First Fife DerbyDate: Thursday, 18th Aug 2022
It will be the first competitive match between Kelty Hearts and Dunfermline Athletic this weekend as the Maroon Machine face the Pars at New Central Park in the SPFL Cinch League One, on Match-Day 4.
It has been contrasting emotions for both sides in recent months, with both sides suffering the downs and experiencing the highs before both management teams were changed during the close season.
Kelty won League 2 under Kevin Thomson last term, with the part-timers showing a consistency which couldn`t be matched to any degree by the remaining 9 sides in Scotland`s fourth-tier. Former Pars players Kallum Higginbotham and Joe Cardle were at the forefront of the Kelty`s attack and helped secure promotion to this campaign`s League One. However, Thomson decided it was time for him to step away from the New Central Park hot-seat and was replaced by John Potter.
The experienced coach will know this division well – alongside winning promotion with Queen`s Park last season as he helped the Spiders out on an interim basis until new manager Owen Coyle officially took charge [helping relegate Dunfermine Athletic in the process], the local lad was also coach and then manager of DAFC during the Club`s last stint in this division.
The season prior to Alan Johnston beign appointed as manager saw the West Fife side finish 7th in Scotland`s third-tier: following the departure of Jim Jefferies, Potter stepped up and took charge of first-team affairs until the end of the season, but was relieved of his duties following a difficult 6 months at the helm at East End Park.
Sadly for Potter, his struggles as a manager at this level have continued at the beginning of this campaign, as Kelty await their first league point of the term. This should not be a reflection on the squad – and the quality within the squad – that Potter has at his disposal. Alongside the aforementioned Higginbotham and Cardle, Lewis Martin has joined Kelty Hearts following his release after 9 seasons from DAFC this summer.
There is a plethora of fellow established pros within the hosts line-up and they will thrive on a big attendance, vociferous atmosphere and a feisty encounter on Saturday.
For the Pars, it was vice versa from their perspective. A disappointing season saw relegation via the play-offs – this meant the `reset button` was pushed as the Club looked to re-build it`s foundations for the future. By re-introducing the Academy and by progressing with the Training Base at Rosyth, it provided the new manager a clean slate off the field.
James McPake was appointed and has got off to a great start, winning 5 games out of 7 – only losing once within 90 minutes. All 5 wins have saw clean-sheets, which has given a fantastic platform to build on for the players to go forward. You can see the confidence slowly return to the back-line with players like Rhys Breen and Deniz Mehmet now starting regularly and performing to a consistently high standard.
This has allowed the Football Club to grind out victories when required, but has also allowed the front-line to flourish and could have and arguably should have ended in higher score-lines and winning margins over the previous 7 matches. With Lewis McCann and Nikolay Todorov scoring in previous matches, the re-ignition of the flame in front of goal is also returning, slowly but surely.
The Pars` last away match saw a convincing 3-0 win over FC Edinburgh, and despite Alan Maybury`s men going down to 10 men after 27 minutes, it was already 1-0 Dunfermline and the hosts were toiling. McPake will be hoping for a similar performance this weekend, when Athletic travel the short distance to local rivals Kelty.
It will not be an easy game, but an early goal could settle the nerves, bring pressure onto the hosts who are pointless so far in League One and open up the game even more, which would provide the guys in the forwsrd areas more space to attack and create chances in.
After a successful week of fan engagement, with the Open Training Session – which took place at East End Park on Tuesday morning, it would be fitting to end this period of positivity with a fourth win in a row, 12 points on the board, another clean-sheet and the bragging rights for the next month or two.
A packed out away end with high demand for tickets is a delight for Dunfermline: the good factor is returning, but there is a long way to go yet; we all just have to hope that Saturday isn`t the first bump in the road.
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