SFL v Raith Rovers
DUNFERMLINE 2 RAITH ROVERS 1 Date: 23/04/11
Fixture: Irn Bru SFL Division
Attendance: 11052, Kick Off: 3:00pm.
Referee: George Salmond
This was the biggest derby match since May 1995 when a 0-0 draw at Starks Park set up the Kirkcaldy side`s promotion and left the Pars one point behind with the best goal difference in the league but facing play offs against Aberdeen. This time a win for Dunfermline would set up a four point advantage over the Rovers with just two matches remaining.
The importance of the game attracted the largest crowd to East End Park since it became all seated; the only sell out since the stands were completed was the Scott Thomson Testimonial match in August 2007 and it took Manchester United Giggs, Rooney, Scholes et al to sell out the ground.
John McGlynn`s Raith made one change from the side that scraped through the previous week away to Stirling, Ian Davidson in for former Par Scott McBride. Jim McIntyre made two changes - the suspended Kevin Rutkiewicz replaced by Chris Higgins and Calum Woods returned in place of Neil McGregor.
The Raith end was nearly filled up by 2.30pm and large numbers of Pars supporters were still streaming in. The Pars `cage` moved from the centre line to the north east corner to ensure a good Dunfermline `welcome` for the travelling support from Kirkcaldy. There was a Pipe Band first and then stadium music included the theme from Match of the Day. Certainly that was the anticipation as the build up continued with Big Country predicting a Field of Fire; with so much at stake it seemed very appropriate.
After a special routine from Sammy the Tammy the teams emerged into a real cauldron of noise. Raith Rovers kicked off in the pouring rain attacking the goal at the McCathie Stand end. The opening exchanges showed signs of nerves with neither side controlling the ball particularly well. First chance went the visitors way when an Allan Walker free kick from the left touch line aimed at Mark Campbell at the far post created difficulties.
Pars broke and David Graham chose to shoot from 25 yards but his shot was blocked. Then in six minutes a Joe Cardle free kick picked out Martin Hardie but he was closed out. Cardle was then allowed to round Gregory Tade and again his cross was dealt with by the Rovers defence.
There was a scare for Raith in 11 minutes when Higgins free kick was pumped from inside his own half into the opposing penalty box where Andy McNeil came rushing out but the ball went over the goalkeeper who could only fingertip it as the ball dropped outside the right goalpost. It would have been a real belter but a corner resulted and Hardie came oh so close to getting his head on the cross.
In 16 minutes an Austin McCann cross bounced through the Raith penalty area and over McNeil`s crossbar. There were appeals for a corner but referee Salmond did not see the ball break off a Raith arm. Graham broke next minute as Dunfermline began to take a grip of the match and his shot was turned behind for another Pars corner.
A foul on Cardle handed the Pars a free kick into the box in 19 minutes and Joe`s inswinger was glanced over the crossbar by Liam Buchanan. The Pars continued their passing game and almost got their reward at the midway point of the first half. Graham chipped the ball in from the right and Buchanan laid the ball off for Andy Kirk and he crashed the ball past McNeill but the ball was kept out by the crossbar.
In 28 minutes Woods squared, Kirk flicked on but Cardle couldn`t take the chance. When the ball was sent back in Kirk was squeezed out by the central defence. Two minutes later Graham switched in a great ball to the back post where Cardle shot the ball over the bar but was penalised for handball anyway. Hardie then smashed a shot wide as it continued to be all Dunfermline.
Hardie sent Cardle away down the left on 35 minutes but he cut inside and failed to get a shot in. Raith had a rare visit into the Pars 25 but Walker`s cross was too strong for Tade. Allan Walker sent in a free kick from the right and a downward header from Laurie Ellis came back out of Chris Smith`s hands for John BAIRD to poke home for the 41st minute opener.
A Cardle free kick three minutes later was defended and although It was a first half totally dominated by the home team the keeper`s blunder meant they went in one down.
