DERBY DAY DEFEAT FOR RAITH
The first Fife Derby of the season ended in defeat for Raith, as East Fife ran out 4-2 winners at the end of keenly contested and controversial ninety minutes at the New Bayview. With the hosts energetic upfront and strong in the tackle, manager John McGlynn’s men struggled to impose themselves in the second half, leaving Darren Young’s men to take the plaudits of the home support at full-time.
Second-half goals from Chris Higgins, Ryan Wallace, and the influential Scott Agnew were enough to win all three points, with the teams having gone in level after a first-half marred for both sides by some inconsistent and unexplained refereeing decisions from young ref Craig Napier. Despite a late rally from Raith, East Fife’s pace upfront and resolute defence were enough to earn all three points. A serious-looking injury to midfielder Ross Matthews further sullied a disappointing outing for the Rovers.
With Raith’s home performance against Montrose having been transformed with the second-half introduction of Jamie Gullan, the former Hibs man had earned a starting role – Grant Anderson making way. Lewis Allan continued upfront, now Raith’s top scorer for the season with four goals. In the bright but blustery conditions, manager McGlynn would be looking for both control on the floor and the ability to go long when required – Keiron Bowie’s muscular presence in wide areas would be a key factor if and when Raith required to clear their lines.
For the hosts, the season had been a mixed bag. Although unbeaten, Darren Young’s side had missed opportunities against both Clyde and Peterhead, with both games ending in draws. Last week’s 4-1 home win over Airdire had proved cathartic – Danny Denholm and Ryan Wallace had both shone, each key parts of last season’s title-winning Arbroath side. Scott Agnew – with three goals to his name already – would look to build on his impressive start to the season. Unsurprisingly, East Fife were unchanged.
Both sides started well, looking to build on the previous week’s three-goal wins. Each team vied for the ascendency in the opening stages, conscious that this first Fife Derby of the campaign would set the tone for the early part of the season. Millar’s early drive flew just over Hart’s cross-bar following MacDonald’s good work on the opposite flank.
As expected, the wind played a major part. Gullan looked favourite to beat Murdoch to an early long ball, only for the stiff breeze to pull the ball out of play; East Fife keeper Hart’s goal-kicks struggled to reach half-way; a Dunsmore clearance flew straight into the stand. Agnew and Hendry – each side’s midfield dynamo – struggled to gain clear control.
With ten minutes gone, a defensive lapse saw Raith take the lead – Davidson’s deep ball from the right-back area saw centre-half Dunlop jostling with Lewis Allan. The defender misjudged his header, allowing Allan to round the stranded keeper and slot into an empty net. Dunlop held his head in anguish as the Raith striker took the plaudits of the boisterous travelling support. Raith had drawn first blood.
Davidson and Benedictus showed good composure as East Fife tried to hit back – Agnew and Watt were spritely in the midfield area, but Raith’s two centre-halves marshalled their defensive line well, keeping space to a minimum. In midfield, Hendry and Gullan started to raise the tempo – the latter nearly releasing Bowie into space behind full-back Slattery.
East Fife’s equaliser from Anton Dowds came right through the middle of Raith’s defence – Agnew burst clear, releasing Wallace to Davidson’ left. Following a scramble in the six-yard box, Wallace squared to Dowds who scrambled the ball past McGurn at the far-post. Gullan had the ball in Hart’s net moments later, but an early linesman’s flag cut short any celebrations.
Having drawn level, East Fife enjoyed their best spell of the half. With Spencer caught in midfield, Wallace fed Murdoch on the over-lap – the former meeting the fullback’s cross, heading strongly at McGurn. The Raith keeper pulled off a fine save on twenty-three minutes – Dunsmore burst into the box, McGurn blocking high to his right. East Fife’s Davidson clattered Hendry as the temperatures rose. Benedictus saw yellow, clashing with Dowds on the near touchline.
As the half-hour passed, the match was breathless. Wallace’s sharp drive at McGurn was well saved; Spencer clattered late into Agnew; Allan rounded Hart again, only for Murdoch to block his goal-bound effort from an angle. Spencer was booked following an ugly spell where several other challenges went unpunished – referee Napier struggled to maintain order. Agnew’s flick saw Murdoch volley high over when well-placed. Having started the better of the two teams, Raith were now on the back foot.
Fans of both sides had cause to complain – Wallace’s trip on Hendry in midfield earned a lecture but not a booking; Bowie caught Slattery in front of both dug-outs; John McGlynn was spoken to following a string of close encounters in midfield. Each set of fans took it in turns to howl their disapproval. Amongst the tumult, Wallace hit the bar with McGurn beaten. The former Arbroath striker had been the match’s key performer thus far – Raith would be fortunate to reach half-time still on terms.
The whistle at the interval was met with a chorus of boos – each side had had their moments, but several unexplained decisions left the referee the recipient of the warmest reception going down the tunnel at the half. While East Fife would reflect on a number of missed chances, Rovers nursed a series of grievances. Raith’s management team would need to channel the ill-feeling into positive endeavour in the second half.
The second half began, with both sides re-adjusting to the conditions – it was Dowds’ and Wallace’s turn to run long, while Raith’s Lewis Allan saw every ball hold up in the air above the East Fife defence. Again, Hendry and Agnew jinked and weaved in the middle of the park, trying to set their side in forward motion. Spencer shot weakly at Hart following a burst through midfield; Dowds had Davidson on the turn, only for the ball to run away from him. Allan’s sharp header required secure handling from Hart.
