WED 8TH AUGUST 2007: H v QUEEN OF THE SOUTH (CIS CUP 1ST ROUND)
The first Cup game of the season. And hopefully the first of many that will see silverware proudly displayed down Bayview way.
Now I have to admit to thinking the worst about this game a few minutes into it. Manager, Dave Baikie, had made four changes to Saturday's starting line up, had fielded a second string strike force (relegating the A team of Paul McManus, Craig O'Reilly and Stevie Nicholas to the bench) and for the first few minutes it was all one way Doonhamers traffic. Oh me of little faith!
Queen of the South were all over East Fife like a rash from the first whistle and it was no surprise when they had the first great chance of the game, when Willie McCulloch brilliantly touched over Andy Aitken's fierce drive from a tight angle on the 6 minute mark.
East Fife then had a good spell of sustained pressure on the Queen's box, but although wave after wave of attacks were launched, nothing was to come from it.
Neil Scally was lucky not to see red when he clattered into Jonny Smart, leaving the big Dundonian flat on the ground and bringing just a yellow card for the Dumfries man.
Smarty Is Clattered
It was up to the First Division outfit to force the next real chance when the ball was whipped across the East Fife goalmouth, just eluding the dangerous Stephen Dobbie at the back post, with 23 minutes gone.
This was to prove the first in a succession of similar opportunities that were to go amiss for the visitors and the next one came moments later when it was Dobbie himself who flashed his effort inches wide, with Willie McCulloch confidently leaving it.
Stephen Grindlay, in the opposing goal, was finally troubled on the 28 minutes mark when he did well to parry Kevin Gordon's fierce 22 yard drive, but there were no Fife players coming in quick enough and the danger was cleared.
Queen's response was immediate with Dobbie once again seeing his effort shoot across McCulloch's goalmouth and narrowly wide, with no takers coming in.
East Fife had their best chance to break the deadlock just after the half hour mark and how the ball stayed out is still unbelievable!
Steven Tweed rose brilliantly to get onto the end of a Dougie Cameron free kick and his powerful 10 yard header was brilliantly blocked then turned round the post by Grindlay, as three East Fife players raced in inches away from the kill.
Once settled, East Fife had played some nice football in the first half, encapsulated perfectly with a neat interchange between Paul Walker and Greig McDonald in the Doonhamers box as half time approached.
The quality Fife football was nearly rudely interupted with two minutes of the half remaining though, when a quick Queen's break saw Dobbie set clear on the left and his perfect cross found David Bingham totally unmarked in the middle of the box but ET didn't fire home and only weakly headed his 14 yard effort straight into the arms of McCulloch, when anywhere else goalwards could have caused some real problems for the Fife.
Thankfully it didn't though and as the half time whistle came, we could be proud of the fighting performance the whole team had put in and after the initial onslaught, East Fife were playing the better football in spells and looking a confident side, but it was still very evenly matched, with Queen of the South carving out the best chances.
It was a slowish start to the second half, with neither team really carving out chances, but promisingly East Fife were still holding their own against their First Division rivals and it certainly didn't look like two divisions separated the sides.
Queen of the South should really have taken the lead with 56 minutes on the clock though, when the ball broke to the problematic Dobbie just inside the box and with Kevin Fotheringham slow to close down, it allowed the striker to fire off a thunderbolt of a shot, which Willie McCulloch did well to save at his near post. As the ball was cleared by the Fife defence, it was immediately played back in and Stevie Tosh headed his free header wide when a player of his experience should have done much better.
This was to prove a vital miss and the Queen cause wasn't helped moments later when Robert Harris saw a straight red for a late two footed tackle on Paul Walker.
A Shocked Robert Harris Sees Red
Opinion was mixed in my section of the ground. Personally, I felt it was a bit harsh as the ball was there to be won, but he did go in late with both feet and his studs showing, but I have seen a yellow giving in such circumstances before. Still, you have to take everything that's thrown your way.
Both teams made tactical changes around the hour mark, with the big surprise being the withdrawal of Dobbie, much to the relief of many of a black and gold persuasion! East Fife in turn, strengthened their strike force, with the A team of Craig O'Reilly and Paul McManus coming on for Kevin Gordon and Paul Walker, with the two of them having put in one hell of a shift and done their roles to the full.
The impact was almost immediate but it didn't come from either of the substitutes.
East Fife won a corner on the left, which was quickly replaced with a corner on the right. As the ball swung dangerously in, Steven Tweed's header was saved and in the stramash that followed, Greig McDonald hit the rebound high into the net to make it two from two for the popular defender and more importantly, giving the Fife a vital 1-0 lead.
Greig McDonald Puts The Fife Through
Queen of the South let the Fife know that they couldn't be complacent with their lead, when they nearly equalised immediately, with Tosh superbly sending Bingham clear through, but once again it was a very poor finish for the experienced striker as his feeble lob went high and over the bar and posed no threat to the Fife lead.
With 17 minutes of the game remaining, East Fife won a free kick when Tosh rather cynically upended Cameron, but McManus saw his header saved low at Grindlay's near post.
This was to prove East Fife's last real chance of the game and it was left to the ten men from Dumfries to try and force an equaliser with Jamie Mole twice having half chances but McCulloch's goal stayed in tact and when the final whistle came it was a great victory and a place in the second round draw for East Fife.
It was a tremendous team performance from all and although Queen of the South will feel hard done by with the sending off, East Fife still had a lot left in their tank and Dave Baikie's tactics seemed spot on.
It was a good test as to how we're progressing and sets us up nicely for a tricky game on Saturday away to Arbroath, who banged four goals in tonight.
It's still all looking very good though.
C'mon the Fife!
FINAL SCORE: East Fife 1 - 0 Queen of the South
EAST FIFE: McCulloch, McDonald, Linton, Smart, Tweed, Fotheringham, Walker (McManus 61), Stewart, Gordon (O'Reilly 61), Young, Cameron. [Subs not used: Mathers, Nicholas and Blackadder]
3 points - Dougie Cameron (commanding on the left. worked hard)
2 points - Greig McDonald (another outstanding all round performance from him)
1 points - Kevin Fotheringham (looked a better player for us in middle than left back)
[Photos courtesy of The Friday Club. See more from the game at their Putfile site and a match report from The Commander for most games this season can be found on their main site HERE]
[And more excellent photos of the game are at Jim Corstorphine's Putfile site]