SAT 30TH OCTOBER 2004: A v STENHOUSEMUIR (SCOTTISH 3RD DIV)
The last time East Fife visited Ochilview, Stenhousemuir had been relegated, East Fife were trying to avoid the same fate and hundreds of fans made the journey through from Fife to watch. Today, the Fife fans almost seemed to match the number of somewhat muted home fans (no cowbells this time), but the teams' fortunes on the pitch were reversed and Stenny ran riot.
Where has it all gone wrong?
Fielding the same starting eleven that played woefully up at Links Park last week, the opening minutes showed so much promise and did not have anybody ready for the horror show that was soon to follow on the eve of All Hallow's Eve.
East Fife started the brighter and sharper and Stevie Nicholas looked like he was going to pose the Warriors' defence a few problems, but neither side had a goal threat in the early stages, which were marred by some strange refereeing decisions for both sides.
Stenny had a penalty appeal waved away after 15 minutes and nearly took the lead three minutes later. Paul McGrillen hit a dipping curler from just outside the box and Scott Morrison brilliantly tipped it over for a corner. As the ball came in from the corner, Kris Brash was forced to scramble the ball off the line and clear the danger.
East Fife had a penalty appeal themselves soon after when Stevie Nicholas went down in the box, to tie the chancing elements at one apiece!
Stenhousemuir started to take control of the game a little and Steve Kerrigan was just inches away with an effort after Gary Kelly had lost control of the ball in the middle of the Fife half.
East Fife then came inches away from taking the lead themselves. A Fife free kick wide left was played to Brian Fairbairn on the wing and his cross in from the bye line found Gary Kelly in the middle and his angled header crashed off the inside of the post and into Willie McCulloch's arms. The ball looked like it may have crossed the line, but the standside assistant referee was having none of it, amongst Fife appeals.
This near miss was soon to be punished when a quick Stenny break saw John Paul McBride have the option of David McInally to his left or Paul McGrillen ahead of him. McBride chose the through ball to McGrillen, who duly obliged and drilled the ball past the advancing Scott Morrison from 16 yards out. 1-0 Stenhousemuir.
The Warriors almost doubled their lead just after the half hour mark, but Lee Collins chipped his effort just wide after being put clear through.
East Fife showed their seldom seen bouncebackability a minute later with a goal of comic proportions. Stevie Nicholas found himself clear through and one on one with Willie McCulloch, following a defensive mix up, and awaiting the ball to come to him. The Stenny keeper seemed to not have seen Nicholas and was slow to come out, allowing Saint Nic to calmly stick out his leg and stroke the ball through his legs to make it 1-1 with 33 minutes gone.
It was starting to be an exciting and enjoyable game. Not words that have had to trouble my spellchecker too much so far this season! And depending on the colour of your scarf, it was to continue for the rest of the game!
The last real chance of the half fell to Stevie Nicholas again with two minutes remaining. Once again he found himself one on one with McCulloch, but this time the former Fife keeper won the battle with a great stop.
Half time then. 1-1 and a lot of promise it seemed for a fine second half performance. What followed was one of the worse defensive performances and capitulations we have seen in black and gold jersey for a long time. Well, at least for a few weeks anyway.
Just realised that my lack of care when typing had made me type Eats Fife there. And that was basically what the Stenhousemuir attack did to us for the next 45 minutes. Subconsciousness or just bad typing? Who cares?! All that needs written is that we were woeful.
It took less than a minute for the wheels to come off, when dangerous Martin Lauchlan ran easily through the Fife midfield and defence and shot home low to make it 2-1 to Stenny.
Kerrigan headed just wide for Stenny before East Fife hit back when Derek Colquhoun brilliantly volleyed home a low corner from six yards out on 53 minutes. 2-2. Game on? Nope, game over more like, as that was pretty much Willie McCulloch's last meaningful action of the game when he picked the ball out of the net.
The deadlock wasn't to last long and the goal really seemed to spur the Warriors to life. You'd have thought it should have had that effect on us really.
A Stenny corner fell to Paul McGrillen just inside the back of the box. The Fife defence totally failed to close him down, seemingly making no effort whatsoever, and he hit a rocket high into the net to restore Stenhousemuir's lead with 57 minutes gone.
Ten minutes later and more woeful marking allowed a defence splitting diagonal ball to find sub Ryan Davidson on the edge of the box. He quickly turned Kris Brash inside out, got in to a more central position and drilled the ball past Morrison from 18 yards out. 4-2 Stenny.
With fifteen minutes remaining, Stenhousemuir turned the screw. McBride saw his fierce shot superbly turned over by Morrison and the Fife keeper produced a second quality save from the resultant corner to deny Kerrigan.
The Warriors weren't to be denied and Ryan Davidson completed his double when another long ball over the Fife defence left them clueless and Davidson totally clear to outsprint Fraser Duncan, ghost past the onrushing Morrison and easily tap the ball home for number five.
And it could have been worse a minute later had Morrison not produced another outstanding save to deny Kerrigan again.
Thankfully this was to be the last of the goalmouth action, as the Fife defence managed to settle down and keep the score down to just five. The frustration was telling as the players and fans started to argue amongst themselves, boiling over when Kris Brash made a rash challenge on Martin Lauchlan and saw a straight red.
Kind of summed up a dismal dank day.
As the final whistle thankfully put us out of our misery, you just had to wonder what had happened to the impressive defence of just two weeks ago against Albion Rovers. Were the Wee Rovers really that bad or was it just a false dawn to give us false hope and keep Jim Moffat free from abuse for a fortnight?
It was dire out there today. Few had pass marks. The usually impressive Brash was taken apart by Lauchlan and Davidson for the second half. The midfield had no bite. The front two had no service apart from what they created themselves. And I don't know what was the most puzzling - Bain and Mitchell coming on for Fairbairn and Kelly (two players that have shown in recent weeks that they can make things happen, for a player who hasn't had the best of seasons and Kevin Bain - who to be fair was one of the few to look for the ball in the last thirty minutes) or Davie Marshall's bizarre rantings at a section of the Fife faithful and then his storm off.
The Club is in a bad state when the fans start fighting amongst themselves, but then there is also the case of there being none so blind as those that cannot see. Something has to be done to get the spirit and enjoyment back into going to watch this every Saturday. It's certainly not worth the time, trouble and money at the moment.
You know, the only thing that could make me more fed up just now is Bush getting re-elected. But then, people can't be that stupid, can they?
C'mon the Fife!
FINAL SCORE: Stenhousemuir 5 - 2 East Fife
EAST FIFE: Morrison, Renwick, Brash, Gaughan, Duncan, Kelly (Bain 59), Herkes, Byle, Nicholas, Colquhoun, Fairbairn (Mitchell 59) Subs (not used): Gardiner, Lumsden and Tarditi
3 points - SCOTT MORRISON (crazy to give your goalie the three points when he lost five goals, but hey, he kept it down to single figures!)
2 points - JAMES HERKES (frustrated but showed some fire)
1 point - STEVIE NICHOLAS (was knackered by half time, but had busy first half)
The Stenny Board show Derrick how you treat your fans
The Ochilview apple craze knows no bounds
Fife frustrations boil over both on and off the park
Brashers sees red
[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]