Full-back Kieron MacDonald was a key figure early on. Both Gullan and Spencer regularly looked for the former Airdrie man as an outlet from the centre of midfield; full-back Murdoch grappled and jostled, sensing the Raith man had the beating of him.
With nearly an hour gone, and against the run of play, the home side put their noses in front for the first time. Agnew’s corner saw McGurn at full stretch; the ball broke to Higgins, who lashed home through a forest of legs. With the wind at their backs, the home side had put themselves in prime position to take all three points.
Watt’s snapshot had alarm bells ringing in the Raith defence moments later. With Rovers readying substitute Grant Anderson, MacDonald earned yellow for a kick at Agnew – the East Fife midfielder steadied himself, and whipped over a delightful free-kick for Wallace to fire home. With twenty-five minutes left, Raith had a mountain to climb. Kieron Bowie made way for the experienced figure of Grant Anderson; the Raith support looking to their former hero for salvation.
Tempers flared again – with Ian Davidson and Dunsmore grappling under a Hendry free-kick, there was a stramash with a ruck forming. Again, referee Napier struggled to be heard, eventually cautioning both initial protagonists. With regular clashes in midfield, Matthews fell heavily, requiring lengthy treatment. Battle was paused, with the stricken Raith midfielder stretchered from the field – Dave McKay joining the fray.
From the restart, Dowds muscled his way past Benedictus and thumped the frame of McGurn’s goal with a fine volley. Mark Millar’s thundering challenge on East Fife’s Davidson rightly earned yellow. The two quickfire goals for the hosts, together with the lengthy stoppage while Matthews received treatment, looked to have taken the heart from the Raith fightback momentarily. Darren Young’s side closed down spaces quickly, marked their men, and spread passes far and wide when in possession. Rovers, while generating a volume of possession, struggled the create momentum to make a come-back look likely. Watt’s curling drive flew high over McGurn’s goal – with their side two up, East Fife’s fans cared not a jot.
However, with eighty-four minutes on the clock, Rovers pulled themselves back into contention. Hendry escaped down the right; his high cross found Jamie Gullan, who’s driven finish found the far corner of Hart’s net. Having looked down and out, Rovers had found new life.
With East Fife pulling numbers back, the game became stretched and fragmented. Good Raith pressure ended as Spencer lost possession – Wallace fed Dowds on the counter, the latter’s drive whizzing over McGurn’s bar. Spencer narrowly failed to connect with Hart at full stretch, after Hendry had bamboozled Slattery on the far touchline.
As the match moved deep into injury time, the atmosphere was raucous as Raith chased an equaliser. Gullan’s flighted cross needed Hart at full-stretch to avert the danger. With Raith committing numbers forward, Wallace had space to exploit – the former Arbroath man drew a fine save from McGurn with a drive from distance. From the resultant corner, Agnew put the match beyond doubt with a fine shot on the turn – McGurn’s despairing drive in vain as the ball flew high into the corner.
With referee Napier’s full time whistle following soon after, it was the home fans who rejoiced, Darren Young’s well-organised and energetic side taking a deserved three points. While no doubt a sore one for Raith players and supporters alike, over the ninety minutes the hosts had edged this contest between these two well-matched sides. While Rovers retreated to lick their wounds, it would be the home fans who would celebrate long into the night.
© Eddie Doig 2019
RaithTV spoke to John McGlynn after the defeat to East Fife at Bayview
Raith Rovers head the short distance to Methil this weekend, for their first Kingdom derby of the season against East Fife.
Both teams go into this match on the back of three goal victories, with Rovers winning 3-0 against Montrose, while East Fife were 4-1 winners against Airdrieonians.
While the win over the Angus side put Rovers back on top of League One, East Fife’s win was their first of the campaign, although their two previous draws mean they go into the match as the only unbeaten side in the third tier.
Rovers had a mixed record against East Fife last term, with just one win across the four encounters.
Rovers were reliant on two Kevin Nisbet penalties to rescue at point in a 2-2 draw at Stark’s Park in August, and East Fife secured their first win over their Fife neighbours in over 30 years in November with a 2-1 victory in November.
It was two wins for the Fife in just a little over a month however, when East Fife won 2-1 at Stark’s Park in December, and Rovers sole win in four came in April, when two goals in the last three minutes from Iain Davidson and Nisbet saw Rovers snatch a come-from-behind 2-1 win in the game’s closing moments.
Despite last term, Rovers have a great record in this fixture, with seven wins and a draw from the last 10 meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Craig Napier
Head-To-Head League Record At Methil:
East Fife Wins: 16 | Raith Rovers Wins: 15 | Draws: 4
East Fife Goals: 68 | Raith Rovers Goals: 65
East Fife: D-D-D-L-L-W | Raith Rovers: L-W-W-W-L-W
East Fife: Scott Agnew 3 | Aaron Dunsmore 2 | Liam Watt 2
Raith Rovers: Lewis Allan 4 | Kieron Bowie 3 | Grant Anderson 2 | Michael Miller 2
East Fife: 19/10 | Raith Rovers: 23/20 | Draw: 13/5