DERBY JOY AS RAITH GO TOP
Second-half goals from Bobby Barr and Mark Stewart saw Raith victorious over derby rivals Dunfermline amid tumultuous scenes at Starks Park this afternoon. With a mixture of dogged tackling, perspiration, and genuine quality, Raith took all three points from a gripping and hotly contested derby fixture.
Despite a first-half spent defending deep against Dunfermline’s vibrant and mobile attacking foursome, Raith started the second half strongly, showed greater guts and determination as the half wore on, and ultimately scored two top-quality goals in the final stages to run out clear winners. Raith deservedly head the Scottish Championship League table with three wins out of three.
For this early acid test of Gary Locke’s new Raith side, the manager showed faith with his mixture of new signings and familiar faces who have propelled the Rovers to the top of the early Championship standings. Jean-Yves M’Voto partnered Kyle Benedictus at the heart of the Raith defence, a midfield of Barr Matthews Callachan and Jordan Thompson supported Lewis Vaughan and Declan McManus upfront. Australian youth international Aaron Lennox continued in goal, following his impressive showing in last week’s win over St Mirren.
The visitors, like Raith, showed a number of changes from last season’s side. With experienced faces like Josh Falkingham having moved on, Dunfermline have worked hard to attract replacements of a similar calibre. Gavin Reilly, on loan from Hearts, started upfront – Pars fans keen no doubt for the loanee striker to restore Dunfermline’s attacking edge, missing since the departure of thirty-goal El-Bakhtaoui in the summer. Manager Allan Johnston’s only change was to restore Lewis Martin to centre-half following his suspension from last week’s narrow defeat at Easter Road – Calum Fordyce returned to the bench.
Aside the excitement of the first local derby for three years, today’s fixture promised tactical and personal battles all across the pitch – would Raith’s new central defensive partnership cope with the drive of Reilly upfront? Would Raith miss the experienced and battle-hardened Ian Davidson in midfield, or would the youth of Ross Callachan and Jordan Thompson match the experienced Geggan and Rhys McCabe in midfield? Both sets of fans can remember recent match-winning interventions from wide-man Joe Cardle – would the perma-tanned winger prove decisive today?
Under heavy skies and with rain threatening, the early atmosphere inside this grand old corner of Scottish footballing fokelore fizzed like in days gone by. Raith came out of the blocks quickest – a Matthews rising shot from McHattie’s cross asking the first question.
The first five minutes were understandably hectic, as both sides were keen to set the initial tempo – Higginbotham and Williamson combined well down Dunfermline’s right, checking Barr’s forward running and ensuring McHattie remained billeted to his defensive post. From that flank, Reilly fired early and wide from a narrow angle when bearing down on Lennox.
Callachan and Thompson leapt into early tackles against Geggan and McCabe – as jerseys were pulled and elbows flew, referee Muir commendably let the play flow as best as his judgement allowed.
Dunfermline’s Richards-Everton – an imposing presence at well over 6ft – had a chequered half. Mobile and determined, he shackled McManus early on, winning headers and not afraid to challenge the diminutive Raith striker to a foot-race. Later in the half, he would suffer the ignominy of a mis-control, a fall on the ball, and a yellow card for deliberate handball.
With ten minutes gone, a driven deep cross from Barr found space behind Richards-Everton, Matthews narrowly failing to connect at full stretch with a diving header.
From a slower start, Dunfermline grew in stature as the first half wore on, and with twenty minutes gone, were firmly in control. Moffat and Reilly interchanged well in front of Raith’s two centre-halves, and Cardle and Higginbotham both showed willingness to run deep into the final third to test the legs of Raith’s rearguard. Quarter of an hour in, McCabe’s fine driven effort brushed the roof of Lennox’s net from thirty yards.
The pressure from the away side continued, as Raith were forced to closer and closer back toward their own support in the South Stand. Reilly’s weak header from Higginbotham’s free-kick failed to trouble Lennox. A succession of corners followed, Benedictus and M’Voto battling bravely under heavy aerial bombardment from Dunfermline’s Martin and Richards-Everton.
With twenty-five minutes gone, ugly scenes in midfield. Reilly was caught by Thomson, with Matthews and Cardle flying in for the loose ball. With Cardle writhing, the resulting flare-up saw numerous players jostling and grappling – referee Muir opted to book Matthews for his initial challenge, and Dunfermline’s Higginbotham for rushing aggressively to centre stage. This season, referees have been instructed to deal strongly with players getting involved after a whistle – referee Muir’s booking of Higginbotham saw the new rule implemented exactly as intended. Time will tell if player behaviour changes as a result.
