A pre-game downpour cast doubt on the prospect of the last Raith-Dunfermline derby of the season, which, depending on how the Pars’ winding up saga unfolds, could have deprived fans of one last meeting.
The teams ran out in front of a somewhat disappointing crowd of 3700 and the greater noise was coming from the fuller away North stand. However, as the 1949 Pars fans chanted, with presumably deliberate irony, that they were “Dunfermline till they died” they were unfortunately 52 bodies short of the threshold which would have won them a donation from the “wee team”.
The Rovers lined up with a revised, positive-looking 4-4-2 formation, with gaffer Grant Murray partnering Laurie Ellis in defence, menacing Simon Mensing bolstering the midfield and new loanee Josh Watt occupying the left-wing.
The opening stages of the game were, while not of especially high quality, nonetheless compelling. As both teams traded speculative early chances it was the Rovers who looked the more dangerous. The home side were enjoying success down the left-wing where Josh Watt’s impressive touch and willingness to run at defender saw him delivering dangerous crosses with both feet. Watt’s positivity turned the formation into almost a 4-3-3, and a stand-out performance by Eddie Malone supported the productivity and solidity of the left flank.
The combative Simon Mensing brought some much-needed steel to the midfield, however, a series of uncompromising challenges saw him deservedly booked in the first half. Despite Mensing’s break-up play, creativity in midfield was still lacking and link-up with the forwards was limited. As a result Brian Graham frequently found himself dragged deep and wide in search of the ball, somewhat blunting the Rovers attack. However, it was the big man’s awareness and quick reactions which allowed him to beat the offside trap and set up Greig Spence who stabbed the ball home and put the visitors’ gas at a peep. The Pars were denied a reasonable penalty claim shortly before the half sent the home side in 1-0 up after 45.
The Rovers were the faster out of the blocks in the second half, however, the Pars’ midfield partnership Stephen Husband and Andy Geggan began to assert their dominance, moving the ball effectively. Mensing did what he could to break up play, but woeful distribution from both Walker and Stuart Anderson frequently saw possession turned over, keeping Watt, Graham and Spence frustrated and the Rovers defence under pressure.
As the Pars once again gained possession in midfield, the ball was moved out to stalwart Joe Cardle whose cross was mismanaged by the Rovers defence as first Jason Thomson misjudged the flight of the ball, before Andy Geggan reacted fastest to the knock-down and was able squeeze the ball home from close range. 1-1.
The introduction of Grant Anderson’s pace and skill gave the Rovers a new attacking option, and his fresh legs stretched the Pars’ back line as the home side looked the more likely in the closing stages.
Some good feet and even better vision from Brian Graham, once again deep in the midfield, sent Allan Walker through on goal right at the death. As the midfielder charged into the box with only a shaky Paul Gallacher between him and a derby victory, the South Stand collectively held their breath. Grant Anderson had shown commendable desire to race into the box in support, however, Walker left it too late to get his head up and, seemingly torn between shooting and squaring to Anderson, could only tamely roll the ball into Gallacher’s midriff.
In the grand scale of the season a draw against a superior Dunfermline side is unlikely to be viewed as a crucial result. Indeed, with only a point from four games, the possibility of all of Dunfermline’s results being wiped from the record would be small consolation if we do end up losing our friends and rivals to liquidation. However, the Rovers will have to start capitalising against opposition at the lower end of the table if we are to avoid a relegation scrap. Rediscovering our composure in midfield will be vital in this regard and if the problem persists the gaffer may find himself under pressure to shuffle the pack come the summer.