SAT 19TH AUGUST 2006: H v ARBROATH (Scottish Third Division)
Three league games gone. Still unbeaten and joint top. Pretty good going and we're still to fully click and get even better! When it comes to the end of the season, Arbroath will be up there challenging with us, so taking three full points of them is always welcome and that's just what the Fife did today.
With the injuries and niggles racking up, we probably still haven't seen Dave Baikie's preferred first team choice take the pitch yet and with keeper Iain Ross getting injured in the warm up, John Dodds kept his place in goal after Wednesday night's defeat against Ross County.
East Fife started the brighter and really went for it from the off.
John Martin went on a strong run on the right and hit a dangerous cross in from the byeline that was just too high, first for Kevin Gordon, then Craig Smart, before the only Arbroath defender in the box was able to clear.
Moments later and Craig Smart himself was played through, with a defence splitting pass, but Neil Jablonski hit his cut back wide from ten yards out.
East Fife continued to pressure and with 9 minutes on the clock Gordon play a neat short pass inside to Craig Smart at the edge of the box, but Smart seemed to slip as he ran on to it.
Arbroath responded with their first real threat of the game and Bryan Scott went on a strong 25 yard run which had three Fife defenders backing off him, before a last ditch tackle forced a corner. Iain Dobbins headed the corner goalbound but Dodds managed to punch the ball away, under pressure from Willie Martin, allowing Tom Courts to clear the danger for another corner, which came to nothing.
The East Fife pressure was repaid though on 18 minutes.
John Martin's through ball sees Craig Smart run into the box from the left, drawing out Arbroath goalie Mark Peat to try and close down the danger. As Peat bore down on the Fife striker, Smart cut the ball back to Gordon in the middle and Kevin took his time to control the ball before unleashing a powerful shot through the Arbroath defenders and off the bar into the net. 1-0 Fife and a well deserved lead at that.
It was a mistake from Peat to commit himself in such a dangerous position and he nearly followed this up with another blunder as he fumbled a cross in from Jonathan Smart, but the Lichtie's keeper recovered before any Fife players could react.
Arbroath were still a danger though and showed this on 27 minutes as Martin set up Scott for a run at the defence, only to lose control when he should have done much better.
The Fife defence were certainly letting Arbroath run at them and backing off a lot of the time, which thankfully wasn't being punished.
But punished they soon were on 32 minutes.
A long ball towards Scott seemed to hold up in the air and as the Arbroath player controlled the ball, Smart nipped in to tackle and just failed to prevent the ball going out for an Arbroath corner. As Paul Watson's corner came in, Dodds was woefully positioned behind Martin to allow the Licthie's striker to easily head home for the equaliser.
It was Arbroath's first shot of the game, never mind their first shot on target, but the goal revitalised the Smokies and the Fife allowed them to get back in to the game, whilst we resorted to the long ball forward.
The game was getting a little niggly too and Sam Linton and Willie Martin clashed on the deck just inside the Fife half and both were lucky not to see any card for the incident. Bryan Scott was soon to pick up a yellow card though for a horrendous sliding lunge on Jonathan Smart that could have caused a serious injury.
The Fife got back in to the game again though as the half ended, but more tough tackling saw Courts pick up a yellow as Martin appeared to have been shot by a sniper from the mound.
1-1 at half time and everything to play for in the second half after what was a real entertaining first half from both sides.
East Fife again started the half stronger and with just two minutes of the half gone should have retaken the lead.
The commanding Ryan Blackadder played a brilliant through ball to John Martin, but as he hit the byeline, his cut back to Craig Smart was too weak, allowing Peat to easily smother the ball, much to Blackadder's annoyance as Smart was clear and ready to hit home.
Martin failed to get onto a long ball moments later, after Sam Linton had produced a fantastic tackle at the other end to set the move up.
Arbroath were struggling to produce anything and brought on Kevin McMullan on the hour mark and the sub had a chance to make himself an instant hero for the travelling support but he headed a cross onto the roof of the Fife net with his first touch.
McMullan was proving to be a handful for the Fife though and had added some spark to the Arbroath attack and he set up Steven Cook in a good position but his first time volley went straight into the hands of John Dodds from just inside the Fife box.
It was East Fife who took the lead though when Jonathan Smart powerfully headed in a Ryan Blackadder free kick after 68 minutes, with Peat nowhere.
We'd been watching the build up to the free kick and Smart had been signalling to Blackadder where he wanted the free kick played in to and he brilliantly ran back to draw out the defence before running into that position to head home. He's going to be such a star for us this year.
The Fife could have made it three moments later after a brilliant one-two with Smart and Gordon, but the return pass to Gordon saw him just offside, with the defence left flat footed.
Willie Martin saw Dodds save an effort for a corner before a string of Fife substitutions brilliantly ran the clock down.
Arbroath nearly snatched the equaliser at the death though, but Robbie Raeside's powerful header was well held by Dodds and the final whistle came to signal another Fife win.
It was a deserved three points and leaves us sitting joint top with Stenny now. The team's looking excellent and we just need to start taking our chances to make the vistory's a bit more comfortable. This will hopefully come soon though.
C'mon the Fife!
FINAL SCORE: East Fife 2 - 1 Arbroath
EAST FIFE: Dodds, Linton, Smith, J. Smart, McGowan, Courts, Gordon (Mitchell 90), Jablonski, C. Smart (Fortune 88), Martin (O'Reilly 83), Blackadder [Sub Not Used: D. Ross and Doyle]
ARBROATH: Peat, Rennie (Bishop 81), McCulloch, Raeside, Dobbins, Watson (Voight 71), Cook, Scott (McMullen 60), Martin, Sellars, Black [Subs Not Used: Morrison and Stein]
3 points - Ryan Blackadder (outstanding game and involved in everything)
2 points - Jonathan Smart (another solid performance at back and cracking goal)
1 point - Craig Smart (busy and unselfish)
1-0 Fife. Let the celebrations begin!
The ball that led to the Arbroath equaliser