Saturday, July 25, 2009

There might still be a week of July to go, but as East Fife kicked off their competitive campaign today, there are already signs that it's going to be a long season for the black and gold.

East Fife went down 2-0 at home to Forfar Athletic this afternoon in the First Round of the MG Alba Challenge Cup in front of a disappointingly paltry crowd of only 446 at Bayview Stadium.

The Loons took the lead in the first half on 38 minutes, when Martyn Fotheringham coolly slotted home a cross from ex Fife favourite Kevin Fotheringham and it was our ex Fozzy who wrapped up proceedings with 13 minutes of the game remaining, heading home a corner from his namesake.

Forfar might be in the division below us this season, but with Dick Campbell in charge and strong signings in place, it already looks like it might be a two horse race between them and Cowdenbeath for the Third Division title. Forfar will probably be better than a few teams in our division I would reckon.

The result itself isn't the main concern but more how we played. Or didn't play as the case was.

Michael Brown is looking as shaky in goals as he did towards the end of last season and with the crowd already getting on his back, he needs a confidence boost and quick - as does the whole squad.

The defence looked all over the place on Tuesday night in the 7-1 friendly drubbing by Dunfermline and they looked better and tighter today, with Paul Nugent being the stand out. It'll take a little time for Jonny Smart and John Ovenstone to have the same kind of understanding that Smarty had with Tweedy before, but it will come.

Both of these players are going to be vital if we're not going to find ourselves in a relegation fight this season, because it's difficult to see us being a free-scoring side ourselves at the moment, so we need to keep it tight at the back.

The midfield was weak. We badly missed Lloyd Young and Shaun Fagan in the middle, so it's hard to judge how the Fife will perform in that area until they get back into the team.

We'll need to get a midfield playmaker in before the transfer window closes if things aren't happening in that area. With Stevie Crawford's contacts, hopefully a young SPL loan signing may be forthcoming.

Up front is where we struggled big time last season.

Paul McManus still needs to get fully fit after missing a lot of the pre-season for his wedding. It'll take time for him to get an understanding with Mark Staunton up front and it still remains to be seen whether a defender turned striker will be our goalscoring saviour we need this year.

On the plus side, the young players looked hungry and it was good to see a youthful bench. Whether it's better to have the more experienced players on the bench to come on and turn the game will be debated this week I'm sure on the AFTN forum. The younger players might do better starting than have the pressure of being gamesavers.

It was also good to see the ball being played on the deck, gone were the days of the Dave Baikie punt up the park to one up front.

It's still early days and it was really just a pretty meaningless Cup but if the results don't start to come we know that a section of the home fans will be on Crawford's back immediately.

I don't see it being that particularly a strong Second Division this season and some of the other Cup results today show that it's not just our early season form that's not clicked into gear yet.

The real business starts in a fortnight when the League starts. Let's hope we're in the right frame of mind and confident going into it. A good start is going to be vital.

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