Stalemate At Stark’s
Raith Rovers and Dunfermline have played out a number of classic Fife Derbies at New Year, but suffice to say this afternoon won’t be added to that list, as the two sides produced a fairly low key 0-0 draw at Stark’s Park.
In front of a restricted crowd of 500, neither side were able to work the goalkeepers, in a match which didn’t do too much to help either side at opposite ends of the table.
Rovers did move up to third in the table, although Kilmarnock and Partick Thistle have one and two games in hand respectively, while Dunfermline remain in the relegation playoff place in ninth.
Manager John McGlynn made changes to the formation and personnel, moving to a 4-3-1-2 shape, with Ethon Varian partnering Matej Poplatnik up top.
New signings Ben Williamson and Sam Stanton both started either side of Ross Matthews in midfield, while Ethan Ross started in the number 10 position.
Dario Zanatta, Dylan Tait and Aidan Connolly all dropped to the bench.
Dunfermline had the first half chance of the game, when a short corner was worked to left-back Josh Edwards in the fourth minute, but his attempt from 25 yards ended up five yards over the crossbar.
It hadn’t been a dirty game, but two players made their way into the referee’s book in the first 10 minutes, with Ryan Dow and Kyle Benedictus both picking up a yellow card in the game’s formative stages.
Rovers arguably looked the smarter in possession in the game’s opening passages, although they’d failed to test Owain Fon Williams in the Dunfermline net, but they almost played themselves into trouble in the 15th minute, when Jamie MacDonald, who was out of goal at the time, scuffed a clearance to Matty Todd, but from 25 yards, his attempt at goal was even scuffier, bouncing umpteen times before being cleared.
Rovers had their first chance a few minutes later, when Williamson’s deep free kick was met by Tom Lang, who threw himself at the delivery, but couldn’t quite get the angle right and headed it out of play.
Rovers had their own let off from a header a moment later, when a cross from a free-kick found Rhys Breen, but he could only skiff the ball from close range and the chance went wide.
For all Rovers had done well, they had a number of let-offs as the half hour approached.
First, Todd had a chance that failed to test MacDonald, then the same player warmed the gloves of the Raith keeper a moment later.
However, with Rovers struggling to get out from their own goal, Lewis McCann was presented with a good chance running in on goal, but his shot was too close to MacDonald who saved well with his feet.
The game had been a reasonably scrappy, niggly affair, with chances at a premium and free-kicks at an optimum, although Rovers did force four corners in as many minutes as half time approached, although all came to nought.
They had their best chance in the 40th minute, when Poplatnik burst clear of the Pars defence on the right hand side, but with a shot looking the best option, he elected to cut it back and the chance was gone.
The start of the second period was as scrappy as the first, although John Hughes’s men had the first chance of it, when MacDonald fisted a cross down rather than away, but the ensuing effort at goal was blocked.
There was a far bigger heart-in-mouth moment with half-an-hour remaining, when Lewis McCann got up well to meet a cross from the right, but his header flashed just wide of MacDonald’s left-hand post.
With the game continuing to be deadlocked, Raith made their first change, as Dario Zanatta was introduced for Poplatnik.
The Canadian had a half chance just a few minutes after coming on, when Fon Williams could only partially clear a pass back into the winger’s path, but his first time effort wasn’t caught cleanly and the Welshman was able to get back into position to gather.
With just over 20 minutes remaining, Tait was brought on for Williamson, with the youngster making his last appearance for Raith before leaving for Hibernian.
Chances from open play were continuing to be few and far between, but Ethan Ross almost opened the scoring with 15 minutes left, when his attempt from a free-kick, 20 yards from goal flew over Fon Williams but also just over the bar.
John McGlynn made his final change with 10 minutes left, as Aidan Connolly replaced Ross.
Rovers were attempting to force the issue as the minutes ticked down, but while they were forcing the play and keeping possession well, they were toiling to unlock a Dunfermline defence which had remained resolute the whole game.
The full time whistle meant a share of the spoils, and that Rovers had now gone five games unbeaten against Dunfermline, the first time they’d achieved that feat since 1982.
However, that was scant consolation for a Rovers team which has now scored just once in six games, and face an Inverness team next weekend, that they haven’t defeated in 90 minutes in 26 attempts.
If ever there was a time to believe in the law of averages it’s probably now.
Photographs © Tony Fimister
RaithTV spoke to John McGlynn after the New Year Derby draw:
Dunfermline Athletic will be the guests at Stark’s Park on Sunday, as Raith Rovers kick off 2022 by hosting a Fife derby.
Both teams will be looking to get back to winning ways for different reasons, with John Hughes’ Pars side currently sitting ninth on the table, three points from safety, while Rovers now sit fourth, two points ahead of fifth placed Partick Thistle, having played a game more than Ian McCall’s side.
Rovers have now lost their last two games after last weekend’s 2-0 reverse at Ayr United, while Dunfermline are now four games without a win, following their defeat at home to Arbroath last time out.
This will be the third meeting between the team’s this season, with the previous two games tight affairs.
Dario Zanatta gave Rovers the lead at Stark’s Park in September, only for Kevin O’Hara to ensure the points were shared with an equaliser n the 79th minute, and it was the same scoreline at East End Park in October, after Dom Thomas had fired Dunfermline in front, only for Brad Spencer to equalise late on.
The two teams can’t be separated over the most recent meetings, with three wins and four draws apiece from the last 10 matches.
Sunday’s match referee will be David Munro.
If you can’t make the Pars game, or have been unlucky in the ballot, you can still buy an online programme here:
Season ticket holders can obtain a free copy at www.raith.tv Click the link for the lounge at the top of the page, then scroll down.
Head-To-Head Home League Record:
Raith Rovers Wins: 16 | Dunfermline Wins: 19 | Draws: 17
Raith Rovers Goals: 81 | Dunfermline Goals: 74
Raith Rovers: W-D-D-W-L-L | Dunfermline: W-W-L-L-D-L
Raith Rovers: Dario Zanatta 9 | Aidan Connolly 5 | Ethan Ross 5
Dunfermline: Kevin O’Hara 7 | Nikolay Todorov 5
Raith Rovers: 17/20 | Dunfermline: 14/5 | Draw: 12/5