SAT 17TH JAN 2004: H v STENHOUSEMUIR (SCOTTISH 2ND DIVISION)
Unbeaten in the League in 2004. Has a nice ring to it!
East Fife recorded a very important win against bottom team Stenhousemuir today, to lift them up to third place in the table and give some daylight between the Bayview side and the relegation zone. Stenhousemuir were a very poor side and on this showing are almost cinches for one of the relegation places come May.
Jim Moffat's starting line up surprised many. Kenny Deuchar, who had not been able to train all week, was demoted to the bench and the strike force was to be Willie Stewart and fans favourite Brian Fairbairn. Jay Stein came into the starting eleven, but new signing Jimmy Herkes had to be content with just a place on the bench. The Fife faithful got the opportunity to "welcome" back Bayview rejects Willie McCulloch and Chris Miller. An opporchancity they maximised to the full.
Shooting towards the sea end, the first half was pretty grim. East Fife dominated possession and Gary O'Connor was untroubled in the Fife goal for the whole 45 minutes. With a smaller set of strikers to aim for, the Fife seemed to change their style of play, with more free-slowing passing football being played, instead of big punts up the park. East Fife couldn't convert this possession to chances however. The main chance of the first half came from a corner on the left, which fell to Johnny Mitchell just inside the box and his cross saw Greig McDonald's powerful header crash off the bar and over, with McCulloch flailing.
But that was it, apart from Stenny's Murphy trying to kick Brian Fairbairn at every opportunity going. Not much excitement, two pretty bad looking teams and 0-0 at half-time, but with the feeling that the Fife were surely going to win this one in the second half.
East Fife started the second half with more confidence and aggression, but the first real action of the half happened after 48 minutes, when, during a rare Stenhousemuir foray into the Fife box, Greig McDonald and Euan Donaldson clashed heads and both went down hard. Euan thankfully made a full recovery with little repercussions, but unfortunately Greig McDonald left the field and game immediately (replaced by Craig Lumsden) with what looked like it could have been a broken nose or possibly cheekbone. Greig has had a tremendous season for the Fife so far and hopefully won't miss any games as a result of the injury. More news on that when we get it.
East Fife continued to dominate possession and had a soft penalty claim turned down after 53 minutes. Two minutes later though, to a huge cheer from the home fans, Kenny Deuchar entered the arena for Willie Stewart, who had had a good first half and was getting the ball to his feet more than usual.
East Fife kept pushing forward for the breakthrough and Brian Blair had a shot blocked on 56 minutes. A minute later a pin-point Johnny Mitchell cross found Deuchar free in the box but his header was held by McCulloch.
Kenny wasn't to be denied, however, and opened the scoring on 59 minutes. A through ball from the defence found Brian Fairbairn in the centre circle in the Stenny half. Marked by two men, he turned them both and sent a perfect pass through the middle for Deuchs to run on to. Kenny easily outpaced the last defender and powerfully slotted the ball past a helpless McCulloch into the centre of the Stenny net. 1-0!
It was only now that Stenny decided that they might actually want to play in the game!
With 65 minutes gone and Stenny starting to come forward more, but still way behind in the possession stakes, a fierce 25 yard drive from Harty took a wicked deflection of Craig Lumsden and was brilliantly tipped round the bottom of the right hand post by Gary O'Connor. Their first real chance of the match, but perfectly dealt with.
Five minutes later, Miller went down rather theatrically on the edge of the box and referee Smith awarded a free kick in what could really be described as ideal Chris Miller territory. Stenny decide to go with Waldie for the kick and his low drive was well stopped by Gary O, who also saved the subsequent rebound.
There was little real action for the remainder of the game. Brian Fairbairn headed wide, low at the left hand post after 77 minutes and O'Connor foiled a late Stenny attempt in injury time to keep the three points at Bayview.
Overall, it wasn't the best of games, but a vital win was secured. A good performance from Brian Fairbairn, should hopefully see him securing a regular place in the starting line up and Kenny Deuchar answered his critics perfectly. The same performance and more is needed next week in another vital game. Three points against an Alloa side starting to gain confidence, would see the Fife have a healthy gap from the two relegation places and let us concentrate on just how high up the League we can actually finish. C'mon the Fife.
EAST FIFE: O'Connor, McMillan, Donaldson, G. McDonald (Lumsden 49), Hall, Blair, Mitchell (Herkes 75), Kelly, Fairbairn, Stewart (Deuchar 55), Stein Subs (not used): Graham and Gilbert
ATTENDANCE: 536 apparently
AFTN MAN OF THE MATCH: No one was outstanding, but GARY O'CONNOR produced the vital stops when it mattered
A couple of first half Fife attacks
Ouchy! But Doctor Deuchar senior to the rescue!
"Deuchar, Deuchar, Deuchar". 1-0 and third place