No – Score Draw is No Bore
Some goalless matches are drab, entirely forgettable affairs. However, this afternoon at Stark’s Park, Raith Rovers and Dundee served up a highly absorbing ninety minutes which more than made up for the lack of goals with goalmouth action and talking points aplenty.
Rovers manager Grant Murray made two injury-enforced changes, with last week’s hat-trick hero Greig Spence and Liam Fox missing out, replaced by Gordon Smith and Lewis Vaughan in the starting eleven for the home side.
Former Rover Willie Dyer took the field in John Brown’s line-up, although former Stark’s Park favourite Iain Davidson’s injury meant he had to settle for a place in the stand.
The opening exchanges were largely restricted to a midfield battle of wills, as the sides attempted to assert their presence on the proceedings. However, Dundee striker Peter MacDonald looked lively with two shots in the opening ten minutes giving the Rovers defence food for thought.
A flurry of corners around the ten-minute mark had the Rovers defence at sixes and sevens, and only desperate clearances kept the scores level. Five minutes later, Joe Cardle tried his luck from fully 30 yards, although his shot drifted harmlessly into the sizeable away support housed in the north stand.
Rovers forward Calum Elliot operated in an unusually withdrawn central midfield role, with Vaughan pushed up alongside Gordon Smith. However, it was Willie Dyer who was next to try his luck, with a speculative long-range shot which drifted well wide of the target.
Both sides attempted to play neat, controlled football, and for all this was undeniably pleasing on the eye for great swathes of play, neither goalkeeper was unduly troubled for most of the opening period. Ten minutes before the interval, the ever-dangerous MacDonald tumbled in the box under a challenge, although loud appeals for a penalty were waved aside by referee John Beaton. MacDonald was given a stern lecture by the official for his vociferous protests.
Clearly fired by a sense of injustice, MacDonald latched on to a loose ball in the Rovers box barely a minute later, and only a wonderfully-timed sliding challenge from Rovers defender Paul Watson prevented the hosts from going behind. Dundee did have the ball in the net shortly afterwards, although the referee had blown for an earlier infringement, and the celebrations in the away stand were duly curtailed.
Rovers continued to struggle with a succession of crosses into the box, and from one corner on the stroke of half-time, Dundee should have taken the lead. However, MacDonald’s unchallenged header from four yards sailed over the bar as the fans housed in the home stand behind David McGurn held their breath.
During the interval, those of a Raith Rovers persuasion would have feared that the match was in danger of replicating the league season curtain-raiser against Hamilton two weeks earlier, when failure to test the visiting goal cost the team dearly later in the match. However, Rovers emerged for the second half with renewed purpose to their play, and within ten minutes had forced Dundee goalkeeper Kyle Letheren into action.
Firstly, a whipped shot by winger Grant Anderson brought a save low to Letheren’s right, before a darting run into the box by Vaughan brought another smart blocking save by the keeper.
Rovers, clearly galvanised by a raucous home support, continued to push forward at every opportunity, although this eagerness for the fray resulted in a rapid succession of yellow cards as Elliot, Hill and Booth incurred the wrath of the match official around the hour mark to the chagrin of the Rovers fans.
Elliot could hardly deny his protests regarding a free-kick awarded against him deserved anything other than the game’s first booking, although Dougie Hill could perhaps nurse a grievance over his own caution, given he appeared to win the ball cleanly in a typically robust tackle at the halfway line.
The free-kick which resulted from the booking administered to Calum Booth almost brought the game’s opening goal, although an acrobatic diving save by McGurn from Declan Gallagher’s towering header ensured that parity ensued.
With twenty minutes remaining, Dundee substitute Steven Doris flashed a shot narrowly wide of the target, before Rovers fashioned an immediate reply. Vaughan’s neat back-heel from wide on the right touchline sent Cardle hurtling deep into the Dundee defence, although the winger’s square pass was wastefully blasted high over the bar by Elliot from twenty yards.
As the match entered its closing stages, Rovers continued to press for a decisive goal, although efforts from Cardle and Smith failed to trouble the Dundee keeper. The away side made a number of late changes in a bid to stifle Rovers’ efforts to find the net at home for the first time in the league this season, and, deep into injury time, Raith’s man of the match Vaughan tried his luck with a shot from 25 yards which rolled harmlessly wide for a goal kick.
In the end, this match provided one of those situations whereby both sets of fans would have left reasonably satisfied with a point from an entertaining encounter. From the evidence presented this afternoon, both clubs could harbour reasonable aspirations of pushing for the higher league places come the end of the season. For Rovers fans in particular, the feeling persists that finding the net at home on a regular basis could yet make this season one to remember for all those associated with the club.
Match Reporter: Donald Ramsay
Photographs copyright Tony Fimister 2013
Davie caught up with Grant after the draw with Dundee
Davie spoke to Man of the Match Lewis Vaughan after his first match in the starting line up
Ally Gourlay spoke to David McGurn after the Dundee match after the goalie reached 200 matches against Cowdenbeath last Saturday