Half Time: Dunfermline 0 Raith Rovers 1
Buchanan and Kirk got the second half underway and within the first 90 seconds the Pars forced two corners. Rovers survived that and then more pressure when McCann`s ball was touched by Hardie to Mason but his shot was beaten away.
Raith penetrated the Pars defence in 50 minutes when Ellis got to the left byeline and picked out Tade but he turned the ball over the crossbar. Two minutes later Woods under pressure from Tade headed a Walker cross behind. At the other end McCann won a free kick after a late tackle on him by Murray. That earned the Raith centre back a yellow card and when Cardle sent that in Higgins header was sent over his bar by McNeill, now in a purple outfit.
The 55th minute corner on the left was to bring the much needed equaliser. A Cardle ball over was deep and Martin HARDIE headed the ball back into the net as McNeill swept across in an attempt to keep it out.
Three minutes later Hardie sent Cardle on a run but his shot was turned around the right post for a corner. When Cardle picked out Kirk at the near post he glanced a header over the bar. Kirk sped down the right in 65 and narrowly failed to find Buchanan in front of goal. The striker was then replaced by Steven McDougall and his first involvement came when Hardie sent him down the left. The subs slip to Cardle let the winger in but Simmons did just enough to force the shot wide.
Dunfermline roared on by the home support swept up the park at Raith as the sun threatened to shine on East End Park. Graham went up the right, cut back to Woods and Hardie drove wide from 30 yards. McDougall advanced into the right side of the Raith box but Graham`s chip was then too strong.
In front of the away support Baird fired wide with a dipping volley from 25 yards. With 15 minutes remaining, Graham Bayne was then introduced for the tiring Cardle. Graham got in behind the Rovers defence on the left but his cut back was too deep for both Bayne and Kirk. Then a free kick 28 yards out handed Dunfermline a great chance. HARDIE stepped up and waited while Rovers built a six man wall with one Pars shirt getting in amongst them. The drive sailed into the right of the goal giving the diving McNeill no chance. 2-1 to the Pars in 78th minute.
Bright sunshine then bathed East End Park mirroring how things were looking for the Pars SPL hopes. Graham Weir came on for Craig Wilson as McGlynn went 4-3-3 and Andy Dowie became the final Pars sub as Kirk was withdrawn. The sub quickly found himself on a counterattack and he directed a good square ball for Graham but the wee man forgot to take the ball.
Big cheers greeted Smith`s clutching on a Raith corner in 88 minutes and East End Park was on its feet as the game drew to a close. On 90 minutes McDougall burst through on the right side of the penalty area and laid off a perfect ball for Graham but McNeill pulled off a fantastic save even though it was virtually right at him.
After three minutes of added time referee George Salmond blew for full time and that meant three points and a four point lead at the top of the First Division. Great scenes on and off the park, two games more - Morton and Falkirk - and their feat is in their own hands.
DUNFERMLINE: Chris Smith; Calum Woods, Chris Higgins, Alex Keddie, Austin McCann (c); David Graham, Gary Mason, Martin Hardie, Joe Cardle (Graham Bayne 75), Liam Buchanan (Steven McDougall 67), Andy Kirk (Andy Dowie 85).,
SUBS: Nick Phinn, Greg Paterson (GK).
SCORER: Hardie (55, 78)
YELLOW CARDS: Hardie (78), Woods (85)
RAITH ROVERS: Andrew McNeil; Craig Wilson (Graham Weir 84), Grant Murray, Mark Campbell, Laurence Ellis; Allan Walker, Kevin McBride, Ian Davidson, Stephen Simmons; John Baird, Gregory Tade.
SUBS: Mark Ferry, Dougie Hill, Iain Williamson, David McGurn (GK).
SCORER: Baird (41)
YELLOW CARD: Murray (54), Ellis
WEATHER: Rain 14C
NEXT MATCH: (away) SFL First Division v Morton
Saturday 30th April 2011, kick off 3:00pm
Ladbrokes Championship: Saturday 18th March, Dunfermline v Ayr United kick off 3.00pm