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The sun shone brightly on Sunday 23rd September for the Scottish Cup 2nd round tie between Kirkcaldy Eagles and Fairmuir, of Dundee. It bathed Kirkcaldy’s picturesque Beveridge Park in golden light and unseasonal warmth, and no-one seemed to mind the brief hiccup caused by the proposed pitch being ruled inadequate because of the development sized goals. The problem was quickly overcome with a switch of pitch and a new set of nets, and a cracking cup tie ensued with Fairmuir coming out on top and through to the next round, but the Kirkcaldy boys have much to be pleased about.
Early exchanges showed both sides keen to use the full width of the pitch and indeed Eagles’ Rikki Laird was unlucky going one on one with Fairmuir ‘keeper David Beattie after a through ball up the left wing, safe hands from David ensuring the danger was snuffed out. In what was to be a feature of this match, play raced directly to the other end where Fairmuir’s Jamie Herron won the first corner of the match after his one on one with the Eagles keeper, Callum Reston. Eagles could only clear the ball to the edge of the penalty area where Jamie Herron was waiting to lash a fine shot into the net. Fairmuir 1 up after 8 minutes.
Midfield was an intriguing battle with Fairmuir’s Jamie Herron instrumental in every move from the Dundee side and Liam Duncan and Rikki Laird combining well for Eagles on the left, and Rikki was again unlucky to shoot narrowly past after a sharp turn in the Fairmuir box. It was Fairmuir who added to their lead though, and on 13 minutes Jamie Herron placed a cracking shot into the left bottom corner after a lovely move up the right and some excellent holding play and a killer pass from team-mate Bobby Webster. Fairmuir 2 up. Both sides were still playing a wide game and Eagles’ Lewis McLeod impressed with a dazzling run up the right wing, beating his man not once, but twice, before sending in a cross, but David Beattie in the Fairmuir goal collected with a clean catch.
Back in midfield Jamie Herron showed a nice Cruyff turn but saw his team mates caught offside twice in as many minutes as the Kirkcaldy side increased the pressure, looking for the goal which would bring them back into the game. Fairmuir had other ideas of course and were playing well through the middle of the park now, forcing 2 successive corners, the second of which saw a glancing header from Liam Fitzsimons sail narrowly past. Bobby Webster then struck the base of the post with a fine shot from what might have been an offside position, and Aiden Tait then went close before Eagles’ Kieran McLellan put in a fantastic recovery tackle to thwart yet another Fairmuir attack.
With half time fast approaching Eagles were under severe pressure but on the counter attack managed to force a corner after a cross from Rikki Laird was blocked. The ball wasn’t cleared quickly enough and appropriately it was Rikki Laird who opened Eagles account as he smashed a right foot volley past the Fairmuir keeper right on the stroke of half time. Eagles 1 Fairmuir 2.
Half Time: Kirkcaldy Eagles 1-2 Fairmuir
The second half began as the first had ended; real end to end, cup tie stuff, and both sides had their chances early on; Fairmuir’s Charlie Walls robbed by Eagles Kieran McLellan as he lined up a shot in the opening exchanges. Fairmuir, however, were exerting serious pressure before long, and Bailey Chalmers played a lovely ball to Liam Fitzsimons but his shot was just wide.
The Kirkcaldy side were sitting quite deep at this stage, trying to absorb the Fairmuir waves of attack and Jamie Herron was next to go close with a header from a corner. Liam Fitzsimons then hit the side netting before the Eagles broke free and flew to the other end where Angus Robb was unlucky not to finish a good left wing move, orchestrated by Liam Duncan. Fairmuir raged back again, this time through Matthew Gow and Gregor Macaulay and Eagles’ 'keeper Callum Reston pulled off a wonderful double save. Back to the other end we went again, and good work from Angus Robb almost let in team mate Blair McKendrick, but brave goalkeeping from David Beattie removed the danger. Liam Duncan then set off on a solo run and into the Fairmuir box, but again David Beattie was alert and foiled the impressive full back.
The end to end nature of the game was such that it seemed each side was taking 30 seconds at a time to attack before having to turn tail and defend, and it was on one of these counters that Fairmuir scored a crucial third goal after 52 minutes, the ball being played over the Eagles defence for Liam Fitzsimons to score the goal his play deserved, deftly chipping Callum Reston and perhaps putting the tie beyond the Kirkcaldy side.
Up against it now, Eagles resorted to playing from defence directly to attack, missing out midfield, allowing Fairmuir to exploit the space and be more creative. That creativity paid off on the hour mark when Jamie Herron scored his third and Fairmuir’s fourth, receiving the ball from a throw, beating a defender and striking a lovely half volley past Callum Reston.
To their credit, Eagles refused to give up and Murray Bell pulled a fine save out of David Beattie from an equally fine free kick, Beattie tipping the ball just over the bar. Murray Bell then had a shot cleared by Ryan Lonie, forcing another corner, but their efforts were in vain - moments later the final whistle sounded and Fairmuir were through to the next round.
Classic Scottish Cup action and great to see two teams play the game with skill on the ball, tenacity in the tackle and such width to their game.
Full Time: Kirkcaldy Eagles 1-4 Fairmuir
Andy Bell, Coach of the Eagles, said: "I thought it was a great advert for U-14 football. We played a new formation today so some of our boys were playing in new positions. I thought the whole team played really, really well."
Nick Hodgson, Coach of Fairmuir, said: "Kirkcaldy played well, and gave us a much harder game than we expected. We finished strongly and I'm delighted to be in the next round of the Cup, hopefully with a home draw!"