SAT 27TH NOV 2004: H v GRETNA (SCOTTISH 3RD DIVISION)
After a three goal Cup win the week before, it was back to League business for East Fife and it wasn't going to come in any tougher shape than the League leaders Gretna.
Already on the wrong end of a 5-1 defeat by the goal-scoring machine from Raydale, a number of the fans saw the game as a keeping the score down scenario, showing just how low we've sunk at the moment. It was also to be an emotional return to Bayview by former black and gold hero, and current top scorer in the division, Kenny Deuchar.
The early pressure went Gretna's way but East Fife defended well and in numbers at times, with no real danger shown. This all changed with 17 minutes on the clock when the ball was played wide to Gavin Skelton, who had loads of room on the right and he had time to send an inch perfect cross in to the box to who else, but Kenny Deuchar and Deuchs sent a briliant looping header over Scott Morrison and into the net. Scott could have been slightly better positioned but it was a well taken goal and to be fair to the big man, he didn't celebrate it, but it was still sadly met by boos from some.
1-0 Gretna. Was this to be the start of a rout?
Fears were raised when, minutes later, David Bingham looped a header just over, but the Fife fought back and Johnny Mitchell was crudely up-ended for a free kick after some good work. The ball was whipped tantalisingly in to the box but no-one could connect.
As the half hour mark approached, Gretna turned up the pressure a bit and it was Deuchar again who nearly doubled the lead, but his goalbound header was cleared off the line for a corner by Kevin Steele. Gretna then forced a couple of corners but the Fife defence frantically held firm.
It wasn't to hold much longer though and Gretna soon got the second their pressure deserved. A through ball to Deuchar saw the doc one on one with the on-rushing Scott Morrison. Scott did well to block and dispossess Deuchs at the edge of the box but the ball rolled out to Ryan Baldacchino, who composed himself before dispatching the ball into the bottom right hand corner of the empty net from 22 yards out. 2-0 Gretna.
East Fife weren't going to let the big spenders have it all their own way and to their credit didn't let their heads go down. As half time approached they won a corner on the right. The ball was played deep, eluding everyone apart from Stevie Nicholas at the back of the six yard box. Nic had time to control the ball before expertly firing the ball past David Mathieson in the Gretna goal.
It was unexpected and pretty much the last kick of the half and as the whistle went, the teams went in with the score East Fife 1 Gretna 2.
It was all set then to be a great second half, but as has happened a few times off late, what followed was a disappointment.
East Fife were the better team in the second half but it was to be Gretna that took the chance that they got and killed the game, allowing East Fife to knock the ball about, without really threatening, whilst the Fife defence subdued the Gretna strikeforce of Bingham and Deuchar and they fell totally out of the game.
The first real piece of action didn't come until the 55 minute mark when Mark Birch was booked for a horrendous foul on Stevie Nicholas, where he didn't even make an attempt to go for the ball. The Fife fans howled for red, but yellow it was.
Despite the Fife pressure, the first real goal went to Gretna after 74 minutes when Baldacchino went on a mazy run which saw his effort on goal saved well by Morrison.
With seven minutes remaining, Gretna's killer third goal came when some classy work by David Bingham set up Bryan Gilfillan and the ex-Cowden player easily hit home the cross.
It was somewhat rough justice as the Fife were playing well enough to perhaps snatch a draw, but the third goal killed it and although the Fife still pressed, no goal came. Not helped by sitting back when defending and not committing players forward to go for the jugular.
In the end, Gretna's superior pace and players showed but it was a much better performance than some of late, but still pretty much bereft of ideas at times. Johnny Mitchell showed some nice bursts of pace and seemed to link well with Stevie Nicholas again. There's still a lot of work needed to turn the team around but next week we play another team that destroyed us in the first meeting this season, Queens Park. What kind of team is going to run out and play at Hampden? Hopefully another spirited fighting one.
C'mon the Fife.
FINAL SCORE: East Fife 1 - 3 Gretna
EAST FIFE: Morrison, Renwick, Duncan, Lumsden, G. McDonald, Bain, Mitchell, Kelly, Nicholas, Steele (Brash 68), Fairbairn Subs (not used)- Trialist keeper, I. McDonald, Byle and Tarditi
No stand out performance but at least some pretty decent ones.
3 points - STEVIE NICHOLAS (looking sharp and eager)
2 points - CRAIG LUMSDEN (has seemed to developed more confidence and assurity in the middle in recent games)
1 point - JOHNNY MITCHELL (had some of the much needed pace we've been missing up front)
[For another report on the game and stats, check out the EAST FIFE MAD site]
[For more pics of the game check out Brian Lawson's THEFIFERS.CO.UK site]