Ah, the trip to Methil. That knowledge that at 4:45pm, one will return to Edinburgh either wistful or happy, depressed or at least slightly more tolerant of the world.
Saturday was no different. It began with the usual “will the match survive the slightly inclement weather” worry. The added factor was that I was accompanying my German tutor, Niels (Uni night classes – only £125 for 11 weeks tuition – very good) on the latest part of his continuing “odyssey” around the
holes former industrial heartlands of Scotland’s Central Belt to watch football. Motherwell, Airdrie, Cowdenbeath, Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy and Paisley were all done and dusted. I would be the local wise fella to his Michael Palin on his trip to Methil. Fully aware of my responsibilities, it was he who found out that the game was still on.
We began at Waverley, with the usual 35 minute train ride plus 40 minute bus journey (with several interesting inhabitants of the locale at Kirkcaldy Bus Station) to Leven. I was also looking forward to introducing Niels to the merits of the Bayview pie (one of the best in Scotland in my humble opinion) but sadly discovered somewhere near Buckhaven that he is in fact a vegetarian. Darn. On arrival at Leven’s overly shiny bus station, a quick trip to the Caley for two pints and nachos was followed by the trek to the ground.
As usual, the power station dominated the skyline. It was great to see that (once we’d occupied our seats to get a good view of it) this enormous plook on the Fife landscape was finally on its way out – a reassuring corner of the building having disappeared from view (see the picture above). It gave me the opportunity to entertain Niels with some factoids about the area, and East Fife’s various history, as well as my efforts to go and see them on occasion (the trip from Rosemarkie to Stranraer in 2007 was prominent). Our conversation did also involve me ranting a bit about how 90% of Scotland supports the Old Firm, and how in a conurbation of Levenmouth’s size (40,000 approx), only 469 can make it along of a Saturday afternoon.
The game kicked off at 3 (obviously – ah the joys of the non-Sky Sports infected world of the Scottish lower divisions), and when I went for a pee after 10 minutes, nothing particularly exciting had happened. On returning to my seat, I discovered that Forfar were down to 10 men, according to Niels for a 50-50 ball which the ref had deemed was not the Forfar player’s (Bishop) to go for. Clearly Niels had not seen the tackle correctly, and it was an obvious red.
From thereonin, East Fife attempted to play a bit like Barca, but a bit slower and more Scottish Second Division-y. A typically excellent pass from Bobby Linn (who ran the show as usual) was met with a nice sharp finish into the far corner from Stevie Hislop (ironic shouts of “use your pace Stevie” could be heard throughout the game. I love the Bayview gallows humour) on 33 minutes.
That was the end of the scoring for the first half, with East Fife creating a hatful of chances but converting only one. Forfar’s one notable effort was met rather poorly by Chris Templeman, whose forehead hadn’t improved in accuracy since a black and gold shirt was pulled over it.
Come the second half, it was more of the same. Patient (!) build-up from East Fife (despite the obvious frustration of some of the crowd that the punt wasn’t being deployed more often), countered with general malaise from the Loons.
The match was all but over on 73 minutes, Johnny Smart sticking home a knock-down from a corner kick. His celebration was interesting – a poor knee slide followed by almost falling on his arse when he got up again. Still, hero.
Goal number 3 came two minutes from the end; some handy work down the right found Lloyd Young in a good crossing position. His cross was flapped to the edge of the box by Gallacher, the Forfar keeper, where that man Linn waited to tuck it home with his left and send the crowd into what counts for raptures in Methil. There was still enough time for an appalling tackle on Linn by Ross Campbell, who was lucky to get away with a yellow, and Michael Brown (who was excellent throughout, particularly with his quick distribution) to tip a free kick round the post for save of the day.
In all, a thoroughly deserved win, and for the first time this season for me, an East Fife victory. Niels and I left with Niels of the view that Bayview occupies a “unique” setting (he’s not wrong) in terms of football grounds. Given he’s used to sitting in the Fritz Walter Stadion with 47,999 other Kaiserslautern (they won 2-1 on Saturday) supporters, I’ll take that. The fact that the train we’d planned to get from Kirkcaldy back to Edinburgh was cancelled only sealed the Scottish experience for him further.