SAT 13TH MAR 2004: H v BERWICK RANGERS(SCOTTISH 2ND DIV)
A week down the road from last week's chance-fest, Jim Moffat was still without Mikey Hall and Willie Stewart still hadn't recovered from last week's injury, letting fan favourite Brian Fairbairn win back a place int he starting eleven to partner Kenny Deuchar up front.
Before the game, the fans were wondering how the team would react to all the missed chances from last week. Would they go in this week or would the confidence to play the same passing game and create the same be gone?
We didn't have to wait long, as the Fife started the game with a bang!
With just over a minute on the clock, East Fife set their attacking stall out early and Brian Fairbairn wasted little time in ripping into the Berwick defence. Finding time out by the left corner flag, Brian cut inside and chipped a beautifully weighted ball into the box for Kenny Deuchar to rise unmarked to head home the opener. 1-0 Fife!
The joy was to be short-lived however and Berwick's equalising goal, two minutes later, was to signal what the afternoon held in store for the Fife defence - the shocking inability to defend set pieces.
A corner out on right was floated in to the box by Paul Hampshire and with Paddy Kelly choosing to point a lot, rather than pick up a man, the continentalesque Paul Hilland ran onto the cross and rose unchallenged to head home the equaliser. 1-1 and was a goal feast to be on the cards? Not quite, but an entertaining afternoon of end to end action and spurned chances was.
With ten minutes on the clock, more atrocious marking allowed Berwick top scorer, Gareth Hutchison, the opportunity to run into a cross at the near post, which Gary O'Connor did well to turn out for a corner.
East Fife themselves then set off upfield and a neat lay off by Fairbairn, saw Paddy Kelly shoot wide. Seconds later, Fairbairn again crossed into Deuchar in the box, but big Deuchs headed wide on this occasion.
Both teams were in full attacking mood. For the Fife, Brian Fairbairn was looking dangerous and creative every time he was on the ball and was getting service to his feet at long last. For Berwick, the long ball over the top was finding a man time and time again, not helped by some poor East Fife marking.
With twenty minutes gone, East Fife won a free kick just inside their own half, which was quickly taken and set Craig McMillan off on a strong run. The ball was crossed into Jay Stein at the far edge of the box but Deuchar couldn't control the final ball in front of goal.
A minute later, Berwick threatened from their own free kick move, with the ball eventually being laid off to former Fifer Gordon Forrest in the box. Forrest controlled the ball well, but his soft shot went straight to Gary O'Connor.
The next Berwick attack led to the Fife's first substitution, with Mathie going down in the box clutching his ankle following what looked like a pretty innocuous challenge. The Motherwell loan player was in no position to continue (to use some boxing parlance!) and was replaced by Craig Lumsden
Fairbairn was causing the Berwick defence problems on both wings and on the half hour mark he found himself out right with two defenders around him. A quick burst of pace saw him leave them both easily behind and he whipped in another beautifully pin-point accurate cross and in a moment of reverse angle deja-vu, Kenny Deuchar rose unchallenged again to loop the ball easily into the net to restore the Fife lead, as the chants of "Deuchar, Deuchar, Deuchar" echoed around Bayview.
As the danger subsided at both ends for the next quarter of an hour, it allowed a few of us to partake in the new Paddy Kelly game, where we watched the big man to see how many times in a minute he would pull up his socks, point and scratch his balls (in no particular order)! A fun game to play when the action lulls. Try it yourself next week! I don't know what they use to wash the shorts down Bayview-way but the big guy likes a good haul and scratch!!!
As the other game fell into first half injury time, another corner was about to prove to be East Fife's downfall. A non dangerous looking ball was played into the box and more shocking marking saw Gareth Hutchison somehow rise and head the ball between Craig Lumsden on the far post and Gary O'Connor on the line. How it went in, I still don't know and who was to blame equally so, but the whole defence has to put their hands up and take the blame for both of the soft goals conceded.
