Saturday 20 August 2016, 15.00, Starks Park
A first visit of the season to Fife for a Scottish Championship derby between Raith Rovers and Dunfermline Athletic.
Based in the town of Kirkcaldy, Raith Rovers were founded in 1883 and became a senior team in 1889. Around the same time they were forced to leave their home ground Robbie’s Park, which was incorporated into a new public park called Beveridge Park. The team moved to their current home of Stark’s Park in 1891 and turned professional in 1892. They became the first Fife team to be elected to the Scottish League in 1902-03.
Having a bit of a yoyo existence, their highest ever league position was third in the top league in 1922. They’ve spent the last seven years in the second tier after promotion in 2009. They finished in fourth place last season.
They reached the Scottish Cup Final once, in 1913, where they lost to Falkirk, but they won the Scottish League Cup in 1994 after a penalty shoot-out against Celtic. They also won the Scottish Challenge Cup, for teams outside the top league, in 2014 with a late goal in extra time against Rangers.
They have won the second tier in Scottish football five times, coming runners-up on the same number of occasions.
After their League Cup success, they defeated the champions of the Faroe Islands and Iceland before they were drawn against German giants Bayern Munich. They lost the first leg at home by two goals to nil, but at half time in Munich, they were a goal up, before eventually succumbing 2-1 on the night.
New manager Gary Locke has been busy since his arrival in the summer. For the new season Rovers have signed Hearts legend Rudi Skacel who is now 37, midfielder Joel Coustrain from Sheffield United, young striker Yaw Osei, French defender Jean-Yves M’Voto, full back Kevin McHattie and winger Chris Johnstone from Kilmarnock and Bobby Barr from Morton. On loan, they have also signed striker Declan McManus from Fleetwood Town, Rangers young midfielders Jordan Thompson and Scott Roberts, Aberdeen goalkeeper Aaron Lennox.
The new signings seem to have settled in quickly, as the men from Kirkcaldy sit top of the table after wins at Ayr and at home to St Mirren.
My second viewing of Dunfermline Athletic after seeing them in pre-season. They’ve signed defender Lee Ashcroft from Kilmarnock, midfielder Nat Wedderburn from Inverness Caley Thistle, Euan Spark from Dundee United, Kallum Higginbotham from Kilmarnock and forwards Paul McMullan on loan from Celtic and Gavin Reilly on loan from Hearts.
The Pars have beaten Dumbarton and lost away to Hibs in their two league games so far.
It’s the first league game between the sides since 2013 and was made all ticket. This proved to be a bit of a challenge if you did not live near Kirkcaldy as there was no obvious internet sales or phone number on the Rovers website. Raith’s twitter came to our rescue and provided a link.
Strangely, the game kicked off two minutes before 3 o’clock. I can only assume the referee was going out after the game. There were 5,114 in the ground who created quite a noise.
Raith started the game very quickly and charged forward straight from the first whistle. The Athletic defence was under pressure but relieved to see Matthews fire over the bar from 20 yards with 2 minutes gone, after he had received the ball from McHattie.
Reilly had the Pars first effort at goal in 5 minutes, his shot from the right hand side of the box drifting well wide.
The home side came forward again in the 12th minute and a cross by Barr from the left found Matthews at the back post, but Martin managed to put him off and he nodded wide.
Back up the other end a minute later a clearance landed at the feet of McCabe who tried an audacious effort from wide on the left from fully 30 yards, but it landed on the top of the net.
Dunfermline were getting on top and a Higginbotham free kick in 19 minutes was headed down by Reilly but Lennox came out to claim before Ashcroft got there. The game erupted in 24 minutes when Reilly was brought down by Rovers’ Thompson. As the ball rolled on Cardle also hit the deck when Matthews clattered into him. Several players of both teams were involved in the pushing and shoving which followed but the referee contented himself with yellow cards for Matthews and Dunfermline’s Higginbotham.
A free kick near the edge of the box for the Pars in 27 minutes after Cardle was brought down was struck well by Higginbotham, but Lennox managed to tip the ball over the bar.
