SAT 8TH MAY 2004: H v FORFAR ATH (SCOTTISH 2ND DIV)
Today it was win or bust. The stakes were high. The chips were on the table. Would Jim Moffat be aggressive and raise before the flop, playing three strikers and going for goals? Would Forfar have the Fife doomed by fourth street? Or would Kenny Deuchar come on and pop up and win it on the river, keeping alive the Fife's survival hopes for one more week?
As it turned out, none of these scenarios happened, but by 4.47pm this evening, the Fife's fingernail's still hadn't let go of the Second Division and the players showed that if we are to bow out, then we're going to do it kicking and screaming.
The only change to last week's team was Johnny Mitchell replacing Jimmy Herkes up front, in the famous black and gold number 9. Johnny's performance as sub last week, winning over the management and he was soon to prove them right in their decision. The gaffer went for an attacking bench, with four possible strikers ready to come on if needed.
As has been written so many times this season, the first half was dire, with the ball being knocked about the middle of the park and no real chances being created.
Gordon Gilbert put in some good work on the left to win a corner on 29 minutes, with being the first real point of note of the entire game! GG then had a good chance two minutes later, just failing to get on the end of Mikey Hall's high cross into the box.
East Fife had a penalty claim waved away on 37 minutes when GG (I think!) got bundled over in the box.
Forfar then had the best chance of the first half with five minutes remaining, when Lou Ferrigno produced a brilliant header, with Gary O'Connor producing an equally brilliant one footed save. With the hulkster rolling about in the box and the referee worried that he was going to turn green and burst out of his strip, play was halted with East Fife in possession and Forfar showed what scumbags the players are, by kicking the ball out for a throw in, instead of returning possession. At least they didn't break any legs today.
It was soon half time, with little action, little Forfar threat, but equally little Fife promise of goals. The Fife support were cheered though by the news that Dumbarton were two up at Arbroath, so if that didn't fire the players up for the second half, then I don't know what would.
It was Forfar that attacked first though. It was Ferrigno (AKA Hugh Davidson) who threatened again, narrowly heading over a corner they'd won from a free kick in a dangerous position a minute in.
Then things started to become a blur!
51 minutes on the clock and the Fife fans are in raptures as somehow Greig McDonald's goalbound header finds it's way past Forfar keeper Michael Brown and a Loons defender at the post. 1-0 Fife!
Two minutes later and it's two. Great work by Johnny Mitchell ends with the ball sent out to Craig McMillan on the right. Craig cuts inside and unleashes a shot that may, or may not have, deflected off GG on the way, but certainly did nestle into the bottom right hand corner of the Forfar goal, just inches away from the diving Brown. 2-0 Fife and we can breathe again and dream of Ochilview!
From previous experience this season, we knew how dangerous Forfar could be when two down and they nearly pulled one back on 62 minutes, when Paul 'Bob' Mortimer blocked Paul Shields' effort at the edge of the box, but deflected the ball onto the bar in the process. A close escape.
As the game approached the last 15 minutes, Shields came close again to pulling one back, latching onto a through ball after a mistake by Mathie, but Gary O'Connor stood tall and thwarted the Forfar striker.
Minutes later and the crossbar came to the rescue of the Fife again, with David McClune crashing his header off it, after meeting an excellent pin point cross into the box.
Forfar certainly weren't just lying down, as I'm sure some Arbroath fans may think, and Gary O'Connor was forced into action again on 85 minutes, tipping a dangerous header just over.
East Fife then realised that the best form of defence was attack and it was the two subs, Jimmy Herkes and Kenny Deuchar that ran the show in the last few minutes.
With 90 minutes on the clock, Jimmy Herkes broke on the left and played an inch perfect cross into the box for Kenny Deuchar, but the Forfar defender obviously wanted to swap jerseys a little bit too early and held on to it for a good ten yards, eventually pulling Deuchs back before he could get to the ball. Much to everyone's amazement, neither the referee or the assistant referee deemed this worthy of a foul or a penalty!
Seconds later, as the game rolled into stoppage time, Herkes broke again and played another brilliantly weighted cross into the box which the stretching Deuchs was just inches away from making contact with.
The final whistle sounded. Three points were in the bag and Arbroath had bottled it, and seemingly lost the plot, at home to Dumbarton.
The whole Fife team put in an excellent performance in the second half and each and every one of them should be proud of the way they battled and the commitment they showed today. The same needs to be carried onto next week in the do or die battle against the bottom club.
There's ninety minutes of football left and all to play for.
C'mon the Fife.
FINAL SCORE: EAST FIFE 2 - 0 FORFAR ATHLETIC
EAST FIFE: O'Connor, Lumsden, Hall, Mortimer, G. McDonald, Mathie, Blair, McMillan, G. McDonald, Mitchell (Herkes 75), Gilbert (Deuchar 62), Donaldson Subs (not used) - Graham, Stein, Fairbairn
AFTN MAN OF THE MATCH: Tough to choose between Johnny Mitchell and Craig McMillan, but for us, CRAIG McMILLAN edges it.
Greig McDonald Makes It 1-0 (photo courtesy Liam Anderson)
Greig McDonald's Ecstasy At Opening The Scoring
The Move Leading To The Second Goal
Craig McMillan's Ecstasy At Doubling The Lead
GG Gets Physical