Raith Rovers 1 Dunfermline Athletic 1Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Saturday, 16th Mar 2013
These are strange and worrying times to be a Pars fan. Rather than focusing on football matters, attention is turned instead to attempting to divine the intentions of wealthy individuals in metaphorically smoke-filled rooms or estimating the crowd size, all with the lurking fear that the next game could be our last. On the park, Andy Geggan equalised Greig Spence’s first half-goal, and although both sides had a chance to win it, a draw was a fair result.
It was snowing quite heavily in Edinburgh when I set out for Kirkcaldy, with the heavy-hearted feeling of visiting a seriously ill close relative in hospital. By the time I had arrived, the snow had cleared and there was better news of the patient, with rumours of other parties arriving on the scene with the possibility of a life-saving procedure. About 2000 fans had also travelled east and were doing a fair job of filling the Val McDermid stand; the Rovers fans were less enthused about the prospect of a fourth defeat of the season against their old rivals.
Selection worries at least were beginning to ease for Jim Jefferies. The skipper and Andy Geggan had both served their one match ban so were available to play and Steven Jordan had also recovered from his long term injury. With Shaun Byrne having featured for the under 20s in midweek, the manager had an abundance of riches from which to choose, and he made 5 changes. Gallacher kept his place in goals and McMillan and Jordan reclaimed their full back slots alongside Dowie and Morris. Geggan came back into midfield alongside Husband and Thomson, Cardle started again on the left, Wallace kept his place on the right, and Andy Kirk got the nod for the sole striking position after his 93rd minute equaliser at Airdrie. That meant Whittle, Potter and Kane were all benched, alongside Smith and keeper Hrivnak. Dargo was injured and Ross Millen, having done well, will be looking to learn from his experience when next called upon.
As for Rovers, manager Grant Murray named both himself and his assistant in the starting eleven, which was your normal 4-4-2. Jason Thomson was right back, McGurn in goals again, and Pat Clarke was on the bench, as Greig Spence and Brian Graham are proving quite prolific as a partnership.
Before kick -off there was a minute’s applause in celebration of the life of Ian Lister who had played for both teams. In a nice touch, former team mates Gordon Wallace (former holder of the record for most league goals scored in Scottish Football, and of course, a former Pars assistant manager) and Roy Barry were on the pitch to participate.
With the formalities out of the way, the Pars took kick-off. Jordan was soon in the action both offensively and defensively, with a pass and tackle. However, he was playing high up the park and Jason Thomson was soon trying to exploit the space behind him, but it wasn’t clear if his second minute slice into the stand was a cross or a shot.
Jason was busier defensively as Joe Cardle was seeing plenty of the ball, but his crosses were dealt with easily – McGurn punching one and Anderson heading another clear. The game became your classic dour midfield battle – the pitch wasn’t great, having passed a precautionary inspection at 1 p.m. due to a mixture of heavy rainfall and sleet but strangely the tackles weren’t flying in like you might expect from a derby. Possibly this was due to a little bit of over-familiarity between the players, or just another example of the effect the off-field shenanigans are having.
The Pars were seeing more of the ball, but struggling to create – a Morris overhead kick from the edge of the box after the ball was cleared and then returned looked spectacular, but was straight at McGurn. Rovers on the other hand were restricted to shooting from distance, with Spence having a couple of efforts wide. Given Gallacher’s recent vulnerability, you felt this wasn’t a bad plan.
However, McGurn was the busier keeper, although he didn’t have to show any of his brilliance. He had no problem with a low Geggan shot from the edge of the box, with the Pars midfielder also coming close with a couple of headers from corners, although he couldn’t quite time his leap on either occasion.
Then, against the run of play, Rovers took the lead. A long ball wasn’t dealt with, Graham was allowed behind the defence and when he squared Spence was on hand to finish from close range. 1-0 Rovers.
Back came the Pars – Thomson surged forward and laid off to Kirk on his left; Andy seemed to get the ball trapped under his boot, but somehow dug the ball out, his cross having a lot of slice, and just curled past the far post. Then Cardle, in almost the same place, cut inside, went past Jason Thomson before falling. It looked like a penalty to me, and to Joe as he chased referee John Beaton to tell him, but all he got was a booking for dissent.
Half time: Rovers 1 Pars 0
There were no changes at the break, and both sides exchanged early shots from distance through Wallace and Graham. The Pars started on the back foot a little, Gallacher and Morris did well between them to deal with an awkward pass-back – Gallacher chipping sideways and Morris diving to head back to the keeper. Dowie then showed his worth with a fine tackle on the other win to halt the Rovers as they came down the left.
However, the Pars began to get more on the front foot. A nice reverse ball from Wallace let in Cardle, but McGurn was equal to it, but just before the hour mark, the Pars equalised. Jordan had the ball on the left in an advance position, cut it back to Cardle who hit a high, deep cross. Wallace had no right to win it, but win it he did, the loose ball wasn’t cleared and Geggan was on hand to bundle home. One apiece.