TUES 18TH JAN 2005: A v DUNFERMLINE ATHLETIC
(SCOTTISH CUP - 3RD ROUND REPLAY)
The anticipation had been almost unbearable, but now was the time. Cup Replay time.
Was it going to be another game to be up there with the Hibs defeat in 1984 or would the boys fall just short?
With Celtic awaiting the winners and a six figure bumper pay day, it was easy to forget one thing amongst all the hype and hysteria. East Fife were playing a professional, full time, Premier League side, three divisions and thirty-two places above them in the pecking order.
And at the end of the day, despite playing their hearts out once again, the East Fife players were outclassed on the night. Bu tnot without giving us hope along the way.
East Fife fielded the same starting eleven from the first game, but Dunfermline were down to their bare bones, with only eleven fit players and younger players on the bench.
It was vital that East Fife stayed composed from the off and when they kicked off, I'm pretty sure they didn't expect to be doing so again less than a minute later.
With just 36 seconds gone, Barry Nicholson hit a cross in from the right wing. It came to Andy Tod and the big defender looped a header over Scott Morrison, who had hesitated in coming out to collect the ball. 1-0 Dunfermline and hopefully not a signal for the floodgates to open.
Of course, I'd like to comment more on the opening goal and the opening few minutes, but that's difficult when you are stuck outside the ground with several hundred fellow East Fife fans, waiting to get in - especially when we see one turnstile and two empty stands.
If the defending for the first goal could be described as a shambles, then that was nothing to what was going on outside. Arriving at 7.30, it was 8.00 before the AFTN posse managed to work their way through the one open turnstile for the away support. This after queuing in one area, which was then shut off for being full and we had to join another queue!
Considering things like Hillsborough which have gone before and the fact that the couple of hundred, now irate, East Fife fans that were outside, kick off should have been delayed for way more than 5 minutes. The police said it was a stewarding matter, the stewards blamed the police, Dunfermline blamed East Fife for giving wrong information as to how many fans to expect, East Fife said……well, nothing. Premier League? You are indeed having a laugh.
Now, if you follow the principles of solipsism, we didn't see the goal, so it was technically still 0-0. Sadly this wouldn't have held up in court.
But back to the action and it was all Dunfermline in the opening moments, as East Fife put some neat passing moves together and won a corner which came to nothing.
With 7 minutes gone, Dunfermline had a great chance to double their lead. Jessie Christainsen broke on the right and played the ball through to Nole Hunt, who fired in a fierce shot from the right hand edge of the which Morrison did well to parry. The ball broke back to Christiansen who laid it off to Gary Mason, but Morrison also saved his effort, which rebounded to Nicholson who blasted high and over.
Seven minutes later and Nicholson came a bit closer, rattling a long range effort off the bar.
East Fife were having the possession and were certainly not overawed by their Premier opponents and the Fife's first chance came on the 20 minute mark. Stevie Nicholas set Brain Fairbairn free on the right. His pace took him past the Pars defence and he fired in a dangerous low cross which Stillie held easily.
Morrison was called into action to thwart efforts from Hunt, Skerla and Mason, with Brian Fairbairn shooting just wide for the Fife inbetween.
East Fife certainly took the game to the Pars in the 15 minute period before half time, whilst Dunfermline resorted to firing in long range efforts once again, many of which flew very well over.
East Fife had a great chance before the break when the won a free kick 25 yards out. Dunfermline weren't organised and the kick was taken quickly and played through to Jonny Mitchell, but he wasn't ready for it and had to take the ball wide when a bit more communication could have seen him straight through on goal.
Half time came and the Fife players were roared off the pitch. A great fighting effort in which they pinned the Pars defence back on several occasions and there definitely didn't seem like a three division gap between the sides. There was still hope.
And these hopes were increased significantly when East Fife went for it from the second half kick off.
Sean Paliczka went on a brilliant run, past a couple of Pars defenders, before unleashing a fierce shot which Stillie had to parry away for a corner.
