TUES 10TH AUG 2004: A v AIRDRIE UNITED (C.I.S. LEAGUE CUP)
On a summer night that more resembled November, with the rain and mist and completely sodden pitch, this was always going to be a difficult League Cup first round tie. Away to the high flying recent Second Division champs. Not the kind of draw we'd have wanted.
The main worry amongst the Fife faithful at the start was the chance of us getting gubbed. Thankfully this was our usual pessimistic selves and despite the 3-0 scoreline, East Fife certainly did not find themselves trampled over and gave an excellent account of themselves, unlucky to come away with such a deficit and no goals to show for all their hard endeavours.
Airdrie United were the far better team and had more class, skill and flair, fully deserving of their victory, but East Fife were not there to just make up the numbers. Airdrie were in control from start to finish though and the game was played at the pace they wanted.
With two changes from Saturday, with Greig McDonald (broken toe) and Bain sitting out, replaced by Les Byle and debutant Craig Condie at right back, Craig Lumsden moved into the middle of the defence to partner Mikey Hall.
After the initial shock of having to pay £14 to watch East Fife, it didn't seem like it had been a good idea to come through at all, as Airdrie went for it from the get-go, with their early threats paying off when Jerome Vareille's volleyed them into the lead with ten minutes gone. A mistake by Lumsden let Jerome get his shot in, which although John Dodds was able to parry his first effort, he had no chance at stopping the follow up. 1-0 Airdrie and it looked like it was going to be a long night.
East Fife were not to be overawed, however, and Brian Fairbairn had a great chance to equalise three minutes later when he found himself running through onto a long ball, but the Bairn ended up trying to lob the on-rushing keeper and shot too early and just too high and wide.
Airdrie were playing an excellent passing game now and causing no end of problems up the left wing, particularly through Dunn and Gow and they had a chance to double their lead on 19 minutes, when some neat passing and poor defending gave Owen Coyle the chance to shoot, but his effort went just wide.
The pressure kept coming and two minutes later Alan Gow went on a mazy run and waltzed through the Fife defence before crossing along the goal-line but no-one was there to make contact.
It wasn't to be all Airdrie though and East Fife went up the field and from 25 yards out, Gary Kelly unleashed a fierce strike that looked to be heading for the top right hand corner of the net, but Mark McGeown brilliantly tipped the effort over for a corner.
Airdrie had the better of the possession, but it was East Fife who had the next real chance when Kris Brash and Steven Tarditi combined well to set up Les Byle at the corner of the box, but his effort had no power and trickled safely into McGeown's arms, with ten minutes of the half remaining.
The half looked like it was going to fizzle out, but just on the stroke of half time, Airdrie doubled their lead when Alan Gow delivered a pinpoint cross from the left, which was easily met by the unchallenged Owen Coyle to head powerfully home and send Airdrie in with a two goal lead at the interval, although Coyle nearly added a third seconds later with another header.
It was going to be a real battle now. We certainly didn't want to see a collapse by the young Fife side and we wondered what former Fife fave Kenny Deuchar, watching from amongst the fans, made of the new look team, as we were left disappointed by the non existent pizza that was advertised in the pie stall! (£1.50 it said!). "They've never sold pizza here" added a bemused Airdrie fan!
It was actually East Fife who started the second half strongest though and Brian Fairbairn's persistence , six minutes in, won a corner. Brash whipped the corner over, and, in what is becoming a familiar sight this season, a penalty box scramble ensued, with the ball first being cleared off the Airdrie goal-line and then rattling off the post, although we still have no idea who hit the shot in the end as there were so many players about the ball!
East Fife were starting to have more of the possession and were more than holding their own, but the momentum of the game changed once again when Craig Condie was adjudged to have fouled Paul Lovering in the box and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. It was a mere brush against the Airdrie player from the Fife debutant, but when any contact is made with a player like Lovering, he's going to go down every time.
Instead of totally knocking the wind out of the Fife sails, the Fife nearly replied immediately but no-one could connect with Herkes cross along the six yard box and it was cleared for a corner.
Both teams shared possession for the rest of the game, with Airdrie having the better of it and with their midfielder Dunn particularly finding himself getting a lot of the ball and looking dangerous, having a shot deflected into the side netting on 72 minutes.
Three minutes later and Dunn was back in the thick of the action out wide. His dangerous cross into the box was only cleared as far as Coyle on the edge of the box and his fierce effort was brilliantly saved by Dodds.
A few more half chances and the game was over. 3-0 to Airdrie and the second round awaits for them. For the Fife, it's August 10th and already we're out of two cups but undefeated in the League!!!
It was a battling performance. Brian Fairbairn tried like a bear throughout and looked really pissed off when things weren't happening for him. Craig Condie and Sam Linton (who replaced Craig Lumsden), had difficult games against much more experienced, quicker and skillful full time players. They struggled at times, but it will have been a good part of their development to have been involved in a game like this. The midfield played a lot better but still needed a bit of bite and we need to have both the Bairn and the Tardis on their top form together up front, as at the moment it's only one of them turning it on in each game so far. The blend's starting to get there though and positive signs are emerging. We really have to start scoring goals though!
Hopefully starting with a barrowload at Coatbridge on Saturday! C'mon the Fife!
FINAL SCORE: Airdrie United 3 - 0 East Fife
EAST FIFE: Dodds, Condie, I. McDonald, Lumsden (Linton 32), Hall, Byle, Herkes, Kelly, Fairbairn, Tarditi, Brash (Mitchell 58) Subs (not used): Morrison, Crawford and Paliczka
3 points - BRIAN FAIRBAIRN for a night of non stop running
2 points - JOHN DODDS
1 point - LES BYLE
Tough to award as no-one really stood out. Pics below. Apologies for the quality. Not the best of nights for taking photos. You should have seen the ones we didn't use!!!
No-one's stopping Brian winning a corner!
The scramble that leads to hitting the post
3-0 Airdrie. Mark Roberts' penalty.