SPFL Championship: DUNFERMLINE 0 RAITH ROVERS 0: 05/11/16
Stalemate after Cardle, El Alagui and Herron start
It seemed appropriate that the first home league match against Raith Rovers since January 2013 should be played on Guy Fawkes Day. The Rovers arrived in search of their first league win at East End Park in seven years and as always both sets of fans expected short fuses and explosive incidents.
Pars boss Allan Johnston has only named the same starting eleven once in the 18 matches this season and for the Fife Derby he made three changes. Joe Cardle, John Herron and Farid El Alagui started taking the places of the benched Michael Paton and Ryan Williamson. Gavin Reilly was out with a muscle problem so Farid El Alagui stepped back in beside Nicky Clark upfront.
Raith Rovers went with the same starting eleven as defeated Queen of the South the previous Saturday. Winter had arrived and despite a fine sunny day it was a biting temperature that welcomed both teams and fans.
Declan McManus, on loan from a Fleetwood Town got the game underway with the Rovers attacking the goal at the McCathie Stand end. It was Dunfermline who got in the first shot on target after Jason Talbot`s second minute cross reached El Alagui but he turned and hit it at keeper Kevin Cuthberts.
Sean Murdoch was then sharply off his line to sweep the ball away from McManus 35 yards out. Play ebbed back and forward, Kallum Higginbotham pumped in a free kick from the right but it travelled through the box and out for a bye kick.
Kevin McHattie crossed what turned out to be a harmless ball before in 13th minute El Alagui turned and delivered a dangerous ball that was headed into his keeper`s hands by Iain Davidson. Cardle was next to prod a cross into the Rovers box and some unorthodox defending prevented the ball reaching El Alagui.
Raith threatened on the break and Lee Ashcroft did well to halt McManus` run. In 19 minutes Geggan fed the ball to El Alagui and he in turn moved it swiftly on for Clark but under pressure from Kyle Benedictus, he smashed his shot from 15 yards out wide right.
Talbot whipped away a dangerous cross in from the right but there was a dearth of goalmouth action until Cardle drove a 32nd minute shot on to the back of big Jean Yves Mvoto. A couple of of Geggan throw in down on the right eventually led to Clark lobbing over a ball that El Alagui challenged for but Yves Mvoto did enough to make sure the Pars man`s header went wide right.
Higginbotham`s 35th minute corner ran to Geggan on the edge of the box but Ross Callachan blocked the effort. Two minutes later six well connected passes ending with Cardle and Higginbotham feeding Clark let the striker in for a 20 yard shot but to the keeper.
Five minutes from the break Cuthbert kept out the Pars with a fine save after Cardle had sped through the middle and released an inviting ball for El Alagui to steer on.
The home crowd roared the Pars on after Higginbotham sent the ball across face of goal and then a Higginbotham corner dropped for Cardle unmarked 18 yards out but he crashed it wide right.
Dunfermline were credited with 63% possession in the first half with 8 shots to Rovers none but despite that it remained goalless at the break.
Half time: Dunfermline 0 Raith Rovers 0
Shot shy Rovers came close with a Davidson effort on 49 minutes but blasted his chance over the bar. Next minute a Pars corner sent in by Higginbotham from the right was met by Geggan but his header was high and wide.
In 52 minutes Murdoch dropped to his left to hold a Callachan shot from 25 yards out. Back in front of the McCathie the Raith box got peppered with crosses and the defending was desperate but effective.
Mvoto conceded a corner to prevent El Alagui doing damage.
Davidson headed away a Higginbotham cross and it was Clark and not the ball that ended up in the net. Raith were living dangerously and Cuthbert had to come out to hold another Higginbotham free kick from down under the main stand.
Somehow best known to him, Murdoch kept Callachan out in 61 minutes when Stewart got to the right byeline to cut the ball back. It was quite a let off and would hardly have been deserved. Herron excited the home fans three minutes later as he skilfully worked his way into the Raith box but drove his shot into the sea of defenders legs.
Another good chance came the Pars way at the midpoint of the half. Again it was Higginbotham who delivered from the right but Clark`s header was held by the bright turquoise kitted keeper.
The Pars keeper then had two saves to make out of his box after a high ball through the middle and as the Rovers got a third crack at the chance Callachan crashed the ball wide from 20 yards.
More excitement as Higginbotham`s shot was blocked and then Cardle was presented with an opportunity on the left just ten yards out but his shot to the near post was held by the keeper.
Scott Roberts was introduced for Chris Johnston, the first substitution of the game in 77 minutes and had an early interchange with Stewart that came very close to creating the opener. The Raith fans were cheering on their team with greater volume as Murdoch rose to hold the next cross in from the left.
Mvoto`s high challenge on Cardle only led to a throw in and then El Alagui with a half chance reached midway up the stand with the next attempt on the Raith goal.
Time was running out as Higginbotham sent another ball in from the right but Clark couldn`t really get enough on the ball to net.
The 90 minutes had come and gone when Martin headed away McManus cross. Talbot conceded corner on left but Dunfermline`s defence held tight.
A point apiece but not enough to prevent Dumbarton, who won at St Mirren, going ahead of the Pars in the table.
DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch: Andy Geggan (c), Lewis Martin, Lee Ashcroft, Jason Talbot: Kallum Higginbotham, John Herron, Nat Wedderburn, Joe Cardle: Nicky Clark, Farid El Alagui
SUBS NOT USED: Michael Moffat, Rhys McCabe, Michael Paton, Ryan Williamson, Callum Fordyce, Paul McMullan, David Hutton (GK)
RAITH ROVERS: Kevin Cuthbert: Iain Davidson, Jean-Yves Mvoto, Kyle Benedictus (c), Kevin McHattie: Ross Matthews, Jordan Thompson, Ross Callachan, Chris Johnston (Scott Roberts 77): Mark Stewart (Rudi Skacel 88), Declan McManus.
SUBS NOT USED: Lewis Vaughan, Joel Coustrain, Aaron Lennox, Robbie Crawford, Conor Brennan (GK).
YELLOW CARD: McManus (87)
REFEREE: Craig Thomson
WEATHER: Sunny 7C
NEXT MATCH: SPFL Championship: (away) v Dundee United, Tuesday 8th November 2016, 7.45pm kick off at Tannadice
Pre Season Friendly v Hibernian, Thursday 6th July 2017, kick off 7.45pm