Fans Denied Match of the Day in Dundee
A crowd of over 5,000 observed a minute’s silence – marred by a vocal seagulls – hoping for a good match between the best footballing sides in the Championship. The conditions were promising with a clear sky and it was not too cold for the fans. Big games like this attract a decent number of neutrals and a Canadian couple got a name check at half time as it was their first game. Sadly for all attending the match was not worthy of the Divisons highest prices.
A decent Rovers support were pleased to be in the stand behind the goal having on recent visits been crammed into the old stand. Laidlaw started in goal with new signing Colin Stewart on the bench. Joe Cardle returned to the starting line up with Kevin McCann making way. Ex-Rovers Kevin McBride was on the bench and Iain Davidson lined up at centre half.
In 47 seconds Laidlaw made a great save when a good run and cross to the front post was headed goal ward by Peter McDonald. Young Ross’s reflex save blocked it away and the ball was cleared. Then Dundee’s Conroy hit an optimistic first time effort wide on the end of a deep cross. The Rovers won the first corner in the 7th minute and the ball was recycled wide where Cardle and Davidson tangled. Davo was spoken to by referee Andrew Dallas – a name which will sadly feature throughout this report. From a second Raith corner Paul Watson’s low header went behind.
Following the home sides first corner in the 13th the Rovers broke and Liam Fox had a shot from about 25 yards but it was wayward. A minute later a Dundee man got into the box alone and Laidlaw did well making a good save while everyone else looked at the rightly raised flag for offside. Keepers can’t wait for a whistle and the Ross was quick off his line doing well even if it was irrelevant. As the match developed neither side had got an early control of the game but things were warming up nicely. The home keeper Letheren showed he was alert getting to a clever dink from Elliot just before the inrushing Booth. Home man Gallagher needlessly let the ball roll under his foot but the Rovers failed to capitalise as the visitors continued the first good spell by either side cheered on by the vocal travelling support. Davidson had to be on his toes to mop up after a Raith dummy looked to open up the home defence.
McDonald had a header from 12 yards tamely go wide as the home side tried to re-gain some impetus. Elliot nearly skipped away from a well timed challenge from last man Gallagher. McDonald went down in the box and was rightly ignored. Dundee were awarded a free kick which was fired into the wall at head height where if hit Booth’s arm as he endeavoured to protect his face. Referee Dallas however decided that this was intentional hand ball and to the consternation of the nearby Rovers fans booked the Hibs loanee. Conroy took advantage of the free kick from the edge of the box and curled a good strike into the net putting the home side one up in what was a very even game.
Riley was penalised for a dive in the middle of the field then the same man knocked the ball past Booth and continued his run into the Rovers left back. Dallas trotted over and raised a yellow then red card sending off the Rovers man. The same thing happens all the time with defenders unable to get out of the way of the attacker running at him until the invention of Star Trek style teleporters. The visiting fans had not taken at all kindly to the two decisions in three minutes that undid all the good work the Rovers had put in. Young Callum probably wished Scotty could beam him up. That in the 29th minute sadly ended the hopes of any neutrals for a good game and most would have predicted a heavy defeat for the now ten man visitors with an hour to go…
Conroy had another curling free kick which this time went wide then Gordon Smith was removed, replaced by Kevin McCann who went into the
left back slot. Grant Anderson – who’s enjoying the best spell of his Rovers career – skipped away from Lockwood’s attempt to take him out and the move resulted in Elliot’s shot whipping across goal and past. Moon made a trademark run into the box and his head flick on was well taken by Letheren. Riley had a go from 22 yards as the Rovers defence limited the opportunities for the home side. A rare moment of quality just before the half saw Cardle flick the ball past a Dee man and Gallagher hauled back Elliot but was not penalised as the whistler decided to end the half.
At half time a group of young home fans annoyed some stewards by not giving a ball back.
The home side again had the first chance when McDonald was able to get the ball over the exposed Laidlaw but Watson got back to clear and then the ball was scrambled away at the second attempt. The Rovers broke but the ball went back down the left side where Riley faced Anderson. Riley’s first effort pinged up in the air and Anderson was unluckily the only person in the ground who was unable to see where the ball went. Taking advantage Riley was able to get past the Raith man and his cross was headed home by what looked like an unmarked Wighton in the 47th. It was apparently the youngsters first goal, he’ll score few easier.
Two down and a man down many sides would have crumbled however Ellis stepped in well to cover a break in the 51st. The Rovers were not out of it and after advantage was played following another home foul Moon did well crossing but Cardle’s effort with his thigh went into the side netting. Gavin Rae who had been anonymous in the first half was enjoying more time in the middle of the park but his next contribution was to haul back Elliot before a Raith corner.
Jason Thomson heavily fouled Riley on the sideline and was rightly booked for the rash challenge in the 61st minute. In the 62nd the ten men threatened again when Elliot beat Davidson not once but twice and Callum’s ball into the danger zone was cleared. A minute later Davo didn’t let Callum do it again fouling him and correctly being booked. The resultant free kick into the box saw Elliot go to ground at the back post but calls for a penalty were ignored… Paul Smith was by no means alone in complaining loudly about the decision and referee Dallas spoke to him on the sideline. In the 65th McDonald shot wide. Riley was involved again in the 67th minute when Anderson got the ball towards the corner flag and the wide man nailed him with the worst foul of the game – it was both foolish and unnecessary as the Raith man was hemmed in. The home man was more than fortunate only to receive a yellow card.
In the 68th minute Cardle got into the box at speed and touched the ball on, already booked Davidson made contact with him and the winger went down. As the Rovers fans looked to the referee for a penalty few were surprised but all were disappointed when Dallas decided to book the Rovers man. Three minutes later Davidson dwelt on the ball losing it cheaply to Anderson but Elliot’s resultant shot had the sting taken of it by a defender and the keeper saved easily.
Cardle was replaced by Spence who was fouled by Gallagher within seconds. Dundee saw a ball into the Rovers box hooked away then Spence was fouled again by Gallagher. Boyle replaced Riley who was booed off and towards the tunnel by many of the exasperated travelling fans. Davidson was next to foul Spence and advantage was played but the move came to nothing. The Rovers were beginning to tire and the home side saw Watson cut out a dangerous pass well. The 79th minute saw a good chance for the home side when McDonald’s strike from 18 yards was well saved by Laidlaw. Gallagher then had a go on the angle which Laidlaw watched wide.
In the 82nd minute Callachan replaced Fox. McDonald scuffed a shot at Laidlaw and Spence did well wide but over hit his cross. As time ran out Spence took a ball down well and ran at the home defence, Letheren calmly took his low shot. For many Raith fans the last moments of the game summed up the match Elliot was blocked from getting the ball unfairly then McCann nipped in ahead of a home man only to be penalised.
The home side will feel they should have done better against ten men for an hour and the Rovers can take some pride in remaining dangerous throughout. This could and should have been a much better game for all concerned – not just the Canadians – and it didn’t reveal anything meaningful about the Championship race. All will hope that the Cup game in a few weeks will be a better spectacle.
Report – John Mainland, Pictures – Eddie Doig