SAT 3RD JAN 2004: A v BERWICK (SCOTTISH 2ND DIVISION)
"Saturday afternoon and I'm drinking with the guys. Thinking of the day's results and your lovely eyes." - "Two Pints of Rasa" Sultans of Ping
What a difference a week makes. A New Year. A new look Fife line-up proudly clutching three points and starting to climb up the League table again.
Jim Moffat threatened to ring the changes and he did just that, in a surprising choice of line up. Paddy Kelly slotted back into his midfield role and Greig McDonald was the surprise choice to partner Mikey Hall in the centre of defence, with Craig Lumsden moving out to right back and Craig McMillan moving up into midfield, joining Johnny Mitchell and the surprise return to the first eleven of Brian Blair.
It raised a few eyebrows amongst the Fife faithful, but we should know by now not to question what Jim has planned and it certainly worked to perfection, as the Fife produced what was on the whole a pretty comanding performance to record their first win in nine League games.
East Fife started the brighter, but there was no real danger being produced by either side, with the Fife defence easily coping with the threat of a Berwick attack that had knocked five past Forfar just a week ago.
With sixteen minutes gone, however, a nice East Fife move saw the ball break through to Berwick keeper Inglis and his fluffed clearance fell to McMillan at the edge of the box, who neatly cut inside a Berwick defender before stroking the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the net. 1-0 Fife!
East Fife had a chance to go two up just two minutes later, but Stevie Nicholas' free kick from just outside the penalty box 'D' sailed over. Berwick hit back almost immediately and in a move up their left, O'Connor committed himself to the Berwick attacker out wide, who subsequently crossed into the middle and only a brilliant goal-line clearance by Euan Donaldson kept East Fife one up.
The rest of the first half didn't really set the heather alight, with both teams trading non-effective corners, but with half time approaching, a scramble in the East Fife box, led to another goal-line clearance, this time by Mikey Hall.
With East Fife showing the more attacking promise, a one nil lead at half time was deserved for a hard working all-round team performance.
The Fife were first to threaten at the start of the second half, but it was Berwick who started to push forward more looking for the equaliser and were certainly getting more into the game. With 53 minutes gone, East Fife conceded a free kick out left and a dangerous ball was looped over, but thankfully headed wide, bringing a sign of relief all round the away support. Five minutes later, another free kick caused the Fife defence more problems, as ex-Fifer Gordon Forrest hit the wall with his effort, but his spinning shot deflected up and over the wall at such a slow speed, that it allowed Gary O'Connor, to get up from his dive to the right, to collect the ball safely at his left post!
Forrest was starting to look like Berwick's main threat, but his blatant dive just after the hour mark was thankfully waved away by referee Dougie McDonald. East Fife then had a scrambled effort cleared off the line, before introducing Brain Fairbairn for the hard working Stevie Nicholas. Whether this proves to be Stevie's last appearance in an East Fife jersey, we still don't know, but from the reception he got today, then the fans obviously hope not.
Fairbairn's introduction added a bit of buzz to the team and Kenny Deuchar was sent straight through, before being blatantly chopped down in the six yard box, one yard shy of the goal line. The referee looked at the linesman, who had the almost identical view to myself, but he amazingly signalled for a goal kick, much to the Fife fans' anger. The same linesman then managed to award a bizarre free kick against Brian Fairbairn minutes later, resulting in Brian picking up a booking.
East Fife were starting to dominate proceedings again, with Fairbairn and Mitchell's pace causing the Berwick defence a lot of problems. With eight minutes remaining a dangerous Fife move saw the ball fall to Craig McMillan at the edge of the box, but he couldn't repeat his first half magic and actually managed to seemingly control the ball down his leg and sclaff it towards Kenny Deuchar, whose fierce shot had Inglis beat, but cannoned off his left post. Only into the path of Greig McDonald, who hit one of his trademarks volleys into the middle of the net to secure the three points for the Bayview men.
The game just fizzled out for the last few minutes, bar a couple of reckless tackles, but when the final whistle came, the Berwick fans had dispersed early, leaving the Fife faithful to salute an excellent performance, three vital points and a big confidence booster for next week's Scottish Cup tie against Queen of the South.
EAST FIFE: O'Connor, Lumsden, Donaldson, G. McDonald, Hall, Kelly, Mitchell (Stewart 85), Blair, Deuchar, Nicholas (Fairbairn 70), McMillan Subs (not used): Graham, Gilbert, I. MacDonald
AFTN MAN OF THE MATCH: Close between him and Johnny Mitchell, but in the end it has to go to GREIG McDONALD