TUES 15TH FEB 2005: H v EAST STIRLING (SCOTTISH 3RD DIV)
Watching East Fife once a week this season is bad enough, but twice? And on a bitterly cold night to boot. We're all mad. Mad I tell you.
But the small crowd that did turn up saw a more attack minded Fife side and left wondering at how we only managed two goals.
With Kevin Bain out injured, Greig McDonald moved back into a central defender role, with Gary Kelly returning in the midfield and Kris Brash in for Sean Paliczka on the left, as third bottom battled bottom.
You realise how low the Club has sunk when you're debating whether we're going to beat East Stirling as opposed to by how much. There were fears, but these were unfounded and the Fife ran out easy winners in the end.
It wasn't without a few scares on the way however and it was East Stirling who had the best couple of early chances.
Six minutes in and a long ball up the field saw their trialist striker get the better of Craig Lumsden and Greig McDonald in the air and knock the ball back to Ross Donaldson, who drove the ball just wide.
East Fife were having the better possession, but the shots on targetometer was certainly not being troubled once again and as the midway point in the half was reached, it was the Shire who had a great chance to take the lead.
Winning a free kick 25 yards out, Derek Rae hit a peach of a free kick that was heading for the top left hand corner before Scott Morrison expertly tipped the ball over the bar.
Thankfully though it was the Fife who broke the deadlock in a quick breakaway move on 34 minutes.
Gary Kelly bundled a Shire player off the ball in the middle of the pitch, in a tackle that some refs would have blown a foul for, and played the ball through to Johnny Mitchell. Mitchell's ball in from the left found Stevie Nicholas in acres of room in the middle and he had time to pick his spot, before burying the ball past Derek Jackson in the Shire goal for 1-0.
This was hopefully going to give the team some confidence and perhaps drive them on to a big win and moments later John Boyle nearly connected onto a great ball in the from the right.
Boyle was in action again as half time approached, skinning the Shire right back David Harvey, before sending in a dangerous low cross which was just cleared before Stevie Nic could connect with it.
So, half time, one up and quite confident for a change.
With confidence high, East Fife went for it right from the start of the second half, with East Stirling coming across as a very poor side in the process.
Good work from Boyle led to a cross which Mitchell headed over, followed by a chance for Nicholas which he also headed over.
Mitchell soon turned provider and went on a great run on the right before whipping a cross just over the head of Boyle in a good position.
It was now all East Fife and they were keeping the pressure on all the time. Stevie Nic did well to stop the ball going out for a bye kick on 56 minutes. The defender tracking back then played the ball straight to Gary Kelly and the midfielder jinked inside then outside, before firing off a fierce shot which Jackson did well to save with his legs.
As the hour mark approached it was Nicholas' turn to go on a jinky run, which ended with a shot just over the bar.
East Stirling reminded everyone that they were still in the game moments later when Rae headed the ball on to the roof of the net from a good position, but this was to turn out to be the Shire's only real chance of the second half as Scott Morrison was left a virtual spectator.
East Fife were stringing together some fine passing moves and midway through the half Jackson produced another fine save from Nicholas after such a build up.
It looked liked it was going to be all huff and puff from the Fife with nothing to show for it as the game ticked in to the last five minutes, but they were still pushing hard for at least a second.
A quick break saw a 3 on 2 situation for the Fife, as Nicholas approached the Shire box with Mitchell ahead of him and Boyle totally clear to his left. Nic didn't look up and played the ball through to Mitchell and the danger was cleared, as Boyle was infuriatingly left unmarked in the middle.
Les Byle was next to go on a run as the game went in to the last minute, beating a couple of players before firing a fierce shot of Jackson's face! Don't think the keeper was expecting the bounce before it hit him!
Any thought that Jackson may have been stunned by that were soon tested when he produced a brilliant acrobatic save to deny Kelly.
But the second goal finally game second later when a delightful cross from Stevie Nic on the left found Greig McDonald in the middle and the Fife captain rose majestically unchallenged to powerfully head home the clincher.
2-0 Fife. Three points in the bag and a bit of confidence and hope for both the players and fans going in to Saturday's derby game.
We still badly need to get some firing boots on and another out and out striker in to help Nic. I think our attacking problems can best be summed up during one point in the second half when both Nicholas and Mitchell were trying to win the ball on the right sideline, whilst it was left for Kelly and Boyle to be in the middle awaiting the cross in. We need out strikers to be the ones waiting to pounce on the goalscoring chances. The midfield though had one of their best all round games of the season tonight and hopefully this will continue.
So as Cowden beckon in front of the Sky cameras, can we finally get the manky Cowden monkey off our backs? Let's hope so!
C'mon the Fife.
FINAL SCORE: East Fife 2 - 0 East Stirling
EAST FIFE: Morrison, Renwick, Mathie, Lumsden, G. McDonald, Byle, Mitchell, Kelly, Nicholas, Boyle, Brash Subs (not used)- McCafferty, Steele, Paliczka, Beith and Ferguson
A performance full of gusto, which was nice to see, and if we'd had more confidence and accuracy in our shooting abilities, then we could have had a barrel load...
3 points - GARY KELLY (one of his best games for us so far)
2 points - JOHN BOYLE (had a cracking first half in particular)
1 point - STEVIE NICHOLAS (scored one, made one)
[For another report on the game and stats, check out the EAST FIFE MAD site]
[For more pics of the games check out Brian Lawson's THEFIFERS.CO.UK site]