SAT 6TH MAR 2004: A v FORFAR ATHLETIC (SCOTTISH 2ND DIVISION)
Well, after last week's late postponement farce, we finally got a game of football today! By 4.46pm, however, the Fife faithful left Station Park wishing we hadn't.
With a stomach pull forcing Mikey Hall out of the squad, Euan Donaldson dropped back to his old left-back role, allowing Jay Stein to come into the starting eleven in the attacking left midfielder role. Brian Fairbairn and Gordon Gilbert were added to the subs bench.
East Fife started brightly, as they have been seeming to do in recent games, but Forfar forced the first save of the game after three minutes , with Gary O'Connor easily holding a low drive from outside the box, in what was to prove Forfar's last attempt on target for the next hour!
East Fife dominated the first half possession against what was frankly a very poor Forfar side. Chance after chance was created and chance after chance was squandered.
The first chance came with quarter of an hour gone. A neat passing interchange in the box between Herkes, Stewart and Kelly, saw Kelly collect the ball, step to the left and unleash a curling shot, from just outside the six yard box, that rattled of the Forfar bar and out for a corner with Loons keeper Michael Brown only able to look on.
East Fife pushed forward, forcing a string of corners and throw ins, but the next great chance came on 27 minutes, when a great cross field pass from Paddy Kelly set Jay Stein free on the left and as he ran towards the advancing keeper, shot just wide.
Four minutes later and East Fife had what was to be one of their two best chances of the afternoon. A chance that was also going to let the Fife fans know what was going to be in store for the rest of the game.
Excellent work by Willie Stewart down by the corner flag, saw him twist and turn the Forfar defence, before firing in a pin-point cross to Kenny Deuchar, but big Deuchs header produced a brilliant one handed save by Brown, leaving everyone to wonder how that didn't go in. If it had been headed anywhere else it would have done!
More Fife pressure was applied. More corners were won. And the Fife were playing some really nice passing football. Yes, you read that correctly. A passing game!
A minute before the interval, the ball was being pinballed around the Forfar box before Deuch's leg sent the ball to Willie Stewart, eight yards out and right in front of goal. His weak shot trickled past the keeper, but was cleared off the line very easily by a Forfar defender, when all Willie had to do was lash at it and it would have gone in.
That was the last real action of the first half and as the teams went in for the interval, a confident Fife contingent were just waiting for that goal to come. Forty-five minutes later and we were still waiting. As the team went in for half time, I couldn't help but feel that if they kept playing and creating chances the way they did in that first half, then there's no way we'd be going down. By the end of the second half, I couldn't help but feel that if we don't take those chances, game after game, then we're going to be well and truly fucked!
Playing against the strong wind for the second half, the fear that Forfar couldn't play any worse than they did in the first half, was soon to prove unfounded as the Fife continued to dominate proceedings.
With the half just underway, Jay Stein went down in the box amidst a mix of strong penalty claims from those of a black and gold persuasion and accusations of diving from those of a sky blue one. Referee Melville just waved play on.
With 51 minutes gone, another excellent East Fife passing move (hey, I could get used to typing this!), saw Deuchar fouled in the middle of the Forfar half but he just managed to get the ball off to Willie Stewart. The ref played the advantage and Willie's beautiful pass inside to Jay Stein was then completely wasted when Jay hit the ball wide of both the onrushing keeper and the left hand post, when, yet again, the opening goal looked inevitable.
The referee then tried to find the Forfar player who had committed the foul, but couldn't! Quality stuff yet again from one of our officials.
With East Fife continuing to push forward, but not to the same effect as in the first half, Euan Donaldson whipped a high cross into the box, which the keeper fumbled but was able to recover as there were no East Fife players pressurising him.
Forfar were starting to get more possession, but weren't looking threatening in the slightest, and it was the Fife who continued to carve out the goal scoring opportunities.
Jimmy Herkes had had a strong, attacking first forty-five, but was falling out of the game a little in the second, but on the hour mark he ran at the Forfar defence before firing in a ball to the unmarked Willie Stewart, who took one step too many, allowing keeper Brown to parry the ball away for yet another corner.
After all the good work and pressure, the Fife then allowed Forfar to finally come into the game, with on-loan signing Mark Ferry forcing Gary O'Connor to make a save with his volley from the edge of the box with 64 minutes gone - 61 minutes after their first shot of the game!!! Ferry must have liked the feeling of having a shot as he had an almost identical one seconds later, which again Gary held with little problem.
This was a phrase which sadly was not able to be used a few minutes later, however.
With 68 minutes gone, Forfar won a rare corner on the left. The corner was whipped in low and Gary O'Connor easily came out to collect, only to fumble the ball right out of his hands, towards the goal and straight to the foot of Paul Tosh, who surely won't score an easier goal in his career. I'd like to say that Gary was fouled, as there was a number of players around him at the time, but sadly it has to go down to another major blunder by the big man at a crucial time. The only defence I can give for him is that as he'd had fuck all to do for the rest of the game, his fingers were frozen! Still a very bad and potentially costly mistake though.
The Fife pushed forward for an equaliser and with eighteen minutes remaining, Jay Stein lobbed an awful cross into the box that somehow fell to Jimmy Herkes, but it was more heartache for the Fife as his thundering volley crashed of the post and out for a throw in.
We should all have really gone home then!
Willie Stewart picked up an injury and was replaced by Brian Fairbairn on 74 minutes, but Brian was unable to even get into the game and wasn't linking up well with Kenny D, who was having a bit of an off day himself.
Forfar had a chance to tie the game up with ten minutes remaining, as a cross in from the left found Tosh totally unmarked in the box, but he was just inches away from connecting.
Michael Brown, who was frankly the man of the match, made another excellent save with seven minutes remaining, catching Deuch's first time volley from a sharp angle, after some good work by Craig McMillan.
The final chance of the game, mirrored what had gone before, as Euan Donaldson found himself in space at the back post, but his looping header somehow went over both Brown and the bar, when the angle we all had made it look like it had gone in. How the hell it didn't is still a mystery.<>
Jay Stein picked up a booking in injury time for being pushed and the ref then blew for full time with only a minute if stoppage time being played, despite Forfar's blatant timewasting tactics after they had scored.
A very disappointing result, which leaves us still in a mess at the bottom, but thankful that Arbroath didn't pick up any points today. Forfar were a very physical team again, but at least all our players left with their limbs in tact today. You have to give Forfar full credit though. Outplayed for the whole game and looking poor, they did what you have to do - they took their chances. The one that mattered. The one that got them the winning goal. You can't knock them for that. That's what we need to start doing.
Our goalscoring confidence seems to be nil. We have to try and have shots, instead of pussyfooting around inside the box. Most importantly of all, we need to uncover a goalscoring machine. I'd stick Greig McDonald back into midfield (which he reverted to towards the end of the game today) and let Mikey Hall go back to his preferred centre half position.
We have to start winning and soon. Let's hope that that trend starts next Saturday.
C'mon the Fife.
EAST FIFE: O'Connor, McMillan, Donaldson, G. McDonald, Mathie, Bain, Herkes, Kelly, Deuchar, Stewart (Fairbairn 74), Stein Subs (not used) - Graham, Lumsden, Gilbert, Blair
AFTN MAN OF THE MATCH: WILLIE STEWART put in some workload again and should have scored at least a couple. Greig McDonald wasn't far behind in the MoM standings though.
Paddy Kelly Hits The Bar
Shut Your Gob Stewart
Bruce Forsyth Meets The Incredible Hulk!