SAT 24TH JAN 2004: H v ALLOA ATHLETIC (SCOTTISH 2ND DIVISION)
Two grim games on the trot, but this time the result didn't go in Fife's favour, worryingly closing the table up, as we slip back to fifth and Alloa close to within five points of us in the second relegation place.
Greig McDonald's broken nose saw Gordon Russell return to the starting line up, with Greig surprisingly able to gain a place on the bench. The only other change from last week's winning starting eleven was the return of Kenny Deuchar at the expense of Willie Stewart.
It was yet another dire half at Bayview. Shooting towards the sea end, East Fife's only real chance came early doors, when Mikey Hall's shot was deflected wide for a corner after five minutes. Alloa had a good chance after 16 minutes, but Gary O'Connor produced a fine save from point blank range to turn the ball out for a corner.
That was basically it! East Fife had the far better of the possession and we went in at half time kind of expecting a similar game to unravel as last week. How wrong we were!
Paddy Kelly had taken a few knocks in the first half and was hobbling around as it came to an end and he was replaced at half time by Greig McDonald.
Alloa certainly started the second half like a completely different team and they were winning the possession stakes, with neither side still really threatening to score. East Fife carved out the first real chance of the half after 53 minutes when Brian Blair flicked a corner dangerously across the six yard box, but it was hit out for another corner.
Alloa were beginning to look the far more dangerous side and forced a corner from a looping free kick after 56 minutes. The resultant corner forced a second corner out on the left and a beautiful flick on from this allowed Brown Ferguson to rise unmarked and crash his powerful header off the post, as the East Fife defence looked on helplessly. A let off for the Fife, but there was more Alloa pressure to come a few minutes later when they beat the offside trap and an advancing Gary O'Connor just beat the Alloa forwards to the ball, beat two men outside his box and blasted the ball upfield to the feet of Brian Fairbairn, but the attack petered out to nothing.
As did the vast chunk of the next twenty five minutes!
Alloa had the far greater possession, but both teams attacking moves were proving more likely to cause damage to the cars in the car parks than either goal, with Alloa's Callaghan squandering a few good positions. East Fife brought on Herkes and Gilbert to try and freshen things up, but it would have needed a massive lemon wet wipe to have any impact in this respect, as East Fife played predictable football, with the Alloa defence mopping up the punt and rush tactics with ease. More worryingly was the space that first Nicolson and then Ferguson were getting up their right wing, with a seemingly invisible exclusion zone being enforced by the East Fife team's left hand side.
A challenge on Blair after 82 minutes led to a free kick just inside the East Fife half. The free kick found the feet of Kenny Deuchar on the edge of the box, who turned beautifully beforing rifling in a low drive to Jim Evans' right, but the Alloa keeper held the shot with an excellent save.
East Fife's first and last shot on target.
A couple of minutes later, Jimmy Herkes blasted well over from a good position inside the box and it was looking like it was going to fizzle out to a boring 0-0 draw, but Alloa had other ideas.
A brilliant passing move with three minutes to go, saw Ian Little deliver a brilliant diagonal ball into the box, with an Alloa player holding up Mikey Hall and letting the ball run through to Brown Ferguson, who made no mistake from 12 yards out and buried the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the net for the winner.
And a deserved winner it was on attacking play. We wouldn't have argued too much if it had been a draw, but Alloa certainly had the livelier attack and certainly seemed more likely to score in the second half. We certainly would seem to need a creative midfielder and a proven goalscorer in the last few days of the transfer window if we're going to end up in a mass team relegation dogfight, as looks likely.
First defeat of the year in the League, but not an encouraging performance I'm sorry to say for two tough away games coming up.
EAST FIFE: O'Connor, McMillan, Donaldson, Russell, Hall, Blair, Mitchell, Kelly (G. McDonald 46), Deuchar, Fairbairn (Herkes 61), Stein (Gilbert 76) Subs (not used): Graham and Stewart
AFTN MAN OF THE MATCH: Would have to just edge GARY O'CONNOR again. Was strong and alert when it mattered and had no chance with the goal
Brian Fairbairn's header scoots wide