SAT 16TH OCT 2004: H v ALBION ROVERS (SCOTTISH THIRD DIV)
After watching East Fife's season so far and two recent Scotland performances, this afternoon's game against the equally struggling Albion Rovers was not a game on paper that was to whet the appetite. What transpired was a very entertaining second half and a deserved three points for East Fife. It really is a funny old game.
East Fife showed a new look central defender partnership of Fraser Duncan and loan signing Paul Gaughan and welcomed the return of Stevie Nicholas up front after his recent signing from Alloa. This allowed Brian Fairbairn to adopt a free role out wide.
East Fife showed enough in the second half against Elgin, to the few fans that were there, to suggest that they could at least play football when they tried and this gave some hope in what has been a dire season to date.
The first half of this game didn't really go a long way in shaking the belief that the dire season was to continue, with Albion Rovers looking the slightly sharper and ex-Fifer Paul McManus getting into some dangerous positions.
It was the wee Rovers that had the first chance after six minutes when a speculative 25 yard effort didn't have enough power to trouble Fife keeper Scott Morrison, who easily held the shot.
East Fife threatened next when Kris Brash drove the ball just over from just inside the box, after a nice ball from Stevie Nicholas. Minutes later and James Herkes came closest so far to opening the scoring when he went on a mazy run and could only look on when his shot went inches wide of Mark Peat's right hand post.
Albion Rovers then seemed to have the better of the play without creating any real chances, but with 36 minutes on the clock, McManus came close with a cheeky wee back flick Henry-style inside the box. The Rovers then had the last chance of the half when Crabbe had an effort blocked by Morrison and then scrambled clear with two minutes of the half remaining.
The next 45 minutes of football was then the best that an East Fife side have played since August last year! You know it's a dire time when you can remember the good games so vividly!
Les Byle was first to threaten but his cracking 25 yard effort was brilliantly tipped over by Peat for a corner.
Albion Rovers responded with an effort across the face of the goal, but nobody was there to connect. They quickly followed this up with a fast breakaway and Mark McKenzie saw his fine effort saved by Morrison. The Rovers kept the pressure on, winning a free kick which Morrison punched away poorly, but the danger was soon cleared by the solid Fife defence.
As the game approached the hour mark, McManus found himself clear in front of goal but was unable to take the one touch that would surely have led to the opener.
McManus had a great chance three minutes later when Crabbe's free kick in from the left found his head perfectly, but his effort was cleared off the line by Michael Renwick.
Albion Rovers were left to rue these missed chances as East Fife then took over the game for the last half hour.
Derek Colquhoun was looking particularly impressive and some neat footwork on the right allowed him to whip a cross in to Nicholas in the box, but Peat produced a spectacular one handed save to send Stevie's effort over the bar.
Minutes later and that rarity of things, a great East Fife passing move, led to the ball finding Brian Fairbairn in the box, but his header went just inches wide.
East Fife continued to press and won a free kick which the Bairn played soft and short in to the box to Colquhoun who brilliantly turned and shot just over from 16 yards out. He came close again moments later, heading a corner over on 71 minutes.
Three minutes later and Colquhoun was in the thick of the action again, shielding the ball well from Renwick's pass, before Stevie Nicholas took the ball off him but Peat saved his shot.
It was Jimmy Herkes' chance to come close next when another fine passing move saw the Bairn knock the ball to Gary Kelly, who was running the midfield, who then found Herkes, who went on a run before unleashing a fierce shot which was turned round the post for a corner.
With 13 minutes remaining, Albion Rovers let the Fife know that they were still in the game when McKenzie's effort was deflected in to the side netting.
East Fife then went up the field and nearly got the elusive opener when Gary Kelly beat the offside trap, running on to a through ball, but his delicate lob beat the advancing Peat but also the bar.
McKenzie then threatened the Fife goal again, playing a brilliant one-two outside the box but Morrison tipped his effort over.
Then with six minutes remaining the breakthrough finally came when Derek Colquhoun beautifully trapped the ball in the middle of the box, before making time to fire the ball home low into the net, giving Peat no chance. 1-0 East Fife.
The game then ended as a spectacle with East Fife happy to play possession football in the corners and secure a confidence boosting three points.
It was a deserved win and the best football the team have played all season, although Albion Rovers certainly had their chances in the first hour to make us pay. What was particularly nice to see was that for the second second half in a row, we played football. Proper passing football! The players certainly seemed to respond to this and for the first time in a long time, I can't actually wait for next week's game!
This isn't to say that all our problems are solved, far from it as Albion Rovers are as poor a side as us on current form, but there were enough positive things to take from the display (in particular the impressive central defence and striking partnerships) to make it look like the season could be on the verge of getting better. But let's face it, it couldn't have gotten that much worse!
C'mon the Fife.
FINAL SCORE: EAST FIFE 1 - 0 Albion Rovers
EAST FIFE: Morrison, Renwick, Brash, Gaughan, Duncan, Byle, Herkes, Kelly, Nicholas, Colquhoun (Tarditi 86), Fairbairn Subs (Not Used): Lumsden, Crawford, Mitchell and Gardiner
No player can be faulted for their effort and commitment today and it was a great team effort. In our opinion, the few that stood out were...
3 points - Derek Colquhoun (busy and a great goal. linked well with Stevie Nic)
2 points - James Herkes (almost the Jamesy we know of old. regained some confidence)
1 point - Paul Gaughan (looked solid at the back and not afraid to come forward)
The Bairn comes inches away from opening the scoring
The silky footwork of Big Deek opens the scoring
[Photo courtesy of Tom Aitken]
1-0 Fife. Celebration time!
[For another report on the game and stats, check out the EAST FIFE MAD site]
[For more pics of the game check out Brian Lawson's THEFIFERS.CO.UK site]