SAT 14TH FEB 2004: A v MORTON (SCOTTISH 2ND DIVISION)
February 14th. A day of romance. A day of love. A day of commercialism and over pricing gone mad. Also, a day known for massacres. With this in mind, the Fife faithful travelled to Greenock to face the League leaders with an air of trepidation: only two League goals this year, a midfield that's gone AWOL in recent games and confidence starting to ebb away as the mighty Fife get drawn closer and closer to the relegation positions.
It didn't look good on paper.
Thankfully it looked a lot fucking better on grass!
For many, Valentine's Day = love. For many, love = heartbreak. For East Fife fans, heartbreak = an occupational hazard! And so it was that the hazard lights were flashing away at 4.50 down Cappielow way.
Going there, we would have gladly taken a point. Leaving there, we would have gladly rammed Tom Brown's watch down his throat.
Jim Moffat made two changes from last week's starting eleven, with Kevin Bain (thankfully) replacing Brian Blair and Willie Stewart partnering Kenny Deuchar up front instead of Jay Stein.
The game started briskly, with both team's looking like they were going for it from the word go. First piece of real action coming after five minutes when Kevin Bain got booked for a foul, but the first real threat came from a mazy run from Morton's Paul Walker, which deserved a better finish than the one that went wide.
Following the recent dire performances, East Fife were giving a good account of themselves with Jimmy Herkes and Willie Stewart shooting just wide and Kevin Bain's looping effort forcing Craig Coyle to make a brilliant fingertip save round the post.
Morton started to take over the possession stakes as the half approached the midway stage and were looking particularly dangerous out right through Paul Walker. With 22 minutes on the clock, East Fife had a lucky escape when a neat passing move fell to John Maisano at the edge of the box and his blistering drive crashed off the foot of Gary O'Connor's left hand post, with the keeper having no chance.
Two minutes later, Morton threatened again, with Paul Walker again getting space out right and looping a beautiful ball to an unmarked Scott Bannerman at the back post, but he put his header wide, when he should really have buried it. East Fife immediately went up the field, with Jimmy Herkes being a bit too selfish in the box and his blocked effort went out for a corner which Morton then broke from and ended with a shot just wide. End to end stuff and a change from the rank games of the last few weeks!
With just over half an hour gone, Morton seemed content to keep passing the ball back to Coyle, and although it took a little time for the Fife attack to realise and close down the Morton keeper, it eventually paid off, when a weak kick from Coyle was intercepted by Euan Donaldson, who ghosted past the Morton right back, but his pin point cross was headed over by Kenny Deuchar.
Seconds later and another East Fife attack, saw excellent work by Jimmy Herkes, but his cut back across the six yard line fell just inches behind Willie Stewart and the danger was cleared. This was more like it!
The half finished with a couple of Morton chances, but the half time whistle came at the end of a battling performance by the Black and Gold. Morton had looked the most dangerous and edged possession but it was a performance that promised better to come in the second half, and it wasn't long in coming!
Paddy Kelly had had a pretty poor first half, with debate as to whether it was an injury or lack of confidence that was preventing him from committing fully to tackles. Whatever happened at half time though saw a changed Paddy at the start of the second half and two minutes after the restart, Paddy won a great strong challenge just inside the Fife half, setting up Kenny Deuchar through the middle. With two against two, Deuchs sent Willie Stewart free to his right and Wille forced Coyle to make a good block at his near post for an East Fife corner. Euan lofted the corner dangerously into the box and Kenny Deuchar rose unchallenged for a free header into the net to send the Fife fans into raptures and the Fife into a 1-0 lead.
Morton tried to attack right away, but they seemed the lack a bit of the flair and danger that they had in the first half, giving away possession after possession and seeing Paul Walker drift out of the game, whether this had anything to do with Mikey Hall's shoulder charge on him that earned him a booking is unknown!
Morton were all bluster and no action and it was the Fife that were creating the most chances with Deuchs heading over from a good position after excellent work by Jimmy Herkes.
Morton's number six was lucky to escape a red card on 64 minutes following a crude two footed lunge at Craig McMillan. Not only did he escape a card of any kind, referee Brown also didn't award a free kick and gave East Fife a throw in! So bizarrely a shoulder charge is a booking but a dangerous two footed tackle isn't.
Minutes later a foot was left in on Paddy Kelly but the referee waved play on, only to halt the action and book John Maisano for a less innocuous haul down of Kenny D seconds later.
With the action going from end to end and the nerves tingling amongst the Fife contingent, Deuchs headed just over with thriteen minutes remaining, quickly followed by Willie Stewart being barged down in the box, but the penalty claims were waved away. We're never going to get one again!!!
As the game entered the last ten minutes, Morton forced two corners and Deuchs showed why strikers really should help out defenders with an awful attempt at a header that went downwards and backwards, before eventually being booted clear!
East Fife broke up field and earned a free kick wide left. Jimmy Hekres' cross found Deuchar free, but the big man sclaffed his effort wide, with a goal beckoning. Paddy Kelly then had a powerful strike just whistle past Coyle's right hand post, as that second killing goal proved elusive.
As Morton piled on the pressure, East Fife resorted to what we do best. The long ball game! And it nearly paid off!
Gary O'Connor cleared upfield and set Deuchs free one on one with Coyle, but with the ball just ahead of him the whole time, his effort was easily saved by Morton's man of the match. Sub Johnny Mitchell, then found himself in an almost identical situation seconds later, but the result was also sadly the same.
Morton kept pushing as the minutes ticked by, with John Maisano and Chris McLeod both having efforts deflected just wide, with their attacking efforts nicely broken up by a bit of ball keeping by big Mel in the stands, which was soon to come back to haunt us.
With three minutes stoppage time on the clock and the Fife fans whistling for full time, the ball was lobbed into the box by Derek Collins. As Gary O'Connor came out to collect, surrounded by three Fife defenders, the big man flapped at the ball and it bobbled off a few heads with Gary frantically looking for it, only for him to see it fall to Scott Bannerman and into the Fife net. Gary looked inconsolable and so did the Fife faithful.
So near. So close to our first win at Cappielow since 1962. But most importantly, so fucking close to getting three vital points against the League leaders.
On the balance of overall play, a point was probably a fair result, but to lose it at such a late stage and in such a manner, made it very hard to swallow. Still, it's a point and the big plus from the game was that we played so much better than recent weeks and at least we've won a match this year!
Next week's game against Arbroath is vital, but a similar battling performance today is what is needed. C'mon the Fife, make us proud again.
EAST FIFE: O'Connor, McMillan, Hall, McDonald, Mathie, Bain (Blair 73), Herkes, Kelly, Deuchar, Stewart (Mitchell 85), Donaldson Subs (not used) - Graham, Lumsden, Stein
AFTN MAN OF THE MATCH: JIMMY HERKES just edges it for a brilliant all round display both in attack and helping to track back. Special mention has to also go to Kenny Deuchar and Willie Stewart who worked their asses off out there today
1-0 To The Laker Boys
(picture courtesy of http://tontastic.no-ip.com)