Point Gained In Dens Park Stalemate
Raith Rovers gained a valuable point last night, after a hard-fought 0-0 draw, against Championship leaders Dundee.
Grant Murray made just one change from the weekend’s 2-1 win over Morton, with Greig Spence’s two-goal cameo against the Greenock club, ensuring his starting berth at the expense of Gordon Smith, who dropped to the bench.
Dundee on the other hand were missing Kevin McBride, whose place in midfield was taken by ex-Rovers captain Iain Davidson, while Steven Doris came in for the injured Christian Nadé.
Although the players weren’t aided by the blustery conditions, the opening period was a fairly scrappy affair, with both sides struggling to piece together any bright passages of play. That said, Raith were probably the side in the ascendency at this point, with Spence and John Baird, both looking lively up-front.
The first half-chance was created in the 10th minute. Grant Anderson swung a low ball into the box, and while it made its way beyond Wilie Dyer, the ex-Raith defender did just enough to prevent Spence applying the finishing touch at the back post.
Dundee’s first real chance came after quarter-of-an-hour, after Dyer split up an attack involving Jason Thomson and Anderson, his cross was flicked towards goal by Doris, but it lacked conviction, and was straight at Lee Robinson.
Despite Raith looking the brighter of the two sides, they were struggling to create anything of real note. Kevin Moon and Liam Fox were winning the midfield battle against Gavin Rae and Davidson, while Joe Cardle and Anderson both looked lively. In Kyle Benedictus and Declan Gallagher however, Dundee have one of the best central-defensive pairings at this level, and they were showing just why Paul Hartley has watched his new side keep four clean sheets, in his previous five games in charge.
Dundee goalkeeper Kyle Letheren was forced into a good save after 25 minutes. Greig Spence picked up possession wide on the left, thirty yards from goal, and cut past two defenders, before sending in a cross-come-shot, that almost saw Baird apply a final touch.
Five minutes later, Letheren made an even better stop, clawing away an Anderson attempt from six-yards, after Joe Cardle had teed the right-winger up, from the left-hand-side.
Rovers pressure was growing, and three consecutive corner-kicks, culminated in a Baird shot which was blocked a yard from goal, by foul means according to the nearby Raith players, who appealed for a penalty, perhaps more in hope than expectation.
By this stage, two Raith players had made their way into referee Stephen Finnie’s notebook. Kevin Moon for a robust foul, and Joe Cardle for disputing a decision.
Rovers front duo then had their best piece of interaction just before the break, with Baird supplying Spence with a chance inside the box, however, with his back to goal, his turn and shot was blocked.
Dundee’s first-half performance had been well short of what had been expected, and despite having the speed of Martin Boyle on their right-hand-side, their build up play was slow and ponderous, and in Rae and Davidson in particular, their passes were going from side-to-side, rather than forward. Their frustration was such, that Benedictus attempted a forty-yard dig at goal in the closing stages, which bobbled well wide, much to the home fans displeasure.
The half would end on a sour note for Raith Rovers though, with the worrying sight of Paul Watson lying in a heap inside his own penalty area. The centre-half, who had just returned from a broken foot, had to be helped off at the interval, bringing an encouraging half, to a troubling end.
Watson was replaced by Reece Donaldson at the interval, and if the young defender was unsure just how big a task he had on his hands in shackling Peter MacDonald, then the opening seconds of the second-half, would have been illuminating for him.
In Dundee’s best move of the match, a sweeping attack involving Rae and MacDonald, ended with Martin Boyle finding time in the box, but he couldn’t quite get hold of his shot, allowing Robinson to smother well.
The half had barely started, and Raith were forced into another change, when Kevin Moon, was forced off with an injury. He was replaced in the middle of the park by Fraser Mullen.
The second half had begun in an even more scrappy fashion than the first, but there was a sense that the enforced changes had disrupted Raith’s flow. Dundee were failing to eke out too many chances, but the away team were starting to drop deeper, as Dundee started to boss possession.
With half-an-hour remaining, Ryan Conroy replaced the ineffective Steven Doris, meaning Peter MacDonald became a lone-striker, with Jim McAllister playing behind him. If anything, this almost seemed to stifle Dundee’s creativity, in a game where it looked like they were starting to turn-the-screw.
Chances were at a premium however. MacDonald tried an audacious overhead kick, while McAllister flashed a shot over the bar. Davidson also tried his luck, with a half-volley from thirty-yards, but it was straight at Robinson.
With fifteen minutes remaining, the Raith goalkeeper was booked for biding his time too long while taking a goal-kick.
Rovers attacks during the second-half had been brief forays rather than the sustained momentum from the first period, and despite getting into a promising position with ten minutes remaining, Grant Anderson spurned his chance from just outside the box.
Dundee then forced four corners in a row, which Raith defended well, and despite Dundee looking the likelier winners, they never truly tested Robinson.
With five minutes left, Grant Murray made his final change, replacing Greig Spence, with Gordon Smith.
Rovers saw out the remaining time reasonably comfortably, winning a point which sees them move seven clear of Cowdenbeath, and taking them level on points with Saturday’s opponents, Livingston.
Curiously, it means that Murray’s men have won one, and drawn twice in five games against Dundee this season, despite the fact no Raith player managed to get himself on the score sheet against the Dens Park club.
With four points out of six, it’s been a good few days for Raith. A first league win since December, was followed up by their first clean sheet since January, while a victory this coming Saturday, would certainly rekindle hope of a promotion play-off push during the closing stages of the season.
The dominant first-half display was as impressive as Raith have performed for some time, although the injuries to key players, did put a blight on the evening.
Rovers will hope to build on the positives however, as they welcome Livingston to Stark’s Park, this Saturday.
Copyright Eddie Doig