Fife Derby Ends In Stalemate
Raith Rovers and Dunfermline played out their first goalless draw in 21 years, in a reasonably low-key Kingdom derby at East End Park.
Rovers were unchanged from their last outing against Queen of the South, with Mark Stewart surprisingly retaining his place, despite keyhole surgery on his wrist during the week.
Dunfermline had been in mixed form in the build up to this one, but they were straight on the offensive in the opening few moments. A well worked move down the left, ended with Farid El Alagui receiving the ball with his back to goal, but although he had enough room to sharply turn, his weak shot was easily gathered by Cuthbert.
Undaunted, Rovers were straight up the other end, when a weak back-pass almost let in Declan McManus, but Sean Murdoch rushed out of his area, reaching the ball at the same time as the Rovers forward, and the danger was eventually clattered away.
It was a hectic beginning to the game, but it failed to last, with the opening exchanges both brisk and lively, but whilst it was frantic stuff, it wasn’t producing a whole lot of goal mouth action.
El Alagui did manage to make some headway down the right on the quarter-hour mark, but his cross was calmly headed back to Cuthbert by Iain Davidson, as Nicky Clark hovered to pounce.
Joe Cardle was the next to threaten down the opposite flank, and while his low cross appeared to be finding its intended recipient in the six-yard-box, Kyle Benedictus managed to divert it away, just, with a well-timed toe-poke.
The home side were looking the more likely at this stage, and Clark was presented with a half-chance after 20 minutes. Andy Geggan aimed a ball towards El Alagui on the edge of the area, and while his knock down to Clark was a good one, the former Queen of the South striker slashed his effort high and wide from the right-hand side of the penalty box.
The match was struggling to settle down, and while there was plenty bluster and gumption on show, which was leading to some committed 50/50 challenges, the game had a dearth of any real quality.
Dunfermline were certainly proving the more productive of the two sides, with El Alagui in particular proving something of a nuisance to the Rovers rear-guard, but other than a timid shot from Clark in the 37th minute, Cuthbert had had little to trouble him.
That changed with five minutes of the half remaining though, when his intervention prevented the home side taking the lead.
Cardle picked the ball up deep, and his quick, direct run at the defence attracted players towards him, and his clever through pass to El Alagui saw him with just the keeper to beat, but from twelve yards, his low shot was excellently repelled by the Rovers custodian, who had spread himself well.
Rovers were starting to look a little ragged at this point, and a corner kick routine from the hosts, saw Higginbotham drag his set-piece to the edge of the area, but while Cardle had both time and space, his shot from the edge of the area lacked accuracy and flew wide.
Rovers had barely made it out their own half for the final 25 minutes or so of the first period, but they started far brighter in the second.
Chris Johnston did well down the left to win a corner, and while the delivery caused consternation for Murdoch, Davidson was unable to steer it home from the edge of the area.
Rovers continued to look the livelier for the first time in the match, and a snap-shot from Callachan from 25-yards was on target, but it too close to Murdoch who gathered confidently.
Despite the good opening to the second-half, Rovers had a let off in the 57th minute.
Higginbotham steered the ball past Benedictus who went to ground, and with the winger able to take his time and pick a target, his great cross to the back post looked likely to be headed home by Clark, but for the rising Davidson, who headed it away from Clark and out for a corner.
Five minutes later though, it was the home side who had the same feeling of relief.
A poor defensive header allowed in Stewart, and while he did well to hit the bye-line and pull it back to Callachan, the midfielder failed to get enough purchase on his chance from close range, allowing Murdoch the opportunity to block it on the line.
The second-period was certainly an upgrade on the first, and the Pars again come close on the hour mark, after the games best move.
Higginbotham’s excellent back-heel let in Herron, who managed to skip and sashay around three challenges and into the area. However, his shot from 12-yards was charged down, denying the on-loan Blackpool player a shot at the SPFL’s goal-of-the-month competition.
Murdoch had done well in the opening moments of the match by sprinting from his area, and he had to repeat the move with 20 minutes remaining, albeit with more mixed results.
Stewart was put through by Jordan Thompson, but the advancing Murdoch clattered the ball, Stewart and himself, and although Callachan had the opportunity to score from distance, his shot lacked conviction and direction, and the chance was lost
Three minutes later, Gary Locke made his first change, swapping off Johnston for Scott Roberts, and the midfielder was straight into action, swinging in a fine cross from the right, which Stewart could only toe-poke well wide, although his path to goal was obscured by a whole host of bodies.
Rudi Skacel then replaced Stewart for the last five minutes, but unlike last weekend, the late substitution was unable to bring a match winning spark to proceedings, as the game ended in stalemate.
With next weekend a free week due to the international break, Rovers next match will be in two weeks time, when they visit Dumbarton.
The match highlights video will appear here shortly
© Eddie Doig 2016
Interviews will appear soon
It’s the second Fife derby of the season this Saturday, with Raith Rovers travelling to East End Park, hoping for a repeat of the result which saw Raith take all three points from the first match up in August.
Despite an early injury to goalkeeper Aaron Lennox, which saw him hobbling for the majority of the match, second half goals from Bobby Barr and Mark Stewart handed Gary Locke’s men a 2-0 comfortable win.
That result was Rovers first win over the Pars since January 2011, but you have to go back to August 2009 for their last league win at East End Park, when a sensational strike from Grant Murray was followed up with a second half goal from Damian Casalinuovo in a 2-0 triumph.
The Rovers defence will need to be wary this weekend of a strike force which has scored more home goals than anyone else in the division, although conversely, no team in the Championship have conceded more home goals than Dunfermline either.
It’s that kind of mixed form which has seen Dunfermline slip down to eighth in the table, six points behind seventh placed Ayr United, and just a solitary point above ninth placed Dumbarton.
Rovers on the other hand are now up to third in the Championship, after last weekend’s last gasp win over Queen of the South, with Mark Stewart’s goal making it three wins and a draw from their last five matches.
One thing which can almost be guaranteed from the game is goals, with the last no-scoring league match way back in May 1995. The fixture was a tense affair, with both sides battling for the First Division title, which Raith managed to clinch the next week, with another nail-biting 0-0 draw, this time with Hamilton Accies.
Despite a win in this fixture last time out, Dunfermline have the upper hand in this fixture, with five wins and two draws from the last ten league meetings.
Saturday’s Kingdom derby referee will be Craig Thomson.
Head-to-Head League Record at East End Park:
Dunfermline Athletic Wins: 21 | Raith Rovers Wins: 18 | Draws: 8
Dunfermline Athletic Goals: 80 | Raith Rovers Goals: 70
Dunfermline Athletic: W-D-W-L-L-D
Raith Rovers: L-W-L-D-W-W
Top Goal Scorers:
Dunfermline Athletic: Joe Cardle 4 | Nicky Clarke 4 | Farid El Alagui 4 | Andy Geggan 4
Raith Rovers: Mark Stewart 5 | Declan McManus 4 | Ross Callachan 3
Dunfermline Athletic: 29/20 | Raith Rovers: 7/4 | Draw: 13/5