Dunfermline Athletic 2 Raith Rovers 1Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Tuesday, 16th Mar 2010
Sometimes it’s skill that wins games; tonight it was mostly effort and determination that earned the points after Steven Bell’s first half red card left the Pars to mount a rearguard action to defend Steven McDougall’s early strike. A second goal from Gibson gave a bit of breathing space but after Walker pulled one back it was a long half hour on the back foot.
For the second time this year Calum Woods defied an apparent suspension to feature, although this time it was legitimate as an appeal (with every grounds of success) had been lodged against Saturday’s red card. There was more good news when Gibson and Holmes, both seen as doubtful, made the starting line-up and hence the Pars started with their preferred 4-4-2, only featuring one change from Saturday, Mason in for Burke to play alongside Bell. Gibson again started on the left wing, with Holmes on the right of midfield. The defence of Woods, Dowie, Higgins and McCann is beginning to have a settled look about it which must help Fleming in goals; the front pairing of Graham and McDougall on the other hand is not quite so familiar.
Rovers’ injury problems are, if anything, worse than the Pars’, and even though John McGlynn is not afraid to vary his tactics, many of his positional changes have been forced upon him. Nevertheless, he sent out an interesting formation, which looked like a 4-1-4-1 – Stephen Simmons sitting in front of the back 4, Iain Williamson in central midfield, Gregory Tadé on the right and Graham Weir largely on his own up front.
The crowded midfield meant there was little early on to get excited about – Walker’s shot in the 10th minute was going nowhere, but Higgins stuck out a foot to divert it for the game’s first corner, which Higgins himself cleared, sending McDougall free on the right. Gibson was in acres of space through the middle but Steven couldn’t find him. The Pars did better one minute later on the other wing. Gathuessi stopped Gibson’s first attempt to get past him; the second time of asking Willie threw in a step-over and got room to cross toward to Graham in the middle. This was cleared to the edge of the box where McDougall drove it back in, off the boot of Murray, into the roof of the net. 1-0 Pars, although the goal was originally credited to Bell.
The Pars were enjoying the bulk of possession; a little jink from Gibson in 14 minutes wasn’t matched by the quality of the shot, McGurn saving easily low to his right, and a couple of minutes later McDougall chased down a long ball and returned it to Holmes whose cross found the head of Graham. A good chance but again McGurn held, this time low to his left, although you felt he maybe made the save a little flashier than necessary.
Raith had their first sustained spell of pressure midway through the half, Mason eventually having to charge down Williamson’s shot inside the box, and even Simmons got forward for a snap-shot, although one that finished half way up the McCathie – you can imagine the jeering with which this effort was met. Rovers’ cause wasn’t helped by two more injuries – Weir had already limped off, then Gatheussi went down with a hamstring pull, the initial effect of which was to make it look as if Simmons’ pass had gone straight out the park (cue more jeering). With Murray having to move to right back, Simmons had to take over at centre-back, and amidst this disruption it was understandable that the Pars continued to press, but Rovers had their chances. Woods` attempts to win a misplaced pass merely rebounded into the path of Tade, who eluded Higgins’ challenge to set up Sloan – the substitute blasted over from 6 yards. A 41st minute corner was missed by Dowie, but Tade couldn’t adjust and the ball bounced off the big Frenchman and past the post. Then with the game heading for the break there was a moment of madness from Bell – an ugly two footed challenge may have won the ball from Tade but referees are really stamping down on this sort of tackle these days – the red card was flourished and Bell had first dibs on the half-time oranges. No chance of appealing that one.
An immediate switch to 4-4-2 from Rovers nearly paid instant dividends, Russell taking advantage of Dowie’s difficulties with a ball over the top, but as Fleming desperately tried to narrow the angle, the forward lost composure and thumped the ball beyond the keeper, but well beyond the far post. As the whistle for the interval went, the Pars would have been ruing their failure to capitalise on their dominance, but relieved that Rovers hadn’t taken any of several good chances.
Half time: Pars 1 Rovers 0.
The Pars came out first after the break with a change of plan – keep 2 up front and sacrifice width in the midfield. An interesting tactic, which wasn’t helped when Dowie almost immediately saw yellow after tripping Russell at the edge of the box; Sloan curled the free-kick over the bar. Already it looked like it would be a long half, and after sustained pressure a chip beyond the back post found Murray but he completely missed his kick and this failure was compounded when Shields fell over trying to keep the ball in play.
The Pars’ bravery was rewarded in 55 minutes. Simmons had been hasty with a clearance, sticking it in the main stand (who gave him plenty of stick back) and the shy found its way to Graham with his back to goal on the 18 yard line – he found Gibson, a great touch took him between two players, a little burst of pace and he was clear and with McGurn committing himself early Gibson slammed the ball into the net from 8 yards. 2-0 Pars!