As the half time whistle blew, it was hard to see us going in level, but it was shaping up to be a cracking second half and more goals looked a certainty. Of course, nothing in football is a certainty, and whilst the game could have finished about six apiece, the second half was to provide no more goals, but plenty of goalmouth action.
East Fife had the first real chance of the half on 51 minutes, when Jay Stein won a corner, but Kevin Bain hit his shot far wide. Gary McCutcheon had a chance for Berwick a few minutes later, but shot high and wide from a good position at the edge of the box. If was the Fife's turn to go close again soon after, with Deuchs heading a corner inches wide of the right hand post.
As the game drifted into the final half hour, a poor goal kick from Gary O'Connor fell short and straight to Berwick's Paul Hampshire, who quickly cut the ball inside to Hutchison, but O'Connor made amends with an easy save when the Berwick striker really should have done better.
On the 67 minute mark came what could have been one of the game's turning points. A mis-hit kick backwards from a Berwick defender fell to Kenny Deuchar who was still tracking back from a Fife attack. Deuchs' heels were clipped by the last man and with referee Ian Fyfe awarding a free kick and the Fife faithful screaming for a red card, there wasn't even a booking issued. Kevin Bain's subsequent free kick was then wasted, ploughing straight into the Berwick wall and being cleared.
Berwick were next on the attack winning a corner out on the left and with Gary O'Connor flapping at the cross ball and the Fife defence as sixes and sevens, Berwick crashed the ball off the bar and it was scrambled away for a close escape.
A minute later a neat passing move from Berwick saw Graham Connell hit a volley just inches wide of Gary O'Connor's right hand post.
It was soon to be East Fife's turn to hit the woodwork. Deuchs stopped the ball from going out for a goal kick and the ensuing scramble saw the ball come out to Jimmy Herkes who hit a thunderous curling shot off both crossbar and post in the postage stamp corner.
It was really end to end stuff now and Berwick had the next chance. Grant McNicoll hit a high ball through the middle, which Hampshire ran on to, before shooting straight at O'Connor, when yet again the Berwick player should have done better.
As the game moved into the final fifteen minutes, Berwick won another corner that was to give the Fife defence problems. First Neil had a shot blocked, before McNicoll blasted the ball way over from close range. This was quickly followed by another Berwick chance, with Hutchison doing a nice little double step over before crossing into sub Kevin Gordon, who saw his powerful volley brilliantly saved by O'Connor and the danger cleared.
East Fife had the game's last couple of chances.
A quick throw in by Fairbairn to the unmarked Herkes on 83 minutes, saw Jimmy whip a dangerous cross into the box, which was just over Deuch's head, but fell to Stein at the back, but his effort was blasted over.
With two minutes remaining another dangerous move and Fairbairn cross was agonisingly inches away from the diving Jimmy Herkes on the six yard line, with Jimmy, and sadly not the ball, ending up in the net.
As the final whistle came, a draw was a fair result after an entertaining ninety minutes of what really was end to end football action. It was disappointing to lose two leads and the defence had a bit of a mare, but on the plus side, we played some really nice football, using both wings (and particularly Fairbairn) to full effect.
It's another point gained. Another point away from Arbroath. And most importantly, another point away from that second relegation position.
It's a tough week ahead. Home to Dumbarton on Tuesday and away to Airdire on the Saturday, but if we play like we have the last two weeks I'm going into both of those game a little more confidently than off late.
C'mon the Fife!
FINAL SCORE: EAST FIFE 2 - 2 BERWICK RANGERS
EAST FIFE: O'Connor, McMillan, Donaldson, G. McDonald, Mathie (Lumsden 23), Bain, Herkes, Kelly, Deuchar, Fairbairn (Mitchell 89), Stein Subs (not used): Graham, Gilbert, Blair
AFTN MAN OF THE MATCH: BRIAN FAIRBAIRN proved those wrong that said he couldn't play from the start. Made both goals and was all over the pitch, especially in the first half.
Mathie Takes A Knock That Forces Him Off
Kevin Bain's Free Kick Wastefully Hits The Wall