Saturday 15 July 2017, 15.00, East End Park

The Scottish League Cup match between Scottish Championship side Dunfermline Athletic and Scottish League Two’s Elgin City.

Currently known as the Betfred Cup due to sponsorship, the competition had a straight knockout format but became a group and knockout competition from 2016-17.

The new format sees eight groups of five teams play each other once each in a round-robin format.  The forty teams playing in the group stage consist of the 38 league clubs who are not participating in European competition, along with the Highland and Lowland League winners.  In the regionalised group phase, three points are given for a win and one point for a draw. A penalty shoot-out determines a drawn game, with the winning team gaining a bonus point.  There are four groups in the North section, and four in the South section, with three pots for each regional section – top seeds, second seeds, and unseeded clubs.  The eight group winners and four best runners-up progress into the second round, where they are joined by the four clubs participating in UEFA competitions. The tournament then adopts a knockout format. There are no replays, so all matches ending in a draw after 90 minutes are decided by extra time and, if necessary, penalty kicks.  (Pay attention, there will be a quiz at the end.)

Dunfermline and Elgin are in Group B, along with Peterhead, Hearts and East Fife.

We saw Dunfermline 3 times last season, most recently in November 2016, when they played a Fife Derby at home to Raith Rovers.

After the club were put into administration in 2013 and following a points deduction, ‘The Pars’ were relegated to the third tier for the first time since 1986.  After a fans group took over, they were in League One for three years before promotion back to the Championship.  Last season saw them finish in an impressive fifth place in their first season back in the second tier.

A number of players have left Dunfermline since the end of the season, with Rhys McCabe, Andy Geggan, Michael Moffat, captain Callum Fordyce, David Hutton, Ben Richards-Everton, Euan Spark, Lewis Spence, Robbie Crawford, Reece Duncan, Evan Horne and Johnny Galloway all departing for pastures new.  Striker Declan McManus and man mountain defender Jean-Yves M’Voto Owono both joined from relegated neighbours Raith Rovers and former Kilmarnock midfielder Aaron Splaine has also joined the club.

Pre-season hasn’t gone well for them, comprehensively beaten by Partick Thistle, Hibs and Raith Rovers.  The match with Elgin sees their first competitive game of the season.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Elgin City.

City’s formation came in 1893 with the amalgamation of Elgin Rovers and Vale of Lossie.  They were the third club to be known as Elgin City, with both predecessors falling by the wayside.

They won their first trophy in 1898-99, becoming the first team outside Inverness to win the North of Scotland Cup.  They had to wait until 1924 before winning it for a second time.

Elgin have been Highland League Champions on 15 occasions, most recently in 1992-93, although they were later stripped of the title for bringing forward their final match of the season, so that two players due to serve a suspension could play.

They reached the Scottish Cup quarter final in 1968, the furthest a Highland League team has got in the competition.

Borough Briggs has been their home since 1921, the most northerly football league ground in the UK.

The club gained entry to the Scottish Football League in 2000.

Elgin had their best season since joining the league when they finished fourth in 2011-12 and reached the playoffs, where they lost to Albion Rovers.  Season 2015-16 saw them finish second, but they again lost out in the play-offs.  Last season saw them miss out on the play-offs by a single point.

Manager Jim Weir made a number of signings for the new season, academy goalkeeper Thomas Dear, Albion Rovers striker Calum Ferguson, midfielder Jon Paul McGovern from Clyde, defenders Cammy Eadie and Stephen Bronsky from Falkirk and Annan Athletic respectively and left back Ross McKinnon from BSC Glasgow.

Elgin have beaten Inverness Caley Thistle and lost to Celtic in pre-season.

While we got to the ground in plenty of time after the Hill of Beath game, parking proved an issue.  With only the main stand open, we struggled to find a seat and in our walk along the stand, spotted Hearts assistant manager Austin McPhee videoing the game on his mobile phone.  We eventually procured seats which we quickly discovered were next to the Elgin fans.

There were 1,757 at the game.

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As we settled into our spot, Cardle was brought down about 28 yards from the City goal.  Higginbotham floated the ball into the heart of the box and Clark rose to head into the net to give the Pars the lead.  There were 10 minutes gone.

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In 18 minutes, McManus got to the Elgin by-line, but his cut back was cleared by McHardy.

Higginbotham passed to Williamson on the right for Dunfermline in 21 minutes and he burst past McKinnon before crossing into the box where Clark was unmarked again and headed home his second.

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A clever chip forward up the right by Higginbotham in 23 minutes saw Paton fire the ball into the City box, but the defence managed to get the ball away.

The home side continued to attack on the right and Higginbotham went past Dodd in 25 minutes before putting another good cross into the box, but this time it was just too high for Clark.

Some lovely football by the Pars got Williamson to the by-line in 26 minutes, but his cross was turned behind by McHardy.  Higginbotham’s corner was headed high over the bar by Wedderburn.

A rare foray forward by Elgin in 28 minutes saw Reilly cross to the back post, but Wedderburn was there to turn it behind.

Dunfermline found space down the right again in 34 minutes and this time it was Clark who put the ball into the box.  He picked out McManus, but the defence managed to block his shot.  It came back to Paton who thumped the ball into the net to make it three.

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A minute later and Higginbotham went down the right and put a pinpoint cross onto the head of Clark who headed into the bottom corner for his hat-trick and the home side’s fourth.

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Elgin managed to reach the break without further damage and it was no surprise to see them make a couple of substitutions at the break and in particular, a change at left back, with McHardy moving across.

Dunfermline had been clinical and it looked like they would score every time they got the ball down the right.

A great run in the opening minute of the second half by Sutherland saw him break deep into the Dunfermline half on the left.  He cut the ball into the box for Reid, but Ashcroft blocked his shot.

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Cardle went up Dunfermline’s left in 47 minutes and twice feinted to shoot as he cut inside before his strike at goal was deflected wide.  Higginbotham went across to take the corner and pulled the ball back to Clark on the edge of the box who swept the ball into the net through a ruck of players for his fourth of the afternoon.

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Sutherland made another good charge down the left for City in 49 minutes and he found Dodd, but he didn’t catch his shot well and Murdoch managed to push the ball away from goal.

An inch perfect pass from Paton in 52 minutes was right into the path of McManus in the Elgin box, but Waters managed to block his effort.  He reacted quickly to get something in the way of Cardle’s follow up to prevent any further damage.

A fine pass from Elgin’s Cameron in 55 minutes gave Reid a chance, but Murdoch got enough on the shot to deflect it behind.

McManus found Cardle on the left for the Pars in 59 minutes, but a fine tackle by Bronsky halted his progress.

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Cardle featured again in 67 minutes, firing the ball across the face of the Elgin goal, but there was no-one there to convert in the middle.

A shot from the edge of the box from Cardle in 68 minutes was comfortable for Waters in the City goal.

A loose pass by Martin gave Elgin a corner in 71 minutes and an Elgin fan behind us, without a hint of irony, said to her friend that “mistakes can be maken.”

Higginbotham crossed into the Elgin box in 72 minutes, but Bronsky headed away over his own bar.

An Elgin fan returning from the toilet got to his seat just as the giant M’Voto came on as sub for the home side.  He proclaimed “Holy fuck! Look at the size of him!!”

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Some excellent close control by Cardle on the left hand side of the Elgin box in 82 minutes saw him put Cooper on his backside, but his shot was blocked.

A loose Elgin pass in 87 minutes was picked up by Cardle and he quickly raced into the box.  The defenders were all drawn towards him and he squared the ball to the unmarked McManus, but he shot straight at Waters.

In the final minute Lochhead played the ball forward to Smith and he ran into the Elgin box before shooting into the bottom corner to make it 6-0.

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A tough afternoon for Elgin and an earlier change might have restricted some of the damage in the first half.  And impressive performance by Dunfermline who looked as if they still had another gear to go into it.

Higginbotham, Paton and Clark played well for the hosts, with McHardy and McGovern the best for Elgin.

Our late arrival meant that the programme sellers had long since gone and despite what it said on the door, the club shop didn’t open after the game, as all their stock was at a different venue for the following day’s open day.

Full Time: Dunfermline Athletic 6 Elgin City 0

Admission: £10

Dunfermline Athletic: 1 Sean Murdoch, 2 Ryan Williamson, 5 Callum Morris, 6 Lee Ashcroft, 3 Lewis Martin, 7 Kallum Higginbotham, 15 Michael Paton (Lochhead 60), 8 Nat Wedderburn, 11 Joe Cardle, 9 Declan McManus (M`Voto 78), 10 Nicky Clark (Smith 72).  Subs: 20 Cammy Gill, 4 Jean-Yves M`Voto, 18 Conner Duthie, 19 Scott Lochhead, 21 Luke Brandon, 22 Stuart Morrison, 23 Callum Smith.

Elgin City: 1 Marc Waters, 2 Matthew Cooper, 5 Cameron Eadie, 4 Darryl McHardy, 3 Ross McKinnon (Bronsky 45), 6 John Paul McGovern, 7 Jamie Reid (Ferguson 56), 8 Brian Cameron, 10 Thomas Reilly, 11 Chris Dodd, 9 Chris McLeish (Sutherland 45).  Subs: 21 Trevor Dear, 12 Ally Sutherland, 14 Scott Smith, 15 Callum Ferguson, 16 Stephen Bronsky, 17 David Wilson.

Referee: David Munro

Programme: ?

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