Dunfermline fought back though and got the second goal that their dominance was due, but not without controversial circumstances.
As the Fife players argued for a free kick for a foul on Stevie Nic, Christiansen set Nicholson free on the right and the Scottish International sent a perfect ball across the goalmouth, which Noel Hunt easily tapped in from six yards. 57 minutes gone, 2-0 Dunfermline and it was going to be hard to come back now.
The Pars continued to push to kill the game off and put the Fife defence under a lot of pressure, but they managed to hold firm.
Gary Dempsey was unlucky to see his effort crash off the woodwork on 63 minutes and then came close again moments later when he curled another effort just over.
The third goal was coming though and it came on 69 minutes when indecision in the penalty box allowed Dempsey to collect the loose ball and drill home from 16 yards low into the bottom right hand corner. 3-0 Pars. Game Over. Cup Dreams Over.
East Fife wanted to go out fighting though and give the large travelling support something to go home cheering about.
Jim Moffat brought on Kevin Steele for Jonny Mitchell on 71 minutes ( Steele doing well in his time on the park), Steven Tarditi for Policecar on 78 minutes and Les Byle for Gary Kelly with ten minutes remaining, in an attempt to add some pace to the tired part time legs and see if they could snatch a consolation goal.
Just before Byle entered the fray, Dunfermline hit the woodwork once more, with Christiansen being the player who couldn't judge the size of the goals this time around.
As the game approached the last minute, Stevie Nic fired a 25 yard effort over the bar, as he kept plugging away to the bitter end, but the moment of cheer for the Fife faithful was just seconds away and it was the subs that brought it.
Kevin Steele was sent clear on the right and his cross into the box was brilliantly met by Les Byle whose glancing header took it first over the challenging Skerla and then Stillie in the Pars goal.
Goal for East Fife! 3-1 and the 1,010 Black and Gold Army went whoosh and nearly took the roof off the stand! Imagine the noise if we'd taken the lead in the game!
As the Fife fans chanted "Premier League, you're having a laugh" followed by "4-3, we're going to win 4-3", the refereeing buffoon that is Brian Cassidy brought proceedings to a close.
The Fife players were given a standing ovation and the credit they deserved for taking us this far, coming over the acknowledge the fans' performance on the evening as well.
Each one of them, to a man, did us proud and made us proud to be East Fife fans. They gave an excellent account of themselves in both games and you have to remember that many felt that we were going in to the first game expect a cuffing. The whole Cup run has been a blossoming flower in a field of manure that has been the 2004/2005 season.
The fans deserve lots of plaudits too. We backed the team from the start, sang ourselves hoarse and got praise from the BBC Radio Scotland commentators. We were "loud as fuck" on the radio according to a friend of mine and after listening to the dvd of the game I took from Sky's radio feed, indeed we were!
So the Cup dream is over for another year and it's back to League business. Can we attract the 1,010 fans back on Saturday to watch the Shire? Sadly not, but if we get any of them, then that's a start at building up the fan base again and this game has shown the potential that is still there.
Thanks for all the memories guys and feel as proud of yourselves as we do of you.
C'mon the Fife.
FINAL SCORE: Dunfermline Pathetic 3 - 1 East Fife
EAST FIFE: Morrison, Renwick, Brash, Lumsden, Bain, Kelly (Byle 80), Paliczka (Tarditi 78), G. McDonald, Nicholas, Mitchell (Steele 71), Fairbairn Subs (not used)- McCafferty and Mathie
The whole team deserve plaudits, as they each played a part in a great effort -
3 points - SCOTT MORRISON (best game in an East Fife jersey. some tremendous stops in there of a world class variety)
2 points - SEAN PALICZKA (the sponsors' MOM in the first game, turned on a fine display tonight and wasn't frigthened to run at the Pars defence)
1 point - STEVIE NICHOLAS (tried to get in and about the Pars defence)
[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]