SAT 19TH MAR 2005: A v EAST STIRLING (SCOTTISH 3RD DIV)
The weather was balmy and by the end of the ninety minutes, the decision of any East Fife fans to go and watch this drivel was barmy.
Coming of a good performance and three points against Stenhousemuir the previous week, the general optimism level was high. Even Tam predicted an East Fife win in the AFTN Prediction League.
Sure, East Stirling had won their last two games, but this was East Stirling. The Shireee. Officially the worst team in Scotland. The team we beat without breaking sweat a few weeks earlier. We weren't down at their level. Were we?
As it turned out, no we weren't. We have somehow slipped below it.
The day started off in farcical circumstances and wasn't really going to get much better. The Falkirk Herald had printed that ALL fans attending today's game were being allowed in for half price (£4!), courtesy of those generous people at Littlewoods Pools. It was their in the paper, printed in black and white. Simple.
Well you'd think so anyway.
Seems no-one had communicated it properly to the Shire officials who were looking for the printed voucher. Ah, that would be the printed voucher that wasn't printed then.
As a result, some people paid £8 to get in, then a group of Fife fans turned up, Heralds in hand, kicked up a stushie and got in for £4, then others turned up after them (myself included) and were then charged £8 again to get in.
An apology later of the tannoy wasn't really going to placate us, but apparently if we all get in touch with them we'll get our £4 back. I know myself, and the 200 people travelling with me that were affected, will be doing just that!
But anyway, on with the game. I was going to say action but the trade description people may be knocking on my door.
The pitch was atrocious (see pictures below) and was more akin to a very badly kept public park pitch. It was never going to be conditions conducive to free flowing football, but thankfully neither team playing on it would have been unduly worried by that fact. But what has to be remembered is that it was the same pitch for both teams.
It was shaping up to be a midfield tussle right from the word off and early chances were few and far between, but East Fife had the first good move of the game eleven minutes in. Johnny Mitchell got the ball wide right in the box and tried to cut it inside to Stevie Nicholas in the middle of the six yard box. His effort was easily blocked, however, and he hit the rebound well wide himself.
Five minutes later and East Fife threatened again. Greig McDonald got the ball on the left and after some neat footwork delivered a dangerous cross in to the box which the Shire defence cleared, but only as far as Michael Renwick. Mikey crossed the ball back in to Greig, who had made his way to the middle of the box now, but his powerful header landed on the roof of the net from 10 yards out.
Neither team were looking particularly dangerous but the Fife were allowing East Stirling more and more possession, the result of which was the inevitable - the shock Shire goal. Derek Ure found himself in a good position at the edge of the box, following a good cross in from the right and drilled a low shot to John McCafferty's left and into the corner of the net for 1-0 to the Shireee.
The loss of a goal didn't exactly spark a great deal of impetus into the Fife and the Shire continued to control possession, but the game was being bogged down (literally) in the middle of the park, with neither team causing any danger.
As boredom was in danger of setting in, there was a sudden spark with 38 minutes gone, when a diagonal ball to Johnny Mitchell beat the Shire offside trap and allowed Mitch to run in on the Shire keeper Ross Gilpin. In acres of room, the Fife "striker" decided to pass the ball inside to John Boyle instead of taking it on himself and having a shot from the far better position. The ball never made it to Boyle and the danger was cleared.
This turned out to be not only the last chance of the first half, but the last piece of any real action for the subsequent 33 minutes of play!
In that time, East Stirling had shown us how embarrassing it was to be behind to them by blasting a couple of shots so high over that an official complaint was received from the space station personnel. Brian Fairbairn had also come on for Boyle. That being John Boyle who hadn't done any worse than some and a lot better than others.
But with 71 minutes of play behind us, there was finally something for East Fife to cheer about as East Fife mustered their first shot on target, following a good run in to the box by Mitchell. Gilpin smothered the shot well, but hey, maybe that was us getting somewhere.
Seven minutes later and we followed up on it, when an effort was cleared off the line and in to the air and cleared before Gavin Beith could reach it. Not 100% sure who had the effort, but it may have even been a deflection of a Shire defender that was goalbound.
Shire responded when goalscorer Ure found himself with the ball and in room 25 yards out and turned well before hitting a fierce effort just over.
East Fife seemed to be saving their best play for the last few minutes yet again and with 8 minutes left, won a free kick wide right. The Bairn delivered a cracking free kick in to the box and Greig McDonald headed it just over from 10 yards out. It really wasn't going to be happening for the Fife today.
Shire nearly killed the game off minutes later but Paul Ross drilled a low screamer just wide and crashing off the advertising hoardings.
So five minutes remaining and Jim Moffat decided to bring on a striker, with the Tardis coming on for Gary Kelly. Lots of time for him to find his feet in the game and try and do something.
As the game ticked in to the last minute, East Fife had their best effort of the match. Stevie Nicholas broke quickly through the middle and played the ball out wide to the Bairn. Brian did a step over, a shimmy then cut inside from the left before firing of a cracking effort from just inside the box which Gilpin did excellently to turn away.
The move deserved a goal, but East Fife didn't deserve a point and as the final whistle came, the Shire made it three wins in a row and East Fife were left to look at one of the lowest points in their history.
How can we have sunk so low? Where's the passion? The skill? The flair?
As I got back in to my car, "Helicopter" by Bloc Party was playing on my CD and as the lyrics "are you hoping for a miracle?" rang out, I couldn't help but think "oh hell yes".
C'mon the Fife.
FINAL SCORE: Shire 1 - 0 Shite
EAST FIFE: McCafferty, Renwick, Duncan, Lumsden, Mathie, Kelly (Tarditi 85), Mitchell, G. McDonald, Nicholas, Beith, Boyle (Fairbairn 64) Subs (not used)- Dodds, Brash and Byle
So little to choose from...
3 points - GRAEME MATHIE (couldn't fault him as didn't put a foot wrong)
2 points - MICHAEL RENWICK (was coming forward a bit in the first half)
1 point - BRIAN FAIRBAIRN (at least gave us some excitement with his effort towards the end)
A professional League pitch apparently!
[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]