Saturday 5 November 2016, 15.00, East End Park
The second league derby of the season between Dunfermline Athletic and Raith Rovers in the Championship.
After attending the first game between the sides in August at Rovers’ home in Kirkcaldy, where Raith won 2-0, it’s another trip into Fife for the return game.
With the match taking place on the afternoon of Guy Fawkes Night, every media outlet was predicting fireworks. (For Fawkes sake).
It’s the first league match between the sides at East End Park since the start of 2013 and the home side were really needing to take something from the game. After promotion the season before, they have found things difficult in the Championship. In their 11 games, they have only won two, with two draws. They sit 8th in the ten team league. The previous weekend they had a 2-2 draw with Dumbarton, the team immediately below them.
Rovers have won 6 and drawn 2 of their 11 games and a last gasp win over Queen of the South the week before moved them up to third.
Since their match in August, Dunfermline have enhanced their squad, with the Pars signing midfielder John Herron on loan from Blackpool, former Falkirk and Hibs striker Farid El Alagui, and Ex Rangers and Queen of the South striker Nicky Clark.
Rovers signed former Rangers player Robbie Crawford the day before the game on a short-term deal.
Dunfermline made three changes. Cardle, Herron and El Alagui came in for Paton, Williamson and Reilly. The first two made the bench while Reilly was missing through injury.
Raith went with the same starting eleven as defeated Queen of the South the previous Saturday. It was a bit of a surprise to see Mark Stewart starting, as he had surgery on his wrist just two days before.
There were 5,649 in attendance, 1,558 of which were in the away end.
El Alagui had the first chance of the game in the 3rd minute when a Talbot ball into the area came to his feet. He turned quickly, but he shot weakly, straight at Cuthbert in the Rovers goal.
Straight up the other end and a header back to Murdoch by a defender was always going to be short and McManus chased after it. Murdoch raced from his line and just managed to get there before the Raith striker to get the ball to safety.
Despite these early moments, the game didn’t exactly get off to a flier, with both teams struggling to string any passes together.
Davidson showed admirable composure in his own box in 12 minutes when he calmly headed the ball back to Cuthbert in the Rovers goal after El Alagui had lifted the ball into the box.
Dunfermline almost created a good chance in 15 minutes when Cardle’s low cross looked to be falling for Higginbotham in the six-yard-box, but Benedictus managed to divert it away at the last minute.
The Pars had another chance in 20 minutes when El Alagui laid off a Geggan cross into the path of Clark on the right of the box, but his effort was high and wide.
There was a scare for Rovers in 22 minutes when Davidson went down and limped off holding his back, but he returned to the fray a couple of minutes later.
As the half progressed, the home side were seeing more and more of the ball, but struggled to make any headway.
In 33 minutes, Clark crossed into the Rovers box and El Alagui met the ball with his head, but the presence of Mvoto put him off and he could only put it wide.
Higginbotham fed Clark in 37 minutes and he struck for goal from 20 yards, but it was poorly hit, straight at Cuthbert in the Rovers goal.
Two minutes later, a great chance for the Pars. Cardle collected the ball deep and went past a couple of challenges. As defenders were drawn to him he slipped the ball through to El Alagui, who had just the keeper to beat. As the striker shot low towards goal, Cuthbert, who had raced from his line, managed to block the effort and the ball was cleared.
A Higginbotham corner in 43 minutes fell to Cardle on the edge of the box, but he sent his shot wide.
Rovers would have been pleased to hear the half time whistle. Dunfermline had been in control, but other than the one chance for El Alagui, hadn’t looked like scoring. Raith had been poor, but the standard of football all round hadn’t been good and it wasn’t a great first half. I expect both managers would, in keeping with the date, have given their teams a rocket at half time.
The visitors finally showed some intent in 49 minutes when a corner came to Davidson on the edge of the box, but he shot over the bar.
A minute later, a Dunfermline corner found the head of Geggan, but he sent it well off target.
Callachan had a shot from distance at the Pars goal in 52 minutes, but Murdoch saved comfortably.
In 56 minutes, Higginbotham went down the right for Dunfermline and got the better of Benedictus. He sent in a great cross to the back post which took out the keeper and with it looking as though the ball would either go straight in, or Clark would head home from about a foot from the line, Davidson appeared to acrobatically head the ball away from right under the bar.
The game was threatening to up its standing to mediocre as Rovers created a chance in 61 minutes. Stewart got to the by-line and cut the ball back for Callaghan in the six yard box, but he didn’t make good contact and Murdoch managed to save.
Higginbotham’s clever back-heel in 64 minutes released Herron as Dunfermline came forward again and he showed great skill to manoeuvre his way past three challenges and into the box, but his shot was blocked.
Thompson sent Stewart racing through on the home goal in 70 minutes and Murdoch came charging out of his box to challenge. Both players got there at the same time and the keeper seemed to make contact with both player and ball. It fell to Callaghan, but he couldn’t steer the ball on target and the chance was gone.
El Alagui tried an acrobatic effort at the Rovers goal in 73 minutes and the ball was blocked to Cardle, but the winger’s shot had no power and it was easy for Cuthbert.
In 82 minutes, El Alagui was involved again, shooting from the centre of the box, but he put his effort high into the stand behind the goal.
Strange to see Rovers keeper Cuthbert wasting time as the clock was running down. I’d have thought they would have been pressing for a winner.
Some Dunfermline fans were saying it was the best they had seen their team play this season and if that is the case, I think they are going to struggle.
The second half was an improvement on the first, but it certainly wasn’t a memorable game. Rovers came more into the game, but the home side were still involved and will be disappointed not to have won after being on top in the first half.
Higginbotham stood out for Dunfermline and I was again impressed by Mvoto at the heart of the Rovers defence.
Before the game, Dunfermline had scored the most home goals in the league, and also conceded the most home goals. This was the first goalless draw between the teams in 21 years. Sigh.
Dunfermline dropped down a place as a result of their draw, with Dumbarton going above them after their win against St Mirren. Raith stayed in third place.
Special mention to the steak bridies on sale at East End Park from local bakers Stephens. They really are excellent. Dunfermline could certainly do with a rethink on the selling though. Standing in the queue before half time, the second half was around 5 minutes old before I was served and even then, the man in front of me got the last bridie. (If I hadn’t got one pre-game, there may have been tears).
Full Time: Dunfermline Athletic 0 Raith Rovers 0
Dunfermline Athletic: 1 Sean Murdoch, 6 Andy Geggan, 12 Lee Ashcroft, 4 Lewis Martin, 3 Jason Talbot, 20 Kallum Higginbotham, 21 John Herron, 8 Nat Wedderburn, 11 Joe Cardle, 37 Nicky Clark, 48 Farid El Alagui. Subs: 2 Ryan Williamson, 5 Callum Fordyce, 7 Michael Paton, 9 Michael Moffat, 16 Rhys McCabe, 18 Paul McMullan, 43David Hutton.
Raith Rovers: 1 Kevin Cuthbert, 14 Iain Davidson, 5 Jean-Yves Mvoto, 6 Kyle Benedictus, 3 Kevin McHattie, 12 Ross Matthews, 4 Ross Callachan, 21 Jordan Thompson, 7 Chris Johnston (Roberts 77), 9 Mark Stewart (Skacel 88), 20 Declan McManus. Subs 10 Lewis Vaughan, 16 Joel Coustrain, 17 Aaron Lennox, 18 Scott Roberts, 19 Rudi Skacel, 23 Conor Brennan, 24 Robbie Crawford.
Referee: Craig Thomson