SAT 28TH JULY 2007: H v ACCRINGTON STANLEY (Pre-season Friendly)
Accrington Stanley made a welcome return to Bayview today and for Fife fans it would be interesting to see where we are currently at, following last year's 4-1 defeat to them.
Only three of the team that played in last year's game played today and the season hasn't even started yet, but we're in full cliché mode down here at AFTN, as it was indeed a proverbial game of two halves.
East Fife certainly started the livelier and you began to wonder whether Stanley might have been a little bit jaded from their previous two games on their Scottish tour.
The first goalmouth action of the match fell to the Fife on the six minute mark, with Dougie Cameron unleashing a fierce shot from the left hand corner of the box, which brought a good save from Stanley keeper Ian Dunbavin.
Accrington responded and won a free kick outside the Fife box, but Peter Cavanagh hit it high and over with ten minutes gone.
Jonny Smart had a chance to open the scoring for the home side minutes later, but his header from a Cameron free kick went wide.
The best of the action was coming from the Fife at this point and with 18 minutes gone Stevie Nicholas could only look on in anguish after his effort crashed off the post, having taken a brilliant touch after running onto a through ball. The rebound fell to Craig O'Reilly but the big striker blasted over from 10 yards out.
Encouraging signs anyway and some neat, passing football was being played by East Fife.
Lloyd Young in particular was displaying the skills to pay the bills and some neat footwork from him in the middle put through O'Reilly, but Philip Edwards took the ball off his feet as he was readying himself to shoot.
Stanley's defence was under pressure and they finally succumbed after 29 minutes when another fine passing move ended with Lloyd Young outside the box and he fired a peach of a shot into the postage stamp corner from 20 yards out, giving Dunbavin no chance.
1-0 to the Fife.
Young nearly made it two moments later, heading a beautifully flighted Cameron cross just wide from 12 yards out, whilst in acres of space, as the Accrington defence seemed to be struggling with the pace of the Fife attack.
The Coca Cola League side tried to hit back, but Paul Mullin's effort was blasted over, after a neat cut back to him from the bye line.
But the last chance of the half fell to the Fife and they took full advantage of it.
A cross to the back of the box found O'Reilly in lots of room and although his first touch let him down, he had time to recover his composure to bury the ball low and under the keeper to make it 2-0 to the Scottish part timers.
And that ended a pretty impressive first half display from East Fife against what was beginning to look like a pretty poor Accrington Stanley side.
Having drawn their first two games of their tour 0-0, it can't have been a very happy Stanley dressing room at the break and manager John Coleman rang the changes and it was a transformed, pacey and dangerous Accrington side that came out after the interval.
East Fife still started the half promisingly though, with some great skills and runs from Stevie Nicholas and Kevin Gordon, although both moves came to nothing and with 52 minutes gone, Accrington pulled a goal back.
A free kick was floated into the box, eventually falling to Leighton McGivern and the Stanley man volleyed brilliantly through a crowd of players and into the net. 2-1.
As the hour mark ticked by, Cavanagh's close range effort brought out a brilliantly instinctive save from Willie McCulloch low at his near post, forcing a Stanley corner which was wasted.
Moments later and the Accrington pressure continued, with the impressively nippy Romauld Boco beating the offside trap, but McCulloch raced out and managed to collect the ball at the second attempt just before Boco could get in there for the second.
Shaun Whalley should really have tied the game up on 63 minutes though, capitalising as Graham Guy fell over in a tangle with the midfielder, but as he ran through one on one with McCulloch he blasted high over when he should have done better. What a wally!
East Fife made their first substitution with 68 minutes gone. Sam Linton replaced Kevin Gordon and immediately took up the left back role, allowing Kevin Fotheringham to move up into the midfield.
One of Accrington's half time substitutions was Kenny Arthur in goals for Dunbavin and Arthur nearly gave East Fife a third goal on 69 minutes when he collided with Donny Tourette/Mark Roberts in the six yard box, as he tried to collect a cross. The ball spilled out to Nicholas who blasted over from 12 yards out as the goal beckoned.
East Fife nearly tied the game up with eleven minutes remaining. Fotheringham turned brilliantly at the edge of the box to release Cameron to his left, but his shot across goal went agonisingly inches wide of the back post as O'Reilly raced in.
This miss was to prove costly and with nine minutes of the match remaining Accrington Stanley tied things up at two apiece, with a strike deserving to win any match, as Boco volleyed an unstoppable effort high into the net from the right hand corner of the box.
Accrington has a chance to win it minutes later as McGivern wasn't given offside, which he clearly was, but the striker wasted the chance to keep the scores level.
As the closing minutes ticked by the game turned a bit niggly with Stanley's Lee McEvilly and the Fife's Jonny Smart both being booked in an incident which looked like Smarty was headbutted and responded by pushing McEvilly in the face. Might have been a different colour of card in a Third Division encounter. Cracking name for a tough player though!
Evil was then substituted to stop things developing further and was replaced by Stanley's third keeper Martin Fearon!
Both teams had half chances late on, with Stanley flashing a free kick across McCulloch's goalmouth, with no takers, and Blackadder having a shot blocked in the last minute.
As the final whistle came, a draw was the right result.
East Fife had an impressive display in the first half and welcomingly played some attractive passing football. Accrington Stanley looked like a different team in the second half and East Fife's game went to pieces once again against a pacey attack and they noticeably tired towards the end.
Other plus points for the game were Lloyd Young's continued excellence in the middle (I really think he's going to be our star player this season), an impressive match in the middle of the defence for Steven Tweed and some tireless running from Stevie Nicholas.
The full back positions are a bit of a worry and it won't be too long before other teams realised that we are struggling against fast flowing passing football teams. Still time to iron out these complaints though and I for one can't wait for the season to start now.
Will all of our optimism finally prove fruitful?!
C'mon the Fife.
FINAL SCORE: East Fife 2 - 2 Accrington Stanley
EAST FIFE: McCulloch, Guy (Dair 86), Fotheringham, Smart, Tweed, Young, Gordon (Linton 68), Stewart (Blackadder 76), Nicholas, O'Reilly, Cameron [Not Used: Mathers, Fortune, McDonald, Patterson]
ACCRINGTON STANLEY: Dunbavin (Arthur 45), Cavanagh, Richardson, Roberts, Procter, Whalley, Edwards, Carden , Branch (Boco 45), Mullan (McGivern 45), Brown (McEvilly 45 (Fearon 86))
[For cracking photos from today's game check out Jim Corstorphine's Putfile site]