SAT 31ST JULY 2004: H v COWDENBEATH (BELL'S CHALLENGE CUP)
New season. New players. New division. New strip. Same old punt, punt, punt football.
Some things look like they'll never change. We can't win Fife derbies and we don't seem to want to play football on the deck. Could be a long season!
Having missed all of the pre-season games through work, weddings and an overall general malaise, it was good to be back watching the black and gold and to cast AFTN's first gaze over the new signings. With injuries and potential signings still being worked upon, Jim Moffat's starting eleven today is unlikely to be his first choice eleven going into the season proper. Let's just hope this is the case, as there weren't a lot of positives out there today, but there were some.
It was a dour derby that seemed content to drift into penalties from midway through the second half, but it didn't start out that way as fierce tackles reigned in from both sides in what looked like it was going to be a full blooded affair, with Kris Brash and Cowden' Bryan Gilfillan clashing early.
The Fife started the liveliest and had the greater possession and the first real chance, with ten minutes gone, when Brian Fairbairn was released on the right, but his cross into the six yard box just eluded Les Byle and was cleared for a corner.
With the Fife still in control new signing Steven Tarditi's persistence at the edge of the box let him get in a floating shot that was easily saved by Carlin in the Cowden goal after 20 minutes.
He game then took it's first lull in action with both teams busy but lacking any creative flair, but Tarditi gave the Fife another chance to open the scoring after good work on the left, but his cross just eluded the on rushing Brian Fairbairn in the six yard box.
Cowden then came back in to the game, creating several chances which Fife keeper John Dodds easily dealt with. Cowden's best chance of the match so far came on 37 minutes when Dodds was forced to make a great parrying save from the busy Dene Shields, with Ian McDonald clearing the danger.
A minute later Gilfillan went inches wide with a low drive from a corner, as Cowden continued to turn up the heat. They finished the first half with a great chance when they were adjudged to have beaten the offside trap, but wasted the attacking opportunity.
It was obviously hard for the assistant referee at the stand side to give any correct decisions, as he was having enough trouble keeping hold of his flag during the match, never mind anything else!
Half time and a fairly even first 45 minutes, with both teams having better spells over the course of it. The second half wasn't exactly going to set the heather on fire either though.
It was 10 minutes in to it before any team had a chance, with the dangerous Gilfillan going just wide of the post again with an effort. A good player, let down by his over aggressive style and blatant diving. Craig Levein would have loved him.
Shields forced Dodds to make an excellent save with his legs on the hour mark, as Cowden were looking the most likely to create any chances that might count, but even then, it was a close run thing! Jim Moffat tried to freshen things up with a couple of substitutions, but already it looked like the game was going to peeter out into extra time.
But with 20 minutes remaining, some life crept in to the stagnant Fife attack, with Tarditi sending the ball out left to sub James Herkes, who cut inside and unleashed a shot which cannoned of the underside of the bar and fell just the wrong side of the line, before being scrambled clear for a corner.
This was to prove to be the last main chance of the half and it was into extra time.
Mikey Hall had a good chance in the first period to open the scoring and Brian Fairbairn put an excellent ball dangerously into the box but there was no-one there to meet it. Dene Shields almost clinched it for Cowden at the start of the second period but he watched on as his low curling effort shaved the outside of the post and agonisingly wide. Ian McDonald then had the last chance of the game, but Carlin did well to tip his looping effort over.
The second extra time period was marred, however, with an injury to Greig McDonald, which saw the influential Fife captain stretchered off after popping his knee out of his socket. His stretchering off being sickeningly met with chants of "cheerio" from a minority of the Cowden support. And they wonder why we refer to them as scum.
So that was the game and it was on to penalties.
East Fife went first, with Brian Fairbairn netting the first, Kevin Bain shooting wide with the second and Steven Tarditi and Gary Kelly scoring well taken third and fourth kicks. Cowden had scored all four by this point to lead 4-3 and as Ian McDonald stepped up for the Fife's fifth effort, he knew he had to score to keep the Fife in the match. His effort was saved by Carlin and Cowden had beaten the Fife yet again.
It was a tough game to watch. Very little to enjoy about it and Cowden certainly edged it with the amount of close chances, but it doesn't bode well for either team for the forthcoming League campaign.
John Dodds had an excellent, assured game between the sticks and you didn't worry when he came out for crosses. The midfield were surprisingly poor and the defence wasn't as watertight as we have been used to, but it's early days and I'm hoping we'll see a much stronger, tighter and more creative side out there a month down the line.
Now we can concentrate on the League! C'mon the Fife
FINAL SCORE: East Fife 0 - 0 Cowdenbeath (Cowden win 4-3 on pens)
EAST FIFE: Dodds, Lumsden, I. McDonald, Bain, Hall, Byle (Kelly 66), Mitchell, G. McDonald (Crawford 120), Fairbairn, Tarditi, Brash (Herkes 61). Subs (not used) - Paliczka and Morrison.
3 points - John Dodds (safe handling throughout. gave confidence.)
2 points - Kevin Bain (looked way better at the back than the middle)
1 point - Les Byle (promising first competitive match back)
The 2004/2005 season kicks off
The second half beckons - the first forgotten about!
Gary Kelly sticks to his man
Extra Time - Mikey Hall comes close
The deadlock is nearly broken by Ian McDonald
Penalties - as the teams watch on
Brian Fairbairn makes it 1-0 Fife
Kevin Bain misses
Steven Tarditi scores
Gary Kelly nets a cracker
Ian McDonald's effort is saved and the Fife lose 4-3
[The majority of pictures courtesy of Brian Lawson]