HONOURS EVEN IN FIFE DERBY DRAW
Raith and East Fife shared the spoils in a high quality and keenly contested Fife Derby at Starks Park. A bumper crowd of nearly three thousand saw Brad Spencer’s equaliser cancel out the visitors’ opener from Steven Boyd in a pulsating first half, with neither side able to put their noses in front during a second half which saw chances at both ends. The result leaves Raith still on top of the League One table by goal difference from their near neighbours; Falkirk’s home defeat giving the Fife sides a two-point cushion over Ray McKinnon’s title favourites.
With defensive lynchpin Steven Anderson suspended, and a host of injuries to first team squad members, manager John McGlynn didn’t have his troubles to seek in looking to inflict East Fife’s first defeat of the season. Ever-present full-backs Michael Miller and Kieran MacDonald would have key roles in a four-man back division; Ross Matthews made his first appearance since Rovers’ loss at Methil in August; and Tony Dingwall made his first start of the season in a midfield missing Regan Hendry and Lewis Vaughan, amongst others. Brad Spencer and Matthews would each drop deep to protect their two centre-halves.
For East Fife, manager Darren Young had fewer problems, and had a settled squad to choose from – with only former Arbroath frontman Ryan Wallace missing, Anton Dowds was the only new face from last week’s business-like 1-0 win over Forfar at Bayview. With five wins and five draws from their first ten games, East Fife kicked off as the only unbeaten side in the country, following recent League defeats for Celtic and Cove Rangers.
With Starks Park bathed in Autumnal sunshine, the largest home attendance of the season greeted the players shortly before three o’clock – in breezy and bright conditions, the crowd roared from the outset the sides locked horns, looking to stamp their authority on the League One Championship race.
With both sides sparring early on, several key battles emerged – Iain Davidson and Anton Dowds jousted from the first exchanges, Davidson collecting yellow after a forceful challenge as early as the fifth minute; Armstrong tracked Boyd down East Fife’s left; Brad Spencer was tasked with disrupting Agnew’s flow through midfield. Despite the absence of Steven Anderson, Raith seemed committed to getting numbers forward early, endeavouring to pin Aaron Dunsmore to his defensive duties.
Raith’s first corners came in ten minutes – the first from Miller whizzing through the six-yard box with Hart flapping; the second allowing Gullan to shoot, the young East Fife goalkeeper collecting well down to his right. It was fifteen minutes before the first moment of genuine quality – Armstrong dipped his shoulder inside Agnew and fizzed a twenty-yard strike just wide of Hart’s post. Moments later, the winger’s zipping cross required Higgins to hoof over his own bar with Benedictus lurking.
Referee Cook attracted the ire of the home fans with twenty minutes gone – Armstrong, grappling with Watt, Church, and Ross Davidson, fell to earth; having waved play on, Cook subsequently booked the Raith winger for his delayed protests. Rovers, harbouring a sense of collective injustice, had to work hard to clear two East Fife corners – Watt’s deliveries aimed at the towering Dowds in a crowded penalty area. Agnew’s free-kick found the side-netting, McGurn punched clear another corner. With the first quarter of the match gone, the match was simmering nicely.
On twenty-four minutes, the opener for the visitors – Steven Boyd controlled a bouncing ball on the edge of the area, stepped away from Benedictus, and beat McGurn from twenty yards with an accurate drive. The centre of Rovers’ defence had been breached – the diminutive Boyd wheeling away to celebrate as the home support howled in frustration.
Rovers responded well. A MacDonald free-kick flew over after Higgins felled Bowie. Each full-back fired inviting crosses into the East Fife area, Higgins and Dunlop struggling to control their territory. Having forced numerous corners, Raith’s pressure told ten minutes after going behind – Brad Spencer found a yard of space to prod home another splendid inswinger as East Fife’s own defensive barricades lapsed, bringing Raith back on terms.
With Raith having built up a head of steam, suddenly it was the visitors who were rattled. Dunsmore was booked for a hack at Spencer, Dunlop thumped the ball down Pratt Street following a mis-control, and Higgins tripped Bowie as the youngster looked to capitalise on Dunlop’s poor pass. With the last chance of an invigorating first half, Bowie could only head over, picked out by another fine delivery from MacDonald on the left.
Rovers headed in at the interval with their tails up. Having conceded much of the early running to their visitors, McGlynn’s men had taken the initiative after going behind, ending the half in the ascendant. With referee Cook quick to reach for his yellow card, and with little to choose between the sides, would it take a red card or a refereeing decision to determine the outcome? With temperatures dropping as the low sunshine dipped beneath the South Stand, both sets of fans had plenty to ponder at the half.
