SAT 29TH JAN 2005: A v GRETNA (SCOTTISH 3RD DIVISION)
It's a long way to Tipperary. It's not quite so long to Gretna, but it's still a hell of a long way to go to watch your team have one shot on target.
With the Fife defence looking more solid and not leaking many goals, but with the strikeforce still struggling to find the net, AFTN went down expecting not to score, but also expecting not to concede a barrowload.
After 1 minute and 49 seconds, we started to doubt our expectations.
Shooting towards the social club end, Gretna wasted no time in showing that they had no La Manga hangovers. A through ball found Bingham at the edge of the box and his control was impeccable as he caught the ball mid air, trapped, turned and played the ball perfectly to his right and to the unmarked Kenny Deuchar and the big man expertly buried the ball low to Scott Morrison's right hand side from 16 yards. 1-0 to Gretna.
Sadly, seven minutes later, the game was soon to be over as a competitive spectacle and it was King Kenny again that did the damage, running on to a James McQuilken long through ball, he appeared offside, but no flag was raised. One on one with Scott Morrison, Deuchs then lobbed the ball over the onrushing Fife keeper and had the easy tap in to the empty net. 2-0.
It was not starting to look like it was going to be a rout and the fear was that Gretna would be out to make us pay for losing to Peterhead the previous week. As it turned out, the Fife defence held firm, but it wasn't without absorbing a lot of Gretna pressure, whilst the midfield and strikers failed to launch any serious attack of their own to give them some respite.
With 17 minutes gone, the Fife faithful's anger with the officials was added to when Gretna's latest signing, Chris Innes from Dundee United, fouled Stevie Nicholas just inside the Gretna half. As a tangle on the ground was seperated, Innes then pushed referee Collum. Free kick to East Fife and the ref, who looked about 12 years old, spoke to Innes. Would it be red or would he shit out and just give him a yellow. To howls of displeasure from the black and gold army, it was neither.
It was obvious what was going to happen next. The next innocuous challenge from an East Fife player would result in a booking and sure enough, three minutes later, Gary Kelly was the unfortunate player who found himself in this position.
As the half went over the midway point, Gretna nearly added a third when Gavin Skelton got the ball at the corner of the box. He cut inside and unleased a spectacular curling effort which an outstretched Morrison brilliantly tipped round the post for a corner.
Morrison was in action again just over the half hour mark, coming out to thwart Kenny Deuchar from getting his hat trick and two minutes later he was forced to make a superb stop at the feet of Bryan Gilfillan.
It was all Gretna and the Fife cause was going to be hindered even further a minute before half time when Gary Kelly's crunching challenge on Ryan McGuffie saw the Fife man pick up his second booking and off he went.
So, half time. Two goals down, one player down, it wasn't going to be a fun half ahead. Jim Moffat freshened things up with Graeme Mathie and Kevin Steele coming on for Kris Brash and Policecar and although East Fife got more possession than they did in the first half ,and at least tried to come forward, there was no real danger being posed to the Gretna defence, with David Mathieson a virtual spectator in the home goal.
Gretna introduced another new signing on 54 minutes, when their record buy David Graham joined the fray and the Stranraer man nearly showed his worth almost immediately, crashing his first effort of the Fife bar from 20 yards out on the hour mark.
As Gretna started to turn the screw, Morrison produced a fantastic double save, when he did well to parry David Bingham's shot, the ball flew to Deuchar and Scott recovered superbly to keep out his close range header when a goal looked certain.
Then it happened. 66 minutes and counting. East Fife had their shot. It was like listening to an Eminem song. They had one shot. One chance. And it went to Brian Fairbairn, who hit a weak effort straight to Mathieson from the edge of the box. Now, I didn't say it was a good shot, but hey it was the only one we got!
Gretna then closed the game out with ease. Innes headed home a Skelton corner with eleven minutes remaining and then six minutes later, Deuchar got his hat-trick when he sent a superb looping header over Morrison.
Gretna have a brilliant player and asset in Kenny Deuchar, but do their fans appreciate and recognise him? Do they fuck. It was left to the Fife faithful to cheer his name, as the old chant of "Deuchar, Deuchar, Deuchar", Kenny acknowledging us back with a wave.
The Gretna fans had just witnessed their team totally outplay and outclass their opposition, yet, they were a quiet as a grave. No singing, no shouting and barely any cheering.
You can buy success for your team, you can attract a rent-a-crowd (Celtic tops not compulsory but evident) but obviously you can't buy the passion.
How far will Gretna go? How far will Brooks Mileson's money go? Who knows. They're leaving us behind at the moment and it may be a while, but we'll pass them on the way down at some point, just might be a while!
In the meantime, we have our own problems to worry about. Where are WE going? and can we get any lower? Now is the time to blood youth team players to see what they've got. Now is the time to build for next season. When are we going to start seeing this?
C'mon the Fife.
FINAL SCORE: Gretna 4 - 0 East Fife
EAST FIFE: Morrison, Renwick, Brash (Mathie 45), Lumsden, Bain, Kelly, Paliczka (Steele 45), G. McDonald, Nicholas, Mitchell, Fairbairn (Byle 82) Subs (not used)- McCafferty and Tarditi
An almost impossible task to pick three players, so we got someone else to do it! Gareth Kirkwood. And he went for...
3 points - SCOTT MORRISON (another set of outstanding saves to keep the score down)
2 points - JOHNNY MITCHELL (full of effort and running)
1 point - KEVIN BAIN (kept the back as composed as he could under the circumstances)
Gretna's first and third goals [Photos courtesy of Jim Corstorphine]
Half time at Raydale - The most surreal thing we've ever seen at an East Fife match!
[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]