The Pars continued to do most of the pressing but M’voto seemed to be there for Rovers whenever danger came.
Cardle set up Reilly on the edge of the box in 41 minutes, but Lennox comfortably saved his low shot.
In first half injury time, McCabe did well to create space for himself, but his shot from outside the box was off target.
Raith started the first half well but Dunfermline looked the most likely for most of the opening 45 minutes without creating any clear cut chances.
The home side started the second half strongly again and McManus’ cross from the right in 46 minutes was missed by Ashcroft and came to Vaughan 8 yards out, but he couldn’t get his body in position quickly enough and scooped the ball up into the arms of the grateful Hutton.
Rovers claimed for a penalty in 48 minutes when Matthews’ cross into the box was controlled by Vaughan who went down with Ashcroft in close proximity, but the referee waved away appeals.
Three minutes later, a more convincing appeal when McHattie’s mishot shot landed at the feet of McManus who went down in the six-yard box after a Richards-Everton challenge, but again, the ref wasn’t interested.
Straight up the other end and Williamson exchanged passes with Moffat and shot across goal from the right, but Lennox managed to push the ball away.
McManus broke forward for Raith after a Dunfermline corner in 54 minutes and his good run ended with him firing from goal from 25 yards, but Hutton claimed the ball at the second attempt.
Dunfermline claimed for a penalty following a corner in 60 minutes when they claimed the ball had struck a defender’s hand, but again the referee was having none of it.
Another penalty claim back up the other end in 62 minutes as McManus broke into the box and was tackled by Martin, but it looked as if his sliding challenge had got a touch on the ball.
With 71 minutes gone, the referee did well to play advantage when Vaughan was caught on the half way line and Matthews found Barr on the right. He cut inside Martin and from the edge of the box sent a low shot into the bottom corner to give Rovers the lead.
McHattie had a go from distance as Raith looked to press their advantage and Hutton did well to get down and block.
A Raith corner fell to the feet of Skacel in 76 minutes but the substitute scuffed his shot with his right foot which clipped the post on its way wide.
Three minutes later, McHattie came forward and found Stewart on the edge of the box. With the substitute’s first touch since coming on, he stepped away from Richards-Everton and with his second, curled a magnificent effort into the top corner beyond the despairing reach of Hutton to make it two nil.
Barr was next to shoot at the Pars goal, but it was comfortable for Hutton in 85 minutes and Dunfermline forced a few corners at the end but never looked like reducing the deficit.
A decent game with a good atmosphere and Rovers stay at the top of the league with a derby win to the delight of their supporters. Dunfermline didn’t look a bad side, but seemed to run out of steam in the second half.
Three bookings for each side in a competitive game.
M’Voto was given man of the match and I certainly couldn’t disagree with that, but both sides had forward players that look like causing problems for opposition defences as the season progresses.
Full Time: Raith Rovers 2 Dunfermline Athletic 0
Raith Rovers: 17 Aaron Lennox, 2 Jason Thomson, 5 Jean-Yves M’voto, 6 Kyle Benedictus, 3 Kevin McHattie, 12 Ross Matthews, 4 Ross Callachan, 21 Jordan Thompson (Skacel 69), 11 Bobby Barr, 10 Lewis Vaughan (Stewart 77), 20 Declan McManus (Roberts 90). Subs: 1 Kevin Cuthbert, 9 Mark Stewart, 15 Yaw Osei, 16 Joel Coustrain, 18 Scott Roberts, 19 Rudi Skacel.
Dunfermline Athletic: 43 David Hutton, 2 Ryan Williamson, 12 Lee Ashcroft, 14 Ben Richards-Everton, 4 Lewis Martin (Talbot 80), 16 Rhys McCabe (Paton 77), 6 Andy Geggan, 20 Kallum Higginbotham, 11 Joe Cardle, 9 Michael Moffat (Hopkirk 60), 17 Gavin Reilly. Subs: 3 Jason Talbot, 5 Callum Fordyce, 7 Michael Paton, 10 David Hopkirk, 15 Lewis Spence, 18 Paul McMullan, 30 Cammy Gill.
Referee: Alan Muir