance of the game so far, when Kenny Deuchar's powerful header was brilliantly tipped round the post by a diving David McEwan.
So, half time. No goals, very little thrills and a stand that was leaking more than the East Fife defence since all the mismanagement re-jigs. A similarly boring second half beckoned, so it came as a bit of a surprise to be served up with the goal feast that we were!
The goals starting coming five minutes in and unfortunately the blame for it has to lie with Gary O'Connor. A speculative cross bounced awkwardly and hit Gordon Russell's arm. Gary organised a very poorly constructed wall and no sooner had I turned around and said "look at the fucking size of hole in that wall, what are they playing at?" than the ball was then obviously shot through the said hole and straight at Gary. Gary was unable to hold on to the shot, spilling the ball, and the rebound fell to Robert Walker who had the easiest of tap in to make it 1-0 Hamilton, with 50 minutes gone.
It wasn't looking good, but like so many times this season, the Fife then only started playing AFTER going a goal behind and we were soon level three minutes later. A great passing move was started by Brian Blair to Jay Stein to Deuchs on the left and the big man sent in the kind of cross that he should be getting, low to Craig McMillan who waltzed in unmarked to easily slot home from eight yards. 1-1
The Fife should have taken the lead minutes later when Deuchs (on the right this time) took the ball to the bye line before sending in another excellent low cross into the box. A great dummy by Blair and the ball fell to Stein, but Jay couldn't repeat his corker from Wednesday and blasted high and over from just inside the box.
It looked like East Fife might be in the ascendancy. Brian Fairbairn won a free kick out left, following a cynical lunge. The free kick was floated into the box and Deuchs ran onto it at the back post but he was closed down quickly and unable to get a shot off.
Fairbairn then did one of the things he's best at - winding up the opposition! He gave away a free kick following a crude tackle and then got his opponent booked for retaliation in the process whilst he walked away unbooked! Glad he's on our team!
The East Fife revival was then stopped right in it's tracks when we lost yet another soft goal after 68 minutes and you just knew who was going to score it. The man that ALWAYS manages to score against us, Brian McPhee. The defence weren't strong enough in their tackles and a blocked clearance fell to a Hamilton player in the box. His shot was parried by O'Connor across the goalmouth and McPhee just had to make any contact to score, but his diving effort looked more impressive! More poor defending and Gary should also have done better with the initial shot. 2-1 down. Two bad goals to lose. What now?
Well once again we only had three minutes to find out!
Jay Stein beat the Hamilton offside trap (well, officially he beat it, but then the standside linesman was atrocious for the whole game and he did look offside to me, but hey, you take them all!). Using his head, he looked up and waited before delivering a perfect cross into Deuchs, who was never going to miss from there, in the best football cliché way. He didn't and it was all level again at 2-2 and all to play for.
At this point I was starting to think that I must be about to take over the lead at the top of the AFTN Prediction League, having plumped for 2-2 with Deuchar and McPhee amongst the scorers. I would obviously have preferred an East Fife third, but knew that at least I'd have a little consolation if it didn't happen. These thoughts managed to last for four minutes before Brian McPhee smashed them to smithereens!
Again the Fife defence had trouble clearing and as the ball was played back into the box, it looked like an East Fife defender had been held back. It wouldn't have really made much difference and Brian McPhee headed the ball home with Gary O'Connor rooted to the spot. It was one of those awful headed goals to lose - one where the player doesn't even have to lift his feet off the ground to head home .
3-2 to Hamilton and that was pretty much the end of the action. Neither team threatened much after that mad goal flurry and it was the last minute before either goalmouth was really troubled when what looked to be a speculative Hamilton effort dipped just over.
A disappointing game. A disappointing result. Thankfully Arbroath didn't pick up any points today either and Berwick seem to be self destructing, which could be an added bonus.
On the plus side, Deuchs worked his socks off as usual and at least we're starting to score goals again. On the minus sides, Gary O'Connor is starting to cost us more and more vital goals and we should maybe have a look at putting in Marc Graham. The defence, which was one of the most solid in the division before all the tinkering, is leaking like a sieve. It's time to forget behind the scenes bust ups and get our best players playing. That means Mikey Hall. That means Euan Donaldson and Gordon Russell and Paul Mortimer. And it means pushing Greig McDonald back into an attacking midfield role and I'd put Craig McMillan in there with him and ditch Kelly and Blair.
We should be looking to take points at Alloa next week and then consolidate on that the week after in the crunch game against Arbroath. We certainly have the players and skill to stay up. Let's hope we start using what we have most effectively.
C'mon the Fife.
FINAL SCORE: East Fife 2 - 3 Hamilton
EAST FIFE: O'Connor, McMillan, I. McDonald, Lumsden, Mathie, Russell, Fairbairn (Gilbert 69), Blair, Deuchar, Bain, Stein Subs (not used): Graham, Donaldson, Condie, Mitchell
ATTENDANCE: 489 (they're dropping like flies!)
AFTN MAN OF THE MATCH: KENNY DEUCHAR. If some of the others on the team put the effort in that Kenny does, week in and week out, then we might not be in the position that we currently find ourselves in.
The Safe Hands Of Gary O'Connor
Brian McPhee's Flying Elbow Strikes Again
The Crowd Were Enthralled
The First Half Was Hard To Watch
Craig McMillan. 1-1
Route One Football. Us?
It's A Stramash
Deuchar. Deuchar. Deuchar. 2-2
Hamilton's Players Question Their Non Marking Of Deuchs At The Goal
Our Nemesis Waits To Pounce
There's A Ball There Somewhere
The Argument For Wider Goals Gains Ground