RAITH Rovers paid the price for an overly defensive approach with a single-goal defeat in a drab New Year’s derby at East End Park yesterday (Wednesday).
Grant Murray lined his men up in a 4-5-1 formation with on-form striker Greig Spence, frustratingly, pushed out to a left midfield role, and Laurie Ