Return to 1961/1962 ECWC
Wednesday 25th October 1961
European Cup Winners Cup - Second Round First Leg
Dunfermline Athletic 5 (3) FK Vardar 0 (0)
On Friday 29th September 1961, club Director Bob Torrie travelled to London to watch the draw being made for the First Round proper (or Eighth Final as it was known) of the European Cup Winners Cup. His phone call back to Dunfermline with the news that Yugoslavian team FV Vardar Skopje were the opponents, must have started a rush for atlases back in Fife, as supporters tried to locate this strange sounding place.
Despite attempts by the Yugoslavs to have the first leg of the tie played in Skoipje, the Athletic board stood firm and it was agreed that Wednesday 25th October 1961 would be the date.
Skopje, standing on the banks of the River Vardar in Southern Yugoslavia has a population of around 200,000. The Dunfermline Press also advised its readers, that the town possessed an opium market.
This was to be the only the third foreign trip ever for the Athletic, with the previous ventures being the recent game in Dublin and the 1956 friendly tour of Switzerland. Travel arrangements proved to be something of a headache. Although Skopje has an airport, it was served by only one flight a day from Belgrade, and so initially it was thought that this section of the trip would have to be made by train. The cost of the trip was also proving to be a worry, with air fares costing in the region of £100 per head. It was expected that the total bill for the trip would be in the region of £4,000, which was a fortune in 1961.
It was decided that the game at East End Park would be all ticket, and a total ground capacity of 25,000 was set (1717 in the stand (the current main stand had not yet been built) and 23,000 in the ground). Prices were 15 shillings for the Centre Stand and 5 shillings for the ground. Boys and OAPs could gain admission for 3 shillings.
Following the Partick Thistle game, all the players received inoculations for their forthcoming trip to Yugoslavia. This lead to an outbreak of ‘injection flu’ around East End Park. Manager Stein’s cure was to send sufferers out for a brisk walk in the fresh air!
After the 4-0 away win against St Patrick’s, the Athletic had played five league games and had failed to win any, gaining only one point following a 1-1 draw away to Motherwell. As a result, the club had slipped down the league, and now found themselves fourth from the bottom in Division One.
FK Vardar were in the 14th year of their existence, and during their short history had experienced mixed fortune in the Yugoslav First and Second Divisions. They sat in the middle of the top division. Their participation in the European Cup Winners Cup came as a result of their 2-1 victory over Varticks in the final of the President Tito Cup. Their manager was the Hungarian, Antal Lika.
The FK Vardar team arrived at Turnhouse Airport on the Monday evening, and were greeted with the sight of rain, something they had not seen back home for some three months.
The first visit of continental opposition to Dunfermline had been eagerly anticipated by all concerned with the club, so it was disappointing that a crowd of just under 12,000 turned up to watch. For the game itself, Dunfermline won by 5 goals, but in truth it could have been many more, as they were so far ahead of their visitors.
It only took the Pars seven minutes to score their first goal. From a high corner kick, the Vardar goalie Milosesk punched the ball out, only for Alex Smith to drive a low shot home, via a defelction by Mojsov, into the net.
With Dickson leading the line enthusiastically, the Vardar defence looked shakey, and their keeper was easily the busiest man on the park. In one instance, Miloseski knocked away a net bound shot, only for the ball to fall to Smith. He then rushed out to block the follow up shot, only for the ball to rebound to Peebles. He managed to touch away Peebles shot, only for McDonald, who had raced into the centre, to knock the ball wide.
The one way traffic continued, and in 28 minutes it was 2-0 to the Pars. Melrose cut through the Vardar defence, and put a low ball into the centre, where Charlie Dickson dived and headed the ball into the net.
Minutes later, Jakimovski burst through at the other end, but Connachan raced out of goal to block the danger. However, that move was very much against the run of play, and with just one minute remaining before half time, Miller lobbed the ball high into the Vardar penalty area, where Charlie Dickson nodded it over the advancing keeper and into the net.
The second half was very much like the first, with the Athletic continuing to be well in command. With 10 minutes of the half gone, another goal arrived to put the Athletic on easy street. With Cunningham joining the attack at every opportunity, he swung over a cross from the left, which found Dickson’s head. His effort hit the near post and ran along the line to hit the other post. It looked as though the chance had gone, but up popped Harry Melrose to thump the ball into the back of the net.
Miloseski, the brave Yugoslav keeper, was injured in 59 minutes following a collision with Fraser, and he was still looking shaky when play resumed. Then three minutes later there was a controversial incident. Peebles had been penalised for obstruction, and after the whistle had gone, Tajcevski barged into him. The Belgian referee immediately ordered the Vardar left-half to leave the field, a punishment that did not appear to have been warranted.
The Athletic continued where they had left off, and with just seven minutes remaining on the clock, George Peebles touched home a Cunningham cross to complete the scoring.
In summing up the game, the Dunfermline Press said "this was no test for the Athletic and the return game on 8th November in Yugoslavia hardly seems necessary.
Dunfermline Athletic: Connachan, Fraser, Cunningham, Mailer, Williamson, Miller, McDonald, Peebles, Dickson, Smith, Melrose.
FK Vardar: Miloseski, Hristovski, Mojsov, Dacevski, Bozinovski, Tajcevski, Ilijevski, Zelenikia, Doncevski, Fulincevski, Jakimovski.
Referee: J Castelyn (Belgium)
At the dinner after the game, in honour of FK Vardar, Bob Kelly, president of the SFA, sympathised with the Yugoslavians over the ordering off of their player. He said "I think the referee conducted the game very well, except perhaps, for this slight error of judgement"
The win did not please everyone, and one disgruntled punter wrote to the Dunfermline Press to take issue with the manager and Chairman’s disappointment at the relatively low gate. S.A.C. as the writer called himself, blamed the poor turn out on the Pars disappointing position in the league (fourth bottom), and that the forwards have a problem scoring goals. S.A.C. felt that the club’s policy of trying to secure players for bargain prices was not the answer to manager Stein’s problems.
However on the plus side, the Dunfermline Press reported that the Scottish Cup run of the previous season had seen the club turn a debit balance of £3,231, into a credit balance of £18,274.