I remember early in the season, when travelling to the likes of ground 7, ground 14 and even ground 20, feeling like I had such a long way to go and doubting I would ever make it to the end.
Now at ground 40, I realise just how close I have come to that end. Sitting on the train today I knew that there were only three grounds to go.
Having predicted a few weeks ago that the worst of the weather had been and gone, I was cursing my luck as I looked out the window this morning. It was grim. Games were beginning to fall, and pitches were being inspected around the country.
I left my departure as late as I could, setting off at 11 o’clock. With pitch inspections at Edinburgh City and Cowdenbeath I had a feeling East Fife wouldn’t be far behind. Typically, almost as soon as the train left, a pitch inspection was called.
There was no hope. It just wasn’t meant to be. It was a waste of a train ticket. I had convinced myself that there would be no football today. After 39 games without a call off, this was going to be that day.
Thankfully, I was wrong. It wouldn’t have been anything more than a minor inconvenience, in the grand scheme of things, but I’ve got my plan and I wanted to stick to it.
I was heading for Methil. That meant a train to Dundee, a train to Kirkcaldy and the final leg by bus. The coastal town sits in the east of Fife, believe it or not.
A quick google search brought up a surprising amount of negativity about the place. One of the first results focuses on the town’s inclusion on a list of places ‘worse than you thought’. We all know that such sensational tags are unfair.
Perhaps the best known reference to Methil, in pop culture at least, comes in the Proclaimers song ‘Letter from America’. Singing of the closure of factories and traditional industries in Scotland, they utter the famous words ‘Methil no more’ in reference to the decline of industry in the town.
As with so many of the towns I’ve visited this season, Methil has changed over the years.
These small towns lost industries, jobs and saw people unemployed or working in jobs which didn’t utilise their skills.
The one constant in these towns, the place where the community rallies, and often one of the things which brings visitors to a town, is the football team.
In Methil’s case that is East Fife.
The Fifers have been in good form in League One recently. Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat to Alloa was a blip which put an end to a run of 12 undefeated league games.
After losing manager Gary Naysmith to Queen of the South earlier this season, they have gone from strength to strength under the management of Barry Smith.
At the beginning of play today they had managed to get themselves in to a playoff position. Despite this, given how close the league is, it seemed that they could easily find themselves dragged in to a relegation battle. Even in fourth place, they started the day just nine points ahead of bottom placed Stenhousemuir.
And some people say that Scottish football isn’t competitive…
The ground has changed dramatically in recent times, even if the club has had very little to do with that. I remember visiting Bayview around 10 years ago. Looking across the pitch, the horizon was dominated by an old power station. That has gone. Now, when looking across the pitch, solar panels grab your attention.
It’s a modern, forward thinking change. Perhaps a metaphor for the football club?
Bayview is a modern stadium, with a single stand running alongside the pitch. It’s clean, with plenty of seats to meet demand, but not too many to leave it soulless and empty.
It might lack the character (things hanging off walls, uneven steps), that people (including myself) like to talk about, but it’s a ground which is hard to fault.
As I entered I was offered raffle tickets, with the grand prize of a season ticket. These people were almost certainly volunteers, raising money for the club, and most importantly, very enthusiastic. In the lower leagues, clubs need people like these to keep them going.
Today’s visitors were Albion Rovers, a side below the hosts in the league, but with games in hand.
East Fife were dominant throughout.
At times they passed the ball with ease, with one touch football backed up with intelligent movement and good awareness.
They almost scored a goal that Barcelona would have been proud of. Four or five players were involved in the build up, which saw the Bayview side making their opponents appear statue like. From my view, it looked like they were only one or two steps away from finishing that chance.
Albion Rovers did cause some problems early on though, and the East Fife goalkeeper Mark Hurst had to be at his best to deny the away side on a couple of occasions.
Despite this, the hosts looked more assured in possession, and were organised enough to rarely appear under pressure.
The second half began in a similar manner.
East Fife kept possession and looked for an opening. They threatened to break down the opposition with some more slick passing more than once.
They broke the deadlock seven minutes in to the half with a sublime goal from Chris Duggan. After a corner had been half cleared by the Rovers defence, the ball was crossed back in to the box from the opposite side. The ball appeared to have been played in too far behind the attacking players, but Duggan made the chance for himself.
Despite the ball being slightly behind him, he caught the ball with a full volley on the turn, and sent the ball straight in to the roof of the net. It was a textbook finish, and one which delighted the crowd.
Seven minutes later, he scored again. A defensive mixup saw the striker with the ball yards from an open goal. He started to celebrate, before placing the ball in to the empty net.
I can’t be the only one that enjoys a player celebrating before they score, although in the age of YouTube and viral media, it could be a risky strategy, in the event of an unfortunate miss.
The Fifers maintained their two goal advantages until the end.
Having lost Gary Naismith earlier in the season, there were question marks over how the Methil side would fare.
However, Barry Smith has been able to keep playing an attacking style, while getting results.
It’s a tight league, so one could look rather foolish when making predictions.
On the evidence of today, and in light of recent form, I think The Fifers will be strong contenders for a playoff spot this season.
When they perform like they did today, they do their often unfairly ridiculed town proud. Perhaps continued success will bring more of the community out to see the good work which has taken place at Bayview.
East Fife 2 Albion Rovers 0