First Leg Stalemate At East End Park
Raith Rovers and Dunfermline couldn’t be separated this evening, as the first leg of their Premiership quarter final playoff finished goalless at East End Park.
Dunfermline enjoyed the bulk of the first period, but an even, and scoreless second 45 left things perfectly set up for Stark’s Park on Saturday.
John McGlynn made two changes from Friday’s heavy loss to Hearts, with Fernandy Mendy and Adam King being replaced by Kai Kennedy and Ross Matthews.
Rovers looked bright in the opening moments, with the first five minutes or so played out in the Dunfermline half, albeit without Pars goalie, Owain Fon Williams being brought into action.
Generally speaking, Rovers have toiled this season when they’re pressed and given no time on the ball, but encourargingly, they were getting time to pick out and make their passes in the opening spells.
That said, Dunfermline had the first strike at goal in the seventh minute, when a set-piece into the area was headed out as far as Steven Whittaker 20-yards from goal, but his effort was scuffed well wide of Jamie MacDonald’s left-hand post.
Dunfermline then had a good chance a few moments later, when play broke down in the Pars half, and Euan Henderson responded on the break, but with Rovers shorthanded at the back, Henderson’s decision making let him down and the chance was lost.
Rovers were playing nice football, but it was Dunfermline who were threatening on the counter, and they came close again in the 18th minute, when Dom Thomas played a fine through ball for Kevin O’Hara, who drove into the box, and forced a fine save from MacDonald, who did well to tip the effort wide while at full strength.
Rovers were now starting to toil, and Dunfermline left-back, Josh Edwards got forward well before sending a low cross into the area which Craig Wighton sent just wide with a first time effort.
Rovers were living dangerously, and when possession was gifted away in their own final third after 28 minutes, Declan McManus was presented with a great chance, but his first time effort was all wrong and it drifted wide.
Rovers had barely had their foot on the ball since the 10th minute, and Henderson looked like he’d opening the scoring a minute later, but his curling effort from 25-yards was well held by MacDonald.
Athletic’s left-hand side was proving a particularly fruitful hunting ground for them, with Henderson and Edwards constantly forcing Rovers onto the back foot.
Raith made it into the half time interval all square, although Dunfermline had the final chance of the half in the final seconds, when a poor clearance fell to Wighton on the edge of the box, but his snap-shot was blazed well off target.
John McGlynn’s men were hoping for a better time of it in the second 45, and Kieran MacDonald had their best chance in the 47th minute, when he pounced on a loose ball and gallivanted towards goal, but his shot from 25-yards was never troubling Fon Williams.
The visitors were certainly getting more time on the ball and were starting to trouble Stevie Crawford’s team, but despite getting into promising positions, the final pass was just lacking.
Dunfermline were still creating chances though, and after Jamie MacDonald left goal kick taking duties to Kyle Benedictus, the ball was given awaty and Thomas’ cross was headed over his own bar by Iain Davidson.
Rovers brought the first save out of Fon Williams in the 65th minute, when space opened up for Lewis Vaughan in the penalty area, and after setting himself, his goal bound effort was well saved by the Welshman.
Neither side had the upper-hand in this period, and although end-to-end would have been slightly over-egging matters, both teams were happy to take the game to the other, while lacking the cutting edge to prise the respective defences open.
With 10 minutes left, Rovers made a straight switch, with Adam King replacing Matthews.
With time ticking down, neither team was settling for the draw, and Dunfemline almost snatched a goal with five minutes remaining, when substitute Kerr McInroy pounced on a loose ball from the edge of the area, but cracked his shot off target.
Neither side threatened after that moment, and the tie is ideally poised for the second leg at Stark’s Park on Saturday.
Photo’s by courtesy of firstname.lastname@example.org
John McGlynn spoke to RaithTV after the draw in the play-off quarter final
Raith Rovers and Dunfermline will face off against each other on Tuesday evening, in one of the biggest Fife derbies in recent memory.
With the Premiership playoff quarter final being played over two legs this week, the winner will play against Dundee in the semi final, with the victor of that one facing off against the idea which finished eleventh in the Premiership.
Raith have only reached this stage of the playoffs once before, five years ago against Hibernian, and while they came out on top in the first leg, thanks to a goal from Harry Panayiotou, they eventually went down 2-1 on aggregate.
With the results between the sides split down the middle this term, picking a favourite is no easy task.
The first meeting in December saw Rovers lead 2-0 going into the final 20 minutes, thanks to goals from Manny Duku and Frankie Musonda, but a quick fire response from the Pars saw the game finish two apiece, after goals from Fraser Murray and Declan McManus.
It was a far more one sided spectacle the next time the two sides met at East End Park in February though, when goals from McManus, Aaron Comrie and a Murray double saw Steve Crawford’s team comfortably win 4-1, with Brad Spencer the Raith scorer.
Rovers were even bigger winners last time out though, in one of the most memorable Rovers performances in some time.
Regan Hendry got the scoring started in the 17th minute, and despite Kevin O’Hara restoring parity five minutes later, braces from Lewis Vaughan and Jamie Gullan eased the Rovers to a 5-1 hammering of their rivals.
That evenness also translates to results between the two in general in recent seasons, with four wins and two draws apiece from the last 10 meetings.
Tuesday’s match referee will be Steven Kirkland.
Head-To-Head Away Record Versus Dunfermline:
Dunfermline Wins: 28 | Raith Rovers Wins: 21 | Draws: 10
Dunfermline Goals: 96 | Raith Rovers Goals: 80
Raith Rovers: L-D-W-W-L-L
Dunfermline: Kevn O’Hara 11 | Declan McManus 10
Raith Rovers: Manny Duku 10 | Daniel Armstrong 6
Dunfermline: 6/5 | Raith Rovers: 21/10 | Draw: 5/2