SAT 18TH SEPT 2004: A v GRETNA (SCOTTISH 3RD DIVISION)
The game a lot of us were waiting for since the close season. East Fife against a free-spending Gretna side with goal-scoring Fife hero Kenny Deuchar on board. How would we fare against the Championship favourites? How would King Kenny be greeted? Would he score against us?
So many questions, so many answers, none of them good.
With the only change from last week's starting eleven being the return of Kevin Bain in central defence to replace Graeme Mathie, who could no longer play as a trialist, it was going to be interesting to see if the East Fife defence, which has been our only plus points in some games, could cope with a strong Gretna attack that included former Bayview hero Kenny Deuchar in the starting line-up.
We didn't have to wait long to find out. 1 minute and 48 seconds in fact, as David Bingham found himself (strangely shaped head and all) unmarked on the edge of box and had all the time in the world to hit a low drive in off Scott Morrison's left hand post, with the Fife keeper looking on, making no attempt to dive at the ball. He may have thought it was going wide or he may have just been frightened and put off by Bingham's face, we haven't been able to confirm which.
Right away East Fife's bouncebackability was going to be tested and they responded well.
The Fife had a penalty appeal waved away with five minutes gone, when Derek Colquhoun went down in the box but our perennial thorn in our side, referee Colin Hardie, gave offside.
It was a windswept Raydale Park and East Fife had the advantage of the wind in the first half, but with our long punt style of play, this wasn't necessarily going to be to our advantage. Kevin Bain made good use of the wind though with 16 minutes gone, when he floated a long free kick from the half way line to Colquhoun at the edge of the Gretna box, but again the big striker fell foul of Gretna's offside trap.
With East Fife already having a penalty appeal dismissed, Gretna soon followed suit midway through the half. Gretna won a free kick out on the left and Ryan Baldacchino played it short inside to Jamie McQuilken, whose run was ended in the box at the hands of Craig Lumsden. The incident happened straight in front of me and I would have to say that contact was definitely made and if McQuilken hadn't thrown himself down so badly, he may have got the decision.
There was to be no doubt about the next penalty incident though!
26 minutes gone and a long ball set Les Byle through with just the keeper to beat. As he took the ball in to the box he was clattered by David Mathieson, which amazingly didn't even earn the Gretna keeper a yellow card, never mind a red one. Brian Fairbairn stepped up to take the spot kick and dispatched it decisively low into Mathieson's right hand corner of the net.
1-1 and, as Andy Gray would say, game on.
The goal gave East Fife added impetus and minutes later a ball in from the right saw Fairbairn caught by the keeper in the six yard box. The ball broke to Kevin Steele who blasted over an empty net from 8 yards out.
Undeterred, Gretna went back on the offensive and Scott Morrison was lucky to turn an awkward bobbling long-range ball past the post for a Gretna corner.
This was to be the last real effort of the half and as the teams went in for half-time, there was a genuine feeling that the Fife couldn't definitely take something from the game.
How these feelings were to change rapidly.
Whatever Rowan Alexander said to his team at half time seemed to work wonders as they came out firing on all cylinders, particularly Kenny Deuchar, who had had an ineffectual first forty-five minutes.
With the half just two minutes old, Bingham's excellent effort clipped the corner of the bar from 12 yards out. The rebound fell to Deuchar, but he managed to blast the ball over from two yards out!
Aha! Maybe he just didn't want to score against us. Oh no, wait a minute, he just has!
Three minutes after missing that sitter Deuchar made amends, powerfully heading home Gavin Skelton's pin point cross. 51 minutes gone, 2-1 Gretna.
Deuchar and Gretna then ran riot, slicing the Fife "defence" apart. Deuchar was put through on 57 minutes but a last ditch tackle forced a corner, which David Irons head narrowly wide. Moments later a rocket from Bryan Gilfillan sailed just over.
Gretna were not going to be denied, however, and with 62 minutes on the clock Craig Lumsden turned a low cross from Skelton from the left into his own net, giving Morrison no chance. It was a cracking finish though!
It was starting to look like a rout was on the cards, but against all odds, East Fife nearly pulled one back immediately when a neat pass from Colquhoun set Fairbairn one on one with Mathieson, but the Bairn hit his effort straight at the keeper's legs when he should have done much better.
Fairbairn was in action again moments later, jinking and turning in the box, before firing a low cross along the six yard box which was cleared before James Herkes could get to it.
This, sadly, was to be East Fife's last effort of the game, as Gretna took complete control.
Skelton had a great effort saved well by Morrison for a corner. Skelton took the corner himself and Deuchar rose above the static Fife defence to claim his second goal with 68 minutes gone.
Two minutes later and it was a hat-trick for the former Fife favourite, as he latched on to a long ball, reminiscent of his Bayview days, and buried it past Morrison for 5-1 to Gretna.
The game then, thankfully, petered out. East Fife huffed and puffed but couldn't get anything going and the only incident of note was the substitution of Deuchar with ten minutes left. Kenny got a round of applause from most of the Fife fans and acknowledged this, before waving to his own fans and taking a well earned rest.
When the final whistle finally put the Fife faithful out of our misery, it was hard to see where we go from here. Third bottom, promotion chances slim/nil and woeful performances. Might be early, but I'd say blood the youngsters. Let's see what they've got, cos let's be frank here, they can't do any worse than some of the players on display today. Even the usually vocal away following was very subdued. Things need to turnaround quickly to save our fan-base from diminishing even more quickly.
The first half performance should give some encouragement though and that's what we need to build upon.
C'mon the Fife.
FINAL SCORE: Gretna 5 - 1 East Fife
EAST FIFE: Morrison, Renwick, Brash, Lumsden, Bain, Byle, Herkes, Kelly, Fairbairn (Tarditi 81), Colquhoun, Steele (Duncan 78) Subs (not used)- Trialist keeper, Linton and Crawford
Fuck, if I'd known it was going to be this tough this season to allocate points I wouldn't have bothered!
3 points - KRIS BRASH (strange to give a defender points, but he was asked to do a hell of a lot today in several positions and coped admirably)
2 points - BRIAN FAIRBAIRN (scored and missed a few, but at least he got in to the positions to do that!)
1 point - LES BYLE (pass marks in the middle and won the penalty)
A horrible sight to see
[For another report on the game and stats, check out the EAST FIFE MAD site]