Both sides re-started at pace. Boyd and Watt drove at the Raith defence; in response, DIngwall’s cross saw Bowie head just wide. Agnew invited Dunsmore in at pace behind MacDonald, with Benedictus needing to be at full stretch to clear. Armstrong’s cross saw Hart gather at the second attempt. Gullan’s drive flew just wide. With Armstrong striding through the bright slice of sunshine casting East Fife’s defensive third in a yellow glow, Gullan again cracked a drive at Hart, his shot blocked clear.
A glorious chance on the hour – Spencer’s deep ball found Bowie one on one with Dunlop; out-muscling his man, the Raith striker squared for Gullan, who could only fire straight at Hart with only the keeper to beat. The South Stand held its collective head, sensing a golden chance missed. The Rovers’ man turned away in anguish.
The visitors had their own moments as the second half progressed. Dunsmore, ever alert in midfield, found Dowds in space, only for the striker’s shot to be deflected clear by Davidson; Agnew found space to release Boyd to run at MacDonald; and Ross Davidson found space on the right after Dingwall lost possession, only to cross wastefully into the McDermid Stand.
With each side’s play becoming cagey, a scrappy disjointed spell followed – Dingwall and MacDonald combined well on Raith’s left, pinning Dunsmore in his defensive third. For Darren Young’s men, Dowds and substitute Denholm struggled to find space, while Armstrong and Gullan became separated from Bowie at the head of Raith’s formation. Referee Cook’s whistle was heard regularly and often.
A defensive lapse brought another Raith chance – Murdoch’s slack pass allowed DIngwall in, the winger’s curled finish not strong enough to beat Hart. More good work from Dingwall allowed Miller to cross, Dunlop easing the ball to safety. The visitors looked to respond, with Dunsmore drifting inside, only for Benedictus to snuff out any chance to shoot. With ten minutes remaining, the match was finely poised. Davidson walloped over from another MacDonald corner.
Rovers had their keeper to thank on eighty-two minutes – McGurn denied substitute Slatterry with a splendid one handed save to keep the scores level – as the crowd held their breath, the Raith keeper threw himself to his left, flexing a strong arm to keep out the goal-bound effort. With East Fife having the better of possession in the closing stages, Rovers were restricted to forays from deep – substitute Baird setting Bowie off on a run, the youngster’s drive gathered well by Hart.
Neither side could muster a final flourish, and with shadows lengthening, referee Cook’s final whistle saw the points shared. Both sets of fans applauded their sides from the pitch, honours even. With East Fife having perhaps edged the first half and Raith enjoying the bulk of possession in the second, in truth neither side deserved to lose what had been a fine advert for Scottish League One. Given the length of Raith’s list of absentees, on balance the draw is more valuable to the hosts than to their visitors.
Photo’s © Tony Fimister
John McGlynn spoke to RaithTV after the 1-1 draw against East Fife
It’s a top of the table Fife derby this Saturday, as league leaders Raith Rovers take on second place East Fife at Stark’s Park this Saturday.
Rovers are unbeaten at home in the league this season, but East Fife haven’t lost anywhere in the league this term, as Darren Young’s men continue to impress.
The Methil men go into this one on the back of a 1-0 win over Forfar, thanks to a goal from Steven Boyd.
With Rovers drawing 2-2 with Clyde, the goal lifted East Fife level on points with Rovers, although Raith still lead the table on goal difference, with Falkirk just a point behind the Kingdom duo.
This will be the two sides second meeting this term, with East Fife comfortable winners in the first encounter.
Lewis Allan put Rovers in front, but Anton Dowds quickly equalised. Chris Higgins and Ryan Wallace put the home side in the driving seat, and although Jamie Gullan gave Rovers some hope, an injury time strike from Scott Agnew sealed the points for The Fife.
That continued the Bayview side’s impressive recent record against Rovers, with three wins and a draw from the last five meetings.
Rovers do have the upper hand in this fixture in general though, with six wins and one draw from the last 10 meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Barry Cook
Head-To-Head Home League Record Versus East Fife:
Raith Rovers Wins: 15 | East Fife Wins: 12 |Draws: 9
Raith Rovers Goals: 60 | East Fife Goals: 50
Raith Rovers: W-W-W-W-W-D
East Fife: W-W-D-D-D-W
Raith Rovers: Lewis Allan 6 | Kieron Bowie 5 | Michael Miller 5
East Fife: Scott Agnew 6 | Aaron Dunsmore 4 | Ryan Wallace 4
Raith Rovers: 11/10 | East Fife: 2/1 | Draw: 13/5