Raith and Dunfermline shared the points in a scrappy but compelling Fife derby at Starks Park. With Raith on top in the first half, and the visitors arguably having the better of the second, the easiest conclusion would be that a draw was a fair result - however both sides will have greeted the final whistle nursing the disappointment of knowing the opportunity of victory had slipped through their fingers.

Neither team came into today’s game with anything approaching form. With Raith having only won one game in their last eight, and only two competitive games this year, Grant Murray freshened his front-line - giving a debut to precocious teenager Josh Watt and restoring Greig Spence alongside Brian Graham. Despite reports of Simon Mensing’s broken finger, the combative midfielder was given a starting place, with Grant Anderson dropped to the bench. Murray and Ellis continued in the centre of Raith’s defence.

For the visitors, the perma-tanned Joe Cardle re-gained his starting place wide on the left. Falkingham and club top scorer Barrowman remained out through injury, with right-back Jordan McMillan and midfielder Andy Geggan both returning after suspension.

The build-up to the game was dominated by talk of the current financial troubles of Dunfermline. Raith’s offer of a share of gate receipts, together with media speculation over whether today’s game would be Dunfermline’s last, contributed to a noisy North Stand well in advance of kick-off. The long season has taken its toll on players and supporters alike though - today’s crowd fell nearly 1,000 short of that for Dunfermline’s dramatic visit to Starks Park in November.

The visitors’ off-field troubles added extra spice to the vocal pre-match jousting between rival sets of fans. More wholesome however was the warm applause prior to kick-off to celebrate the life of former Raith and Dunfermline player Ian Lister, who passed away recently.

Under bright but winter skies, and in temperatures remaining resolutely wintry rather than spring-like, Raith started the stronger. The home side’s busy opening was the perfect antidote to any momentum Dunfermline may have drawn from the boisterous away support. In the opening minutes, Spence created space for Thomson to fire wide; and a Watt cross was controlled by Graham into the path of Spence who drove the ball just wide of Gallacher’s right-hand post.

Raith fans were seeing a first start for Motherwell loanee Josh Watt. In the early stages, his running and touch were impressive - twice beating Jordan McMillan to create crossing positions, and offering an outlet for fellow midfielders in the crowded central third. In the 7th minute, another Watt left-wing cross found Spence who’s header went narrowly wide.

Spence particularly was profiting from the space created on Raith’s left-wing. Recalled to the starting eleven, Spence cracked a 25-yard strike over Gallacher’s cross-bar, and showed sublime skill to control and turn on a swirling high ball in a congested midfield - the resulting hack from his marker validating the quality of the Raith forward's  footwork.

For the opening half, Raith were the only side to be able to create quality possession from the tight exchanges in the middle of the park. Geggan and Husband for the visitors were outnumbered by Stuart Anderson, Walker, and Simon Mensing. The heavy pitch led to several scrappy passages of play. Spoken to for a crunching challenge on Wallace after twenty minutes, Mensing - all arms and legs - earned his yellow card five minutes later for a further foul on Jordan.

In a ten-minute spell of quality from Dunfermline, Kirk was unable to guide a header on target from an inswinging corner in the 27th minute. A quick free-kick released Thomson, although the Pars’ winger was unable to cross with numbers up alongside him.

Raith’s superiority in the first half was rewarded five minutes before the break. Thomson’s high-ball evaded the Dunfermline defence and was brought down by Graham; despite a Dunfermline leg knocking the ball away before Graham could trouble Gallacher, the ball ran to Spence who fired home to put Raith into the lead.

The last moment of drama in the first half came in the home defence. Murray opted to leave a long Gallacher clearance. Cardle - the only Dunfermline player who showed either vim or vigour in the first half - beat a retreating Thomson to the ball and went down inside the box under contact from the Raith full-back. Referee Beaton turned away, amid protestations from the away side, Cardle drawing a booking in the aftermath.

The second half began with possession and chances shared equally between the teams. Raith‘s Thomson failed to clear, allowing his Dunfermline namesake a snapshot from distance. A minute later, a Spence feint created a chance for Graham from scrappy midfield play, Raith‘s top scorer pulling his rising shot wide of Gallacher‘s left-hand upright.

Raith’s first-half industry was built largely down the left, with the industrious Watt a focal point. After the break, Dunfermline succeeded in stopping the supply to the Raith loan player, with the result that Raith’s midfield were drawn into a much more narrow alignment. Without a natural wide player on the other side, Raith’s first-half fluency was replaced with a tendency to get drawn into a midfield battle. In Geggan and Husband, Dunfermline’s midfield two used the ball early, spreading the play and opening spaces springing runners toward Raith full-backs.

In the 53rd minute, Wallace was allowed to turn and shoot at McGurn; and four minutes later Dunfermline were level. Jordan and Cardle combined to cross, Wallace’s downward header found Geggan who fired home from close-range. While the marking was slack and the amount of space allowed to the Dunfermline strike-force contributed to the goal, the equaliser was deserved on the balance of play.

Dunfermline were on top, and Raith’s rearguard were pushed and pulled as the visitors probed the areas around McGurn’s eighteen-yard box. Murray nipped in to deny Kirk a shot on goal, a Wallace shot was deflected over, and Stuart Anderson and Jason Thomson both collected bookings for over-zealous challenges.

