Derby Disappointment As Raith Lose Out
It may be a new year, but there was a familiar story at Stark’s Park this afternoon, as Raith Rovers bluntness in front of goal continued, as they went down to a 2-0 defeat to near neighbours Dunfermline in the Fife derby.
Manager Gary Locke made two changes from the draw against Hibernian, one of which was enforced with central defender Kyle Benedictus missing out through suspension.
He was replaced in the line-up by Kevin McHattie who returned from injury, allowing captain, Jason Thomson to return to his normal position on the right, while Iain Davidson moved infield to partner Jean-Yves M’Voto.
Also dropping out was Ross Matthews, with Ross Callachan returning to the fold after missing the Easter Road clash through suspension.
With Rudi Skacel and Declan McManus continuing there partnership up front, there was no room for either of Rovers most recent acquisitions, with the two Ryans, Hardie and Stevenson having to be content with a place on the bench.
Dunfermline were the team with the better form heading into this one, and they were out the traps quickly, with Kallum Higginbotham and Michael Moffat linking up well with each other down the left, and although the latter’s cut-back found John Herron just outside the six-yard box, he failed to control it properly, and his tame shot fell kindly for Kevin Cuthbert, who was able to pluck it out the air.
The play was all flowing towards the Raith ‘keeper in the early passages of play, and he was called into making his first real stop after seven minutes, when he dived full length to stop a fiercely struck 20-yard free kick from Paul McMullan.
He pulled off an even better stop a few moments later when Lee Ashcroft’s header was clawed away after Higginbotham had supplied the cross, but the Pars gained the lead they deserved from the resulting corner kick in the 11th minute.
Once more, Higginbotham was the provider, but while his cross was a good one, Rovers were the architects of their own downfall, with statuesque defending affording Nicky Clark the freedom of the six-yard-box to nod home from close range.
Rovers had yet to really get out of first gear, and other than a wayward shot from Ross Callachan which headed towards the car wash behind the North Stand, they’d shown little in an attacking sense.
As the half progressed however, they were tentatively starting to show some composure and gain some time on the ball, and a well worked move from a throw-in after 20 minutes, ended with a shot from Kevin McHattie being deflected wide for a corner.
While Bobby Barr and Chris Johnston were making good headway down both flanks, their crosses were failing to cause too much consternation for the Pars back-line, with the defenders clearing the majority of them, and Murdoch claiming the rest.
Rovers did have the ball in the net with five minutes of the half remaining, only for it to be disallowed.
A McManus shot was deflected into the path of Skacel who guided the ball home, but the linesman’s flag brought an abrupt end to the celebrations.
Rovers were almost left to rue that decision even more a few moments later, when Athletic almost doubled their advantage moments later.
With play quickly switching to the other end of the park, a soft header from Thomson was seized upon by Higginbotham, who cut inside and lashed a shot into the side netting from 20-yards.
While Rovers had started to dictate possession after a somewhat ropy opening period, they’d yet to really trouble Murdoch in a first-half which lacked a sense of inventiveness from Gary Locke’s men.
The early signs of the second-period seemed positive though, with McManus seeing his shot deflected for a corner almost straight from kick-off.
Unfortunately from a Raith point of view however, it wasn’t the start of a sustained period of pressure, and another jinking run from the impressive McMullan, allowed him the space to send a cross into the area which caused an undo amount of chaos, bobbling around in the six-yard area before eventually being hacked clear.
Rovers then had a huge let off after 55 minutes.
A long free-kick was sent into the area by Andy Geggan, and after the ball was headed down into Clark’s path, his shot from just a couple of yards out was somehow kept out by Cuthbert’s leg.
That was the signal for Locke to change things up, as Skacel made way for the return of Ryan Hardie, but while the 19-year-old looked eager to work the channels, the flow of the game continued in much the same way.
Rovers were enjoying the bulk of the ball, but weren’t creating anything of note, with Barr and Jonston shackled more effectively than they had been in the first, while the midfield pairing of Callachan and Jordan Thompson were struggling to create much of note either.
That meant that a ball over the top became the go-to option, and while McManus and Hardie were willing, it was meagre offerings to work with.
On the other hand, the Pars were looking dangerous on the counter, and they should have made it 2-0 with a quarter of the game remaining, but Clark steered his chance wide after racing through on goal with just Cuthbert to beat.
Locke then made a double substitution, with Stevenson and Mark Stewart coming on for Johnstone and McManus, with the new signing helping Hardie up-top, with Stewart moving to the left.
It was the last throw of the dice, but it failed to have the desired effect, as Dunfermline put the match beyond doubt after 78 minutes.
Higginbotham was involved again, when his cross was initially cleared away, but only as far as McMullan, who returned it to the former Partick winger, whose fierce cross across goal was touched home by Ashcroft, to send the large Pars support into rapture.
Even at this late juncture, a goal could have led to a barnstorming finish, but Rovers never looked like grabbing one, as their winless run stretches to seven matches.
RaithTV spoke with the Gaffer after the 2-0 Derby defeat to Dunfermline
The New Year begins with a Fife derby between Raith Rovers and Dunfermline at Stark’s Park for the first time since January 2011 this Monday, when the two sides meet for the third time this season.
Rovers have yet to concede a goal to their near neighbours this term, with a 2-0 win at Stark’s Park in the first encounter back in August, thanks to goals from Bobby Barr and Mark Stewart, while a somewhat drab 0-0 draw was played out at East End Park at the beginning of November.
That 0-0 draw made it three consecutive league games without loss to Athletic, and if Gary Locke’s team can stretch that to four on Monday, it’ll be their best sequence since going five unbeaten in a period that stretched from 1999 to 2009.
However, Allan Johnston’s team will be heading into the match in fine fettle, with an improvement in form taking them up to seventh in the table, thanks to just one defeat in their last six matches.
Rovers have posted the same amount of losses in that time too, but with no wins and five draws, while Dunfermline’s record of two victories sees them taking the more impressive form into the match.
Those wins came at the expense of St. Mirren and Morton, with the latter, the Pars first win over a top-five team this season.
Rovers will be looking to extend their good run against the bottom-five clubs this term, with five wins and three draws from their ten meetings with teams currently situated in the lower half of the Championship. Their only defeats so far have come against Queen of the South, and St. Mirren.
A win for Dunfermline would move them to within four points of Raith in the table, while depending on how results go on Hogmanay, a win for Rovers could see them moving up to third.
Rovers have the inferior record in the last ten league meetings, with three wins and three draws from the last ten match ups.
Monday’s match referee will be Don Robertson.
Head-To-Head League Record at Stark’s Park:
Raith Rovers Wins: 15 | Dunfermline Athletic Wins: 18 | Draws: 15
Raith Rovers Goals: 73 | Dunfermline Athletic Goals: 68
Raith Rovers: D-D-D-L-D-D
Dunfermline Athletic: L-W-D-W-D-D
Top Goal Scorers:
Raith Rovers: Mark Stewart 5 | Declan McManus 4 | Ross Callachan 3
Dunfermline Athletic: Nicky Clarke 6 | Farid El Alagui 4 | Michael Moffat 4 | Andy Geggan 4
Raith Rovers: 21/20 | Dunfermline Athletic: 13/5 | Draw: 5/2