Cardle was causing problems again moments later – tricking his way infield, and drawing a foul from a frustrated Callaghan on the edge of the Raith area. Higginbotham’s excellent free-kick was spectacularly turned over by Lennox at full-stretch. This Fife derby was producing plenty blood and thunder, but also quality – both free-kick and save were out of the top drawer.
Moffat’s shot from another Dunfermline corner was hoofed clear by Benedictus, with a follow-up blast from McCabe flying high over. Cardle was tripped by Thompson while springing another raid – referee Muir produced another of five first-half bookings.
At the other end, Raith managed few clear-cut chances but retained a clear threat. Vaughan curled a dangerous free-kick toward the top-corner, deflected clear by Hutton’s out-stretched left-hand. A bulldozing M’Voto met a Thompson corner at full steam, only for pushing inside the visitor’s six-yard box to draw a whistle from referee Muir.
The half ended with chances at both ends, Raith having survived a period of onslaught from the Pars. Reilly’s turn and shot was well-saved low to his left by Lennox, Geggan clattered Jason Thomson to earn a booking, and Vaughan and McManus had further glimpses of goal. Dunfermline ended the half with a flourish – McCabe shooting wide, Cardle troubling Thomson, and only M’Voto’s neat footwork and strong presence easing Reilly away from a further shooting opportunity.
As both sides trooped off at half-time, the visitors had more reason to reflect positively on the half – Cardle, Reilly, Moffat, and Higginbotham had each caused problems individually, and as an attacking quartet, had asked questions which Raith had only answered through a mixture of dogged defending and last-ditch tackling. While Raith keeper Lennox had had relatively few direct saves to make, the flow of play for the most part had been toward his goal.
Raith started the second half bursting to reclaim territory lost in the opening forty-five. Captain Jason Thomson flew the flag leading his soldiers forward – his flying raid down the right flank reached the by-line before being crowded out; McManus’s cross was inches away from Vaughan’s leap; and Callachan’s low shot was collected well by Hutton. With fifty minutes gone, a penalty claim: a bustling run into the box saw Vaughan go down under pressure from Richards-Everton and goal-keeper Hutton; referee Muir turned away.
At the other end, Dunfermline reminded the home side of their range of threats in forward areas – Williamson charging in from right-back to shoot across Lennox, a fine save from the Raith keeper sending the ball a hair’s-breadth wide of the far post.
Raith’s Australian goal-keeper Lennox caused real concern during the second forty-five – notwithstanding some fine saves and looking solid under the high ball, his mobility was extremely limited, and was clearly nursing a thigh or hamstring injury. With Kevin Cuthbert also injured, Locke didn’t risk a change; Benedictus and M’Voto covered deep to save their keeper from aggravating his injury further. Dunfermline’s best chance of the second half saw Reilly and McCabe swing at a loose ball in the box, Thomson and Benedictus blocked and twisted to clear, with Lennox reaching high to claim, and requiring immediate treatment for his troubles.
Unlike in the first forty-five, Raith showed a clear fluidity through the central third, with McManus and Vaughan both finding space to run at their men. McManus picked up a Callachan pass to channel a direct attack at a retreating Ashcroft at the heart of Dunfermline’s defence – he thumped his shot straight at keeper Hutton. Barr ran at Richards-Everton moments later, Hutton also gathering the goal-bound shot.
With twenty minutes to go, a fine chance for Raith – McManus running clear in on goal, with only a fine covering challenge from Martin preventing a shot on goal.
Moments later, bedlam in the South Stand as Raith opened the scoring. With another midfield burst, Vaughan swept past Geggan; with the referee playing a great advantage after Geggan’s despairing lunge, the ball worked its way to Barr, who made space for himself on the edge of the area and struck a crisp shot low to Hutton’s left, nestling in the corner of the net.
Substitute Rudi Skacel added a further dimension, introduced before Raith’s opener for a tiring Jordan Thompson. The experienced Czech added maturity in the final third, holding the ball up and feed runners. He fell victim to another new refereeing initiative this season – after a cynical foul by McCabe, Skacel waved an imaginary yellow card at referee Muir, and received a genuine one in response.
Dunfermline were tiring – Williamson’s tame shot fell the wrong side of Lennox’s post, without testing the injured Raith keeper. Moffat and McCabe were withdrawn, as the newly-promoted visitors felt the higher tempo established by a Raith side who looked in better physical condition as the match wore on. Although the personnel have changed, the team spirit gained from last season’s play-off run was Raith’s twelfth man today.
The home side swept forward, large spaces opening in midfield. Stewart, on for Vaughan, ran directly at Martin and Richards-Everton, pulling both wide and clearing space for midfield runners. Following one burst, the impressive McHattie stung the palms of Hutton from distance. Starks Park was raucous, as Raith’s fans sensed their rivals were there for the taking.
With seventy-nine minutes on the clock, the match was won. Stewart’s driving run and shot was poorly cleared; McHattie did wonderfully well to control and advance. With Skacel clear to his left, the former Hearts and Kilmarnock man picked out Stewart in a central position, and with a gloriously cool head in a riotous atmosphere, Stewart side-stepped his man and stroked a curling shot high beyond Hutton from twenty yards. Amid euphoric scenes, Dunfermline players collapsed to the turf as Gary Locke and his management team punched the air with delight.
The final ten minutes saw much effort but little real quality – Callachan and Geggan thumped into each other, with the visiting captain coming off worst from the heavy challenge; Cardle sent a 35-yard strike high into the away support; and man-of-the-match M’Voto thumped clear numerous howitzers fired forward as the visitors emptied their arsenal in hope of late salvation. Skacel and Barr both fired shots at Hutton, while a late flurry of Dunfermline corners were cleared by the massed ranks of the Raith defence.
As the match moved into injury time, tensions eased as Raith’s defence saw out the closing minutes without further drama, Dunfermline’s fans headed for the exits, and the home support ended the match in raptures.
Following poor spells in the first half, Raith showed defensive and attacking qualities in a second-half which showed spirit, drive, and togetherness as Dunfermline tired in the latter stages. Raith can celebrate a battling win over their derby rivals, and look forward with confidence to next week’s trip to Tannadice to face Dundee United.
RaithTV spoke with a delighted Gaffer after the 2-0 derby win over Dunfermline
RaithTV chatted with the MOTM from Saturday’s Derby win against Dunfermline
This is an all ticket match therefore fans must purchase a ticket from the ticket office before entering the turnstiles. The ticket office will be open until 4pm on Friday 19th August and from 11am – 3pm on Saturday 20th August.
Dunfermline are the visitors to Stark’s Park this Saturday, as Rovers look to extend their stay at the top of the Championship with victory in the Kingdom derby.
It’ll be the first time the two sides have met on league business in over three years, with the last fixture coming in March 2013, when goals from Greig Spence and Andy Geggan ensured the points were shared in a 1-1 draw.
Whilst Gary Locke’s side currently sit top of the heap, Dunfermline aren’t too far behind, residing in fourth place, after a 4-3 win over Dumbarton was followed up with a narrow 2-1 defeat to Hibernian at Easter Road.
Manager, Allan Johnston was bullish in the summer regarding the clubs potential this season, and it’s easy to see why, with the former Kilmarnock and Queen of the South manager augmenting a side which ran away with the League One title last term.
Defender Lee Ashcroft was signed after he left Rugby Park, while former Cowdenbeath and Inverness Caledonian Thistle midfielder, Nat Wedderburn was also brought on board.
Left sided players, Euan Spark and Kallum Higginbotham were plucked from Dundee United and Kilmarnock respectively, while forwards Gavin Reilly and Paul McMullan were both brought in on loan from Hearts and Celtic.
If Rovers can avoid defeat on Saturday, then it’ll extend their unbeaten league sequence to 14 games, a run which started back in March with a 4-3 win over St. Mirren. Their last home defeat was a 1-0 loss to Rangers back in February.
However, Raith have a poor recent record against the Pars in the league, with just two wins and two draws from the last ten match ups. Their last league win over Dunfermline was back in 2011, when goals from Mark Campbell and Gregory Tade sealed the victory in a 2-1 win at Stark’s Park.
Saturday’s match referee will be Alan Muir.
Head-To-Head League Record At Stark’s Park:
Raith Rovers Wins: 14 | Dunfermline Athletic Wins: 18 | Draws: 15
Raith Rovers Goals: 71 | Dunfermline Athletic Goals: 68
Raith Rovers: W-W-D-L-W-W
Dunfermline Atheltic: W-W-L-L-W-L
Top Goal Scorers:
Raith Rovers: Ross Callachan 2 | Declan McManus 2 | Lewis Vaughan 2
Dunfermline Athletic: Andy Geggan 4 | Joe Cardle 3 | Michael Moffat 2
Raith Rovers 6/5 | Dunfermline Athletic 11/5 | Draw 13/5