Dee’s First Foot Kicks Rovers Where It Hurts
Raith Rovers’ opening league fixture of 2012 ended in disappointment, following a 1-0 defeat against promotion-chasing Dundee at Stark’s Park this afternoon.
As befits the customary New Year curtain-raiser, a healthy crowd – including an impressive following who had made the trip from the City of Discovery – generated a raucous atmosphere as kick-off approached, and the players were welcomed on to the pitch by a hearty roar from both ends of the ground.
A cold, swirling wind might have helped alleviate any lingering festive hangovers among the crowd, although it was obviously going to present its own challenges for the players. You suspected the Dundee players’ pre-match huddle was as much to protect themselves from the elements as a routine bonding statement of intent.
It was the visitors, perhaps still smarting following defeat at home to Morton the week before, who started on the front foot, pinning Rovers back in their own half. Steven Milne was first to try his luck after five minutes, with a snapshot from ten yards that had Rovers keeper David McGurn at full stretch to turn round the post.
Shortly afterwards, from Rovers’ first corner kick, Iain Davidson rose high in the box to meet Allan Walker’s inviting cross, but his header drifted wide of the post.
Rovers suffered a blow after only ten minutes, when defender Dougie Hill had to be replaced following an innocuous-looking challenge out on the touchline. Hill appeared to twist his knee in making a tackle, and Willie Dyer came on as his replacement. Manager John McGlynn shuffled his defensive line, with Laurie Ellis moving across to centre half.
The match ebbed and flowed, although clear goalscoring chances were at a premium. Dundee winger Nicky Reilly looked particularly lively, and gave the Rovers defenders a torrid time with some mazy running down the right wing.
On the half hour mark, Joe Hamill lobbed an inviting ball into the heart of the Dundee box, but as the defenders hesitated, so too did Allan Walker and the opportunity was lost. Dundee broke forward moments later, and a cross by Reilly flashed across the Rovers six-yard line with no takers for the away side.
Dundee continued to look dangerous going forward, and, with five minutes of the first half remaining, they took a deserved lead. Following a neat interchange of passing, the ball fell to the ever-eager Reilly, lurking on the edge of the Rovers box. From there, he floated a cross which evaded Grant Murray, and Jake Hyde stooped to plant a firm header beyond McGurn into the far corner of the net.
The home fans made their feelings clear as the Rovers players made their way from the pitch at half-time, having struggled to find any coherence to their play during the opening 45 minutes.
John McGlynn, in an attempt to galvanise Rovers for the second period, made a change at half-time, with new loan signing Pat Clarke replacing Jamie Walker. However, it was Dundee who continued to look the more threatening for the most part, with some neat passing exchanges and movement which had the home defenders struggling to prevent their opponents increasing their lead. Nevertheless, John Baird did try his luck with a speculative shot from 20 yards which Rab Douglas saved comfortably, although the veteran keeper was relieved to smother the ball two minutes later following a scramble at the edge of his six-yard box.
Rovers continued to give away possession far too easily, and had David McGurn to thank for a string of saves which prevented the score-line taking on a more positive look for the visitors. Inevitably, the frustration being voiced from the home stands was replicated on the pitch, and Willie Dyer received the first caution of the match when he upended Ross Chisholm at the halfway line.
Shortly afterwards, Rab Douglas had the home fans on their feet, when he appeared to pick the ball up from beyond his 18-yard line. However, the protests were borne out of hope more than expectation, and the match officials were unmoved by the claims.
Dundee replaced goalscorer Hyde with Jamie McCluskey, as they continued their pursuit of a match-clinching second goal. However, they found McGurn in inspired form.
With five minutes remaining, John McGlynn’s last throw of the dice came when he introduced Jason Holt for Allan Walker, but Rovers continued to toil in their attempts to exert pressure on the Dundee defence, which stood resolutely firm. As it transpired, Douglas was able to enjoy a comfortable last few minutes.
Nicky Reilly received a rapturous ovation from the away fans when he made way for Leighton McIntosh as the match drew towards its conclusion. The winger, like most of his team-mates, could be pleased with his afternoon’s work.
Rovers had yet another lucky escape when a header by McCluskey was cleared off the line by Dyer, and that Rovers keeper David McGurn was then confirmed as man of the Match was as unsurprising as it was a reflection of the gulf between the sides, and the final whistle brought an end to a match those of a Rovers persuasion will do well to forget.
In truth, the narrow scoreline did little to reflect the overall dominance of a Dundee side on a rich vein of form, and, worryingly for Rovers, this was their sixth defeat at home in the league this season. That is a statistic that will need to be addressed as a matter of priority, starting when Morton come calling in the Scottish Cup next weekend.
Written by Donald Ramsay
Pictures by Jim Foy
Speaking to David Hancock, John McGlynn felt that there was little in the game and, given the breaks, the result could have been different.