One positive note from the second half was the togetherness at the heart of Raith’s defence. Man of the match Ellis and player-manager Murray communicated well, showed a good understanding, and kept a good line amidst concerted Dunfermline pressure. Raith’s spine has looked weak in previous games, but with two experienced centre-halves (with a combined 700+ senior games between them), today Raith looked capable of weathering the Dunfermline storm.

The closing stages saw chances at both ends. With the heavy turf draining the energies of players on both sides, spaces opened and play surged from end to end. Graham came close when he rose to send a header narrowly wide with twenty minutes to go, Geggan defended a Walker free-kick from within a ruck of players crowding Gallacher’s six-yard box, and a snapshot from Mensing was well-saved by the Pars’ keeper.

With the clock ticking down, both sides had golden opportunities to take all three points. Kirk threw himself at a low-cross with a combination of Ellis and Murray deflecting his goal-bound effort wide, and seconds later a further cross evaded the Dunfermline striker‘s outstretched leg. With Dunfermline committing numbers forward, the home crowd willed one last Raith breakaway. In the final moments, Graham, like a mouse on a crowded kitchen floor, evaded capture and released Walker - with almost the last kick of the game, the Raith captain was caught in two minds and failed to either trouble Gallacher or find Grant Anderson clear at the far post.

Despite Dunfermline enjoying the better quality of possession in the second half, Raith fans headed home nursing a sense of two points dropped rather than a point gained. With today's other results in the Division going Raith’s way, the point is a welcome one when considered in the context of a fixture list which includes two forthcoming trips to Dumbarton and several games against teams higher in the Division. However, looking at today‘s match in isolation, many Raith fans will see today‘s game as a victory that was allowed to slip away in a disappointing second half.

Report: Andrew Fairlie; Pictures: Tony Fimister


Photographs copyright Tony Fimister and Ian Martin


High Bandwith version

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MP4 version

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The gaffer reflected on the last Fife derby of the season

Dunfermline born striker Greig Spence was pleased to grab a derby goal


Live Updates

30 minutes til kick off and the ground is busy and noisy already
The game is preceded by a minutes applause for Ian Lister, who sadly passed away recently
First chance to Raith - Spence feeds Thomson who blasts over
Great play from Raith - Watt crosses, Graham chests it down, but Spence drove it just wide
Another Watt cross finds Spence, who flicks a header inches wide
Sublime skill from Spence to bring the ball down and turn his marker, who can only foul him
Spence is really in the mood today, he collects 30 yards out, takes a few steps and loops a swerving shot over
Very heavy challenge by Mensing, but he just gets a talking to
Almost a bizarre opener - Gsllacher falls over his feet gathering a high cross, but manages to hang onto it
Walker drives a free kick in, flicked on by Spence but too high and fast for Graham
All Rovers at the moment, Dunfermline are penned in their own half
Mensing booked for a foul on Jordan
First sight of goal for the Pars - Kirk heads a corner over at the near post
Murray fouls Kirk, looked like a sore one but its just a free kick
GOAL RAITH! Graham gets behind the defence, beats the keeper and SPENCE applies the finishing touch!
Almost a freak equaliser. Kirk mishits a cross and McGurn scrambles before seeing it go wide
Cardle booked for dissent - unhappy that the ref ignored strong claims for a penalty
Half time, and a deserved lead. Lots of pressure from Dunfermline in the last 15 minutes though.
no subs as the 2nd half gets underway at 4pm sharp
Wallace has options but is greedy and shoots wide
good start to the half. Graham is similarly greedy same end result!
Graham and Spence unlucky not to get a shot on target despite repeated Pars fouling which ref ignores
Wallace skins Thomson and shoots McGurn makes a diving save
goal Kirk
Wallace headed the ball back into the 6 yard box and KIRK is unmarked as he scores
Scorer was GEGGAN ....not Kirk
Watt off G Anderson on
Wallace shoots takes a nasty deflection off Kirk with McGurn wrong footed luckily it goes over the bar
Yellow Malone for a robust challenge
Malone and McMillan having a bit of after...getting testy now
Corner Rovers Walker takes misses everyone S Anderson crosses back in and Graham heads just wide
Pars Thomson off Keane on
Wallace runs and puts Jordan through but his shot is more suited to Murrayfield!
Walker free finds Spence but he can't hit the target....awkward header really
another free Walker takes but Geggan wins the header this time
Spence off Clarke on. a big round of applause for Spence who has done well
3 on 3 as G Anderson runs down the wing but cross is post and its cleared
Don't ask me how but Rovers survive as the Pars fail to score right in front of goal
Wallace yellow
Rovers survive again as Pars fail to get a toe poke to an inviting ball in
Kirk off Smith on
Wallace goes down abduction Pars scream for a penalty...not given
Jordan off Whittle on
Ellis man of match
Rovers defending too deep. Ball breaks out to Graham but its a Pars free and they're applying all the pressure
+2 Walker is free on the wing and G Anderson is open but he crosses straight to Gallacher. Chance game over