Dramatic Derby Defeat
Raith Rovers dismal away form returned to haunt them again this afternoon, as they lost 2-1 to East Fife at Bayview, a result which is their first reverse to the Methil men in over 30 years.
The defeat means Raith have taken full points on the road just twice this term, which for the only full-time team in the league, is a record which makes for disconcerting reading.
Leading 1-0 at the interval thanks to a goal from Liam Buchanan, it looked like Rovers would be extending their impressive sequence of results over their hosts, but a second-half collapse from John McGlynn’s men saw them leave Methil with nothing.
The manager made one change from last weekend’s 2-1 win over Brechin City, with Lewis Milne dropping out of the squad to be replaced on the right-wing by new signing Daniel Armstrong, who joined in midweek after being released by Wolverhampton Wanderers in the summer.
In a closely contested opening, East Fife were the first to threaten, when Anton Dowds was able to gather the ball on the edge of the area and spin his marker, before sending in a low drive that was straight at Robbie Thomson.
Rovers arguably should have opened the scoring in the seventh minute though, when Euan Murray’s cross from the right was met by Nathan Flanagan on the volley inside the area, but he couldn’t keep it down and the chance was lost.
Flanagan made amends in the 12th minute though, when he played a massive part in the game’s opening goal.
Gathering up possession on the left-hand-side, he cut infield before feeding Buchanan who was 25-yards from goal.
The striker had some work to do, but after nutmegging a defender, his route to goal was free, and he thumped a fine shot past Brett Long to put Raith one up.
East Fife had been enjoying a fine run of form until recent weeks, and they almost hit back in the 20th minute, when Scott Agnew wriggled away from Murray on the left-hand side, before sending in a cross which Ross Davidson glanced just wide.
Kevin Nisbet has been the man making the headlines for Rovers this season, but it was Buchanan who was looking lively in the opening quarter, riding two challenges and getting into a good position in the penalty area, but his attempted cutback for Nisbet was just cut out and the danger cleared.
Flanagan was looking sharp too, and after sashaying away from two markers on the left, his low cross was just too hard for Buchanan who was sliding in at the centre of the goal.
Both wings were proving rich breeding grounds for Raith chances, but they took a more direct route for their next pot at goal, with Callum Crane trying his luck from distance, but it was straight at Long.
The chances kept coming, and Rovers really should have made it two in the 32nd minute.
Flanagan’s set-piece from the left found Buchanan in bags of room and plum centre of goal, but he could only head it in Long’s direction, allowing the goalie to tip it over, with the goal at his mercy.
Rovers were enjoying their best spell of the game, and Matthews was next to chance his luck after being teed up just outside the area, but he dragged his low shot just wide.
The away side had arguably fashioned enough chances to finish the game by this stage, and Flanagan’s cross from the left found Armstrong at the back post, but his header from close range careered over the bar.
With half-time approaching, the game blew up in controversy, when John McGlynn was asked to move to the stand after disputing a yellow card for Matthews, but with seats in short supply, the Raith gaffer needed some persuasion to take a Bayview chair.
The second half saw a personnel change, with Davidson off injured and Jamie Watson coming on, with the youngster moving to right back and Murray shuffling over to a central position.
Robbie Thomson had had a reasonably quiet afternoon up until this stage, but he made a fantastic double save in the 55th minute, diving low to his right to tip away Davidson’s fierce drive, before getting back to his feet and stopping Mark Docherty’s shot with his leg.
The home side were bossing things now, and Thomson had to be alert again a moment later, when Kevin Smith pounced on a short pass back, but the ‘keeper spread himself well and blocked his effort.
The enforced alteration at half-time appeared to have disrupted Rovers momentum, and the defence, which had dealt comfortably with everything in the first period, was struggling to contain the hosts.
Rovers attacks had been few and far between in the second period, but Armstrong came close with 25-minute remaining, curling a shot just over the bar from the right-hand side.
Despite being up against it for much of the half, Rovers had the chance to double their advantage with around 20-minute left when Nisbet slipped in Buchanan, but after shaping to shoot, he cut inside into traffic and the chance was lost.
It was a moment that Rovers would regret, as they conceded twice in the final 15 minutes.
As has been the case on far too many occasions this season, Rovers were undone by a set-piece, with a corner from the right nodded down at the back post to Smith, who was able to squeeze in a shot from an angle and into the opposite corner.
Rovers went searching for a winner, but they were undone in the final seconds by gifting possession away in the middle of the park, and a fine passing move from Darren Young’s side ended with Aaron Dunsmore scoring from the edge of the penalty area.
The drama wasn’t finished there though, as goalkeeper Long, who’d celebrated wildly in front of the Raith fans for the equaliser, did so again for the winner, and was shown a straight red card for his over exuberance.
Rovers never looked like they’d take advantage of their numerical supremacy in the closing moments though, as they slipped an onerous looking 10 points behind Arbroath.
© Eddie Doig 2018
John McGlynn sat down with RaithTV after the derby match at Bayview
It’s third versus second this Saturday, as Raith Rovers head along the Fife coast to meet their near neighbours East Fife in a top-of-the-table derby.
The Methil side had been in imperious form, winning eight straight games in all competitions, a sequence which included two cup victories against Championship sides Partick Thistle and Queen of the South.
That impressive run of form lifted them from the foot of the table to third, although two successive defeats to Dumbarton and Arbroath now sees them four points behind second-placed Raith.
Rovers took 12 points from 12 against the Bayview side last term, but they found it tough going in the first meeting in August, in a game which featured a trio of penalties.
Kevin Nisbet opened the scoring from the spot after just nine minutes, but Rovers found themselves behind with 25 minutes to go, due to a brace from Scott Agnew, with his first also coming from the penalty spot.
Rovers struggled to contain the away side, who spurned a host of chances to win the match, but a second penalty from Nisbet ensured both teams would take a point each.
If Darren Young’s men are to go one better on Saturday, they’ll have to do what no East Fife side have achieved in 13 matches and 30 years, and beat Raith.
Rovers last defeat in this fixture came in March 1988, and while that game finished 1-0, this is a derby that generally produces goals, with 27 of them in the last seven meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be David Munro
Head-To-Head League Record At East Fife:
East Fife Wins: 15 | Raith Rovers Wins: 14 | Draws: 4
East Fife Goals: 65 | Raith Rovers Goals: 62
East Fife: W-W-W-W-L-L
Raith Rovers: D-W-D-W-L-W
Top Goal Scorers:
East Fife: Scott Agnew 5 | Rory Currie 4 | Craig Watson 2
Raith Rovers: Kevin Nisbet 15 | Liam Buchanan 4 | Lewis Vaughan 3
East Fife: 7/4 | Raith Rovers: 6/4 | Draw: 5/2