SAT 18TH DEC 2004: H v HUNTLY (SCOTTISH CUP - 2ND ROUND REPLAY)
Nobody said it was going to be easy, but, at the same time, nobody said it was going to be this nerve jangling! But after 210 minutes of football and 10 penalty kicks, East Fife finally booked their place in the third round of the Scottish Cup and secured a Fife derby against Dunfermline.
But only just.
East Fife fielded an unchanged starting eleven from last week, hoping to keep their proud record in tact of never having lost to a non-league side in the Scottish Cup.
Huntly had nearly won the tie in the dying seconds of the first game and it was the Highland League outfit that went out all guns blazing from the off in the replay, taking the game to East Fife from kick off and nearly grabbing a shock opener when a goalmouth scramble saw Scott Morrison adjudged to have been fouled on the deck, which was just as well as a Huntly player had just rounded him and had an empty net to aim at for a quick lead.
East Fife had the next chance on the four minute mark when a Huntly defender failed to clear a long ball, hitting it off Johnny Mitchell as he closed him down. Mitchell chased and won the rebound but his weak shot from a tight angle was hit straight at Bowman in the Huntly goal and easily saved.
The game was already shaping up to have more action than last week, but neither side seriously threatened.
Mitchell seemed to be felled in the box with 19 minutes gone but referee Colin Hardie was well placed and waved play on.
East Fife continued to press though and won a free kick 25 yards out. The free kick was played perfectly into the box to Greig McDonald but his effort was blocked, only to fall to Craig Lumsden who made no mistake in hammering the ball into the net from 8 yards. It was Lummy's first professional goal and with 21 minutes on the clock it was 1-0 to East Fife.
If the Fife faithful thought it was now going to be easy street into the next round, the Huntly threat was reminded minutes later when Levi Stephen looped a chip just over.
East Fife responded with a rasping shot by Kevin Bain but, again, it was straight at the keeper.
Huntly were in for the battle though and won a corner on the 33 minute mark. The ball was whipped in and Ross Campbell met it perfectly, but his goalbound header was cleared of the line by Kris Brash. But just when it looked like the danger had been cleared, Jerry O'Driscoll looped the ball back into the box and over Scott Morrison and in to the net for the equaliser. As the ball was looped in a Huntly player impeded Morrison's attempt to get to the ball. It was unintentional (as he had his back to the keeper and his eye firmly on the ball) and Morrison really should have been more alert and out quicker. They've been given, but not this time and it was 1-1.
Worse was soon to follow for East Fife and as half time approached, the highlanders took the lead with a cracking effort. A long ball from the right found Marco De Barros with room at the back of the box. The experienced striker had time to compose himself before curling a beauty in to the top left hand postage stamp. Morrison had no chance this time and it was 2-1 Huntly with 43 minutes gone.
It was having the makings of possibly the lowest point in East Fife's proud 101 year history.
The start of the second half was most notable for Huntly's attempts to throw their weight around, with Gray and Taylor picking up bookings for their efforts and the game peppered with free kicks.
As the hour mark approached, Stevie Nicholas was crudely fouled and despite having the red marks on his thigh to show it, ref Hardie gave no free kick on this occasion and even spoke to Stevie about him going down and complaining about it! As Hardie walked away, Nic signalled to the linesman that his optical aids might need improving.
Piss Stevie off at your peril though as seconds later he picked the ball up in the middle of the Huntly half and ran wide at the Huntly defence before delivering a perfect ball across the six yard box to an open Greig McDonald and an open goal. Greig just had to sidefoot it home for the equaliser and almost seemed to be celebrating before the ball got to him. Whatever happened, it wasn't 2-2 and the afternoon was set up to witness some of the most amazing missed sitters ever seen at Bayview Stadium.
Huntly's biggest threat was coming from number 3, Gary McGowan, and moments later he had a great chance to kill the game off for Huntly. Picking the ball up at the back of the box, in loads of room (not the first time this season that oour weakness on the left has been exploited time and again), he cut inside onto his preferred foot and, with Morrison committed to going to him, rounded the Fife keeper and fired what looked like a certain goal, only to be foiled by Craig Lumsden who cleared the ball off the line.
Morrison soon made amends for his earlier rashness, tipping over a fierce volley from Russell Guild for a corner on 65 minutes, as Huntly pushed to finish the Fife off once and for all.
East Fife weren't going to go out lying down though and were showing a lot of commitment and fight, which would have been helped more if Jim Moffat had told the midfield to push forward a bit more and support the front two quicker.
Johnny Mitchell got the ball on an East Fife breakaway from the Huntly pressure on 67 minutes and played it neatly inside to Stevie Nicholas in the box. Nic played it back to Sean Paliczka whose effort was blocked. The ball broke to Gary Kelly 25 yards out but his effort flew well over.
Four minutes later though and it was all square.
East Fife won another free kick, this time on the left. The ball was played to the back post, but too far to be dangerous and was floated back in to the six yard box, straight on to Greig McDonald's head. Greig's powerful goalbound effort was brilliantly saved by Bowman but he couldn't keep hold of the ball and Greig was quickest to react, poking his own rebound into the back of the net to tie the game up at 2-2.
Again though, Huntly were not about to be bowled over by their League counterparts and went on the attack immediately to try and force the winner. Guild had a great chance on 74 minutes, blasting the ball over the bar from an unmarked position in the box following a cut back from the bye line.
Stevie Nicholas then cut the ball back himself, but it was too hard for Greig McDonald to get time to get off a good shot and it was starting to be end to end stuff.
As the game entered the last ten minutes, Huntly had another great chance to kill it as Taylor found himself in the box against five East Fife defenders, with Morrison just managing to get to the ball during a terrible goalmouth scramble.
The last chance of the ninety minutes fell to Huntly as Guild picked the ball up on the penalty spot and played it just to his left to the unmarked (again) McGowan. McGowan stepped inside, beat Brash but Morrison did well to stand up and block his fierce shot. The rebound fell to McGowan who side-stepped Morrison before shooting well wide from an excellent open goal position.
Maybe it wasn't going to be Huntly's day after all. We'd soon find out as the full time whistle came and it was in to extra time.
It was a tremendous cup tie for any neutrals in the ground, but from an East Fife point of view, you really expect to be killing off non league opposition well before 180 minutes of football had finished. Full marks to Huntly though for going from it from start to finish.
As extra time kicked off, East Fife threatened first as Jimmy Herkes went on a mazy 50 yard run before playing the ball across the goal to an unmarked Stevie Nicholas at the back post. With another open goal beckoning Stevie uncharacteristically hit his shot too soft and this allowed Bowman to somehow scramble back and get down to save his effort. The rebound fell back to Stevie who cross to Greig McDonald in the six yard box, but Bowman saved his effort as well.
Huntly had the next chance, with Graham Green shooting just wide on 96 minutes, then just before half time of extra time, Nicholas fired just wide for East Fife following a free kick.
So still deadlocked as we went in to the last fifteen minutes and the dreaded penalty shoot-out loomed.
Two minutes in to the second period though and any thoughts of penalties looked redundant as Huntly took what looked like being the decisive lead. As the ball was played in, Morrison came out but failed to collect and hold, allowing Guild an easy goal. Cue jubilation from the Huntly contingent both on and off the pitch. Surely that was going to be the Fife killed off for good?
Not quite, but nearly, moments later when the delightfully named Huntly sub Dick Stainer came inches away from making it four.
But the Fife fought back and just when all hope seemed lost, up popped Greig McDonald to head home another equaliser with just two minutes remaining, with Bowman seemingly losing sight of the ball as it nestled beautifully in the net.
Bayview erupted, the final whistle came and it was now penalties.
But not at the Sea End, much to our disdain.
Huntly went first and Ross Campbell soon dispatched the ball past Morrison to make it 1-0. Next up Brian Fairbairn, who had not been at his best this afternoon. When Brian's on the ball you always worry that he's never going to do the simple thing and he'll try and do something showboatesque. Hey, that's why he infuriates us and we love him in equal measures! As he ran up to take his kick, he decided to stop and replace the ball, running up again and seeing Bowman save his effort. Aaaarrrggghhhh!!!!
Levi Stephen made it 2-0 to Huntly, before Greig McDonald hit a great effort for 2-1. Hat-trick!
Scott Morrison then turned from villain to hero when he brilliant saved Huntly third spot kick from Ally Reid. Player-coach Kevin Bain then kept a steady head to dispatch another perfect penalty to tie things up at two apiece.
Whose nerves would hold and whose would go?
Stainer and the Tardis exchanged penalties then up stepped Jerry O'Driscoll. You'd have put money on the striker to score, but penalties are never that easy and he put his effort wide of Morrison's right hand post.
So it was all up to last year's Scottish Cup second round hero, Stevie Nicholas. Up stepped Saint Nic and hit his penalty low past Bowman. 4-3 East Fife. Cue wild black and gold celebrations in front of the Huntly fans. Bring on the Pars!
A great, tough win. Maybe we've found our level now this season! Wasn't pretty at times and yes, it wasn't top class opposition, but Huntly came to play football and thrived on the bigger pitch and they'd be a credit to League football if they were ever admitted. East Fife showed some top spirit and hey, that's us unbeaten in three!
Things in the garden are still far from rosy, but I don't want to dwell on that now. Let's have a good Christmas and some good memories of our Cup run so far and what's to come.
C'mon the Fife.
FINAL SCORE: East Fife 3 - 3 Huntly (East Fife win 4-3 on penalties)
EAST FIFE: Morrison, Renwick, Brash (Tarditi 112), Lumsden, Bain, Kelly (Byle 110), Paliczka (Herkes 84), G. McDonald, Nicholas, Mitchell, Fairbairn Subs (not used)- Logie and Gaughan
A difficult, hard fought, team spirited win and not many stand out performances if truth be told -
3 points - CRAIG LUMSDEN (a goal and a goal-line clearance that kept us in the game)
2 points - STEVIE NICHOLAS (missed a sitter, but scored the winning pen and worked like a bear throughout)
1 point - JOHNNY MITCHELL (equally bear-like performance and no support from midfield)
Craig Lumsden scores his first professional goal. 1-0 Fife
The build up to Huntly's first
Greig McDonald's header is saved, but he nets the rebound to make it 2-2!
The Bairn misses the first Fife pen
It's too much for some people to watch
Up steps Stevie Nic. yeeeessss. 4-3 Fife. Bring on the Pars.
[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]