Can we play you every week? what a difference a year makes for East Fife

Aaran Dunsmore handed East Fife the lead in their final fixture of 2018 - a win at Raith Rovers. Pic by Kenny Mackay.
Aaran Dunsmore handed East Fife the lead in their final fixture of 2018 - a win at Raith Rovers. Pic by Kenny Mackay.

If East Fife’s 2018 were to be described using a well trodden football cliché, then you could say it’s been a ‘game of two halves’.

The opening part of the year, which concluded the 2017/18 league season, really wasn’t much to write home about.

Ironically, 2018 has been bookended with Fife derbies against rivals Raith Rovers.

And as an indication of how much the squad has improved over the calendar year, a 3-2 home defeat on January 2 opened 2018, with a 2-1 win away from home ending it.

The Fifers stuttered through the opening few fixtures of the year, a victory against Alloa one of the few high points in a succession of matches which included a Scottish Cup fourth round loss at home to Brora Rangers.

The side was making hard work of getting into the play-offs, but things looked to be shaping up well when three wins on the spin, against Albion Rovers, Airdrie and Alloa, seemed to have set East Fife up for a grandstand ending to the campaign.

But consistency was East Fife’s problem last campaign, and these three wins were followed up by three losses to all but end the club’s promotion ambitions.

There was a win over soon to be relegated Queen’s Park at Hampden before the final three fixtures of the year ended in defeat - including a miserable 5-0 thumping at home to Arbroath.

It was pretty poor stuff and the end of the season couldn’t come quickly enough.

Boss Darren Young set about reassembling his squad with the likes of Kyle Wilkie, Mark Lamont, Kieran Millar and Jonathan Page departing.

All four had been big players across the past season or so, and fans were somewhat anxious about who would be brought in to replace them.

Sloppy goals had been the downfall of the side over the campaign and Young was swift to strengthen his backline, bringing in highly rated young ‘keeper Brett Long along with Ross Dunlop and Daryll Meggatt.

Meggatt’s addition in particular would add some steel and organisational skills to a defence which seemed to concede all too easily.

Further up the park midfielder Ross Davidson was signed, as were playmakers Scott Agnew and Craig Thomson, gritty midfielder Liam Watt and former Raith Rovers striker Jonny Court.

It took a while, but the Fife squad started to shape up pretty nicely going into the pre-season and Betfred Cup schedules.

Youngsters Anton Dowds and Kyle Bell were given a chance to impress as trialists and did exactly that.

In the few months since then, both have developed into comfortable League One players.

Young ended the previous campaign knowing that he had to sort his defensive issues out, and the first real test they would face was a trip to meet Premiership side St Johnstone in the Betfred Cup.

It was a sign of things to come as an incredible defensive performance saw the side hold on for a 0-0 draw in the 90 minutes.

The rest of the cup campaign would pass without much note and back to back opening league defeats had fans, again, twitching anxiously.

Arguably East Fife’s season turned in a lowly Irn-Bru Challenge Cup round one game when the side recovered from being a goal down to win 3-1 against Cowdenbeath.

The relief amongst the fans, players and management was noticeable and proved to be the shot in the arm the club needed.

Only a dodgy penalty call against Dunlop a few days later at Stark’s Park halted the side making it back to back Fife derby wins when they had to leave Kirkcaldy with a point following a 2-2 draw.

A 3-0 defeat at Arbroath is best forgotten, but what certainly won’t be banished from the memory is the eight game winning run which followed.

East Fife hit their stride in both the league and cup, turfing Championship sides Partick Thistle and Queen of the South out of the Irn-Bru Cup to set up a quarter final appearance against Irish side Bohemians.

More important were the league points and, while the run didn’t last forever, Dumbarton bringing it to an end with a crushing 4-0 win, East Fife had shown themselves to be one of the best sides in the division.

November 10 arrived, a date circled into the Fife fans’ calendars from the start of the campaign.

Raith had been lucky earlier on in the season, but wouldn’t be as fortunate this time around, Aaron Dunsmore’s late, late winner handing the Methil men their first victory against Raith for some 30 years.

East Fife had gained a solid grip on third spot, nestled in behind Arbroath and Raith.

While the Lichties stretch ahead seemingly week after week at the top, the Kirkcaldy club have been there for the taking.

The year came to an end for East Fife at the weekend - and they finished it in style.

Two first half goals from the side were enough to close out a 2-1 victory, with the visiting supporters mocking their rivals with chants of ‘can we play you every week?’ as they left the ground.

Given the side hadn’t beaten Raith for three decades - is the supporters’ confidence in this current group of players not testament to how far they’ve come in 12 months?