SATURDAY 24TH APRIL 2004: A v DUMBARTON (SCOTTISH 2ND DIV)
Following last week's crucial defeat against Arbroath and the criticisms about the lack of fight it was going to be a different East Fife side that took the pitch at Dumbarton today. A side full of passion, full of commitment, full of skill, midfield dominance and attacking prowess. And that of course was what we got.
Um, yeah right.
What we got was another lacklustre display by a team of players that didn't look like most of them gave a toss and had an air of accepted inevitablility about forthcoming relegation. A team that started brightly then fell out of the game quicker than the Fife fans fell out with the Up Front stewards. A team with no midfield and another bizarre team selection.
Basically, a fucking shambles.
So, who were the lucky players to win the back four lottery this week. Well it was Craig Lumsden and Ian McDonald as the two backs and Bob Mortimer and Graeme Mathie forming a central defence partnership for, if I'm not mistaken, the first time from the start.
Greig McDonald moved back into his midfield role that the fans have been screaming about for weeks and up front, well, that was a surprise! Kenny Deuchar fell to the bench after being on night shift and still carrying a knock. Brian Fairbairn disappeared from the starting line up without a trace. And the man who many felt was last week's man of the match, Jay Stein, well he wasn't in the squad either amidst rumours of being dropped for wearing the wrong colour of shirt/not wearing a tie/looking dishevelled (depending on which source you listened to). So who was up front? James Herkes and Gordon Gilbert. A strike force to strike panic into the heart of defences everywhere. Sorry, replace defences with Fife fans and keep the panic bit.
We were never gonna win!
It looked like my pessimism was going to be proved wrong right from the start, as within seconds of kick off, Gordon Gilbert nearly opened the scoring when he latched onto a long ball, lobbed the on-rushing keeper and saw his effort go agonisingly wide.
East Fife looked the livelier of the two teams, but the less skillful. We had pace, but not a lot else, and Dumbarton slowly started to get their passing game together.
Gary O'Connor was forced into action with 12 minutes gone, when a brilliant cross from the right was met by the head of John Dillon and despite looking to be flailing, Gary pulled off a fine one handed stop.
It was to be midway through the first half before there was to be any more real action, with Dumbarton's number 4 (whose name I can't be bothered looking up - I know, I've let you down!!!) causing more problems for the Fife defence with a header over.
But the Fife thankfully decided not to make it a one team game and should have opened the scoring on 28 minutes when Greig McDonald saw his strong header from a Bain free kick agonisingly come off the post and scrambled away, with Sons keeper Stephen Grindlay nowhere.
So maybe there was hope!
Two minutes later and another Fife chance. Jimmy Herkes rushed on to a long clearance which had been helped on by a Sons' defender. Totally unmarked, and with time, in the box, Jimmy blasted his effort high over. As a result of which, AFTN is sad to report that a passing seagull, Gulliver, is still reported missing, feared lost. Another casualty of the brutal East Fife gaelic football trials.
Dumbarton's troublesome number 4 (whose name I wish I had caught on the tannoy now since he seems to be the one I keep having to write about!) caused more problems for the Fife defence on 34 minutes when he rose unchallenged and headed a dangerous free kick just over, helped by Craig Lumsden and Ian McDonald falling over each other in the box as the ball came in.
Dumbarton quickly followed this up with a curling effort from the jinking James McKinstry which went just wide.
A Bain free kick was played out and from Euan Donaldson's resultant corner, Greig McDonald found out it wasn't going to be his, or the Fife's day, when his header was scrambled off the line, amidst handball shouts.
Dumbarton were putting together some passing moves and finding a weakness on the Fife left side of defence and they exploited this to the full a minute before half time, when Ian McDonald was turned all over the place before the ball was crossed into the box and Ian Russell's powerful header was well saved by Gary O'Connor, but Russell then netted the rebound after a scramble and it was 1-0 to Dumbarton.
East Fife tried to hit back straight from the kick off but Jimmy Herkes' cross evaded everyone and fell to Euan Donaldson running in at the back of the box. Euan neatly turned inside and tried a looping effort, but it didn't have enough power and Grindlay made an easy, if somewhat over spectacular, save.
So half time came and the Fife really were unfortunate to be one down going in to the break. Although this report may make the game seem a hell of a lot more interesting than it was, it was tough to be a goal down. This was slightly tempered by the fact that Arbroath were both a goal and a player down against Stenhousemuir. That should definitely gee the players up for the second half.
Did it fuck.
If anything, it was the complete opposite and a dour second half unfolded, with the only interesting action being reserved for the stand and yet more hassle with stewards.
Having been told off within the first minute for daring to stand, it was clear that the over officious stewards hadn't learned anything, or got better, from our last visit and with 53 minutes on the clock (!!!), one of the most bizarre incidents of the season began!
A couple of Fife fans, standing at the very back of the stand, got into some verbals with a steward who was clearly unable to cope with such a large crowd. Calling for back up, his 'superior' arrived, with the Fife fans now definitely not going to back down. At this point Derrick Brown and Davie Hamilton arrived on the scene and basically told the stewards how stupid they were being. Full credit to DB for backing the fans and sitting with us for the rest of the game. Didn't stop one dobber of a steward though from then telling us that "Fife is full of pish", before he was replaced by the older, balder one again. This steward's picture is featured below and we'll be sending it to Dumbarton Football Club and Up Front Security and we'll see if they take the appropriate actions! Bad losers? Too fucking right we are!!!
As for the game, Kenny Deuchar came on for GG on 55 minutes and tried to make something happen, coming close twice within minutes of coming on, but his first shot was blocked for a corner and his follow up header went over. Kenny was left alone up front like a hyena surrounded by a group of lions.
There were a few scrambles in the box but the ball just wouldn't fall to an East Fife player and when I tell you that the last real effort of the match fell to that Dumbarton number 4 again with THIRTEEN minutes remaining, you'll get the idea of what the half was like! Gary O saved it on the goal line and that was the end of the game.
No points. No flair. No passion. No commitment. No fucking idea.
That's the performance in a nutshell.
Amazingly we're still in with a shout. I personally feel that Arbroath just need one more point to make sure, but it could all go down to goal difference in the end. What's the chances of a last minute goal to keep us in the Second Division this year?!
C'mon the Fife!
FINAL SCORE: Dumbarton 1 - 0 East Fife
EAST FIFE: O'Connor, Lumsden, I. McDonald, Mortimer, Mathie, G. McDonald, McMillan, Bain, Herkes, Gilbert, Donaldson Subs (not used) - Graham, Russell, Hall
AFTN MAN OF THE MATCH: A very difficult task to pick anyone, but I'd go with GREIG McDONALD for at least adding that attacking threat from midfield - well twice anyway!
Greig McDonald's Effort Gets Scrambled Off The Line
DB Gets Fired In In Support Of The Fife Fans
We'll See Who Has The Last Laugh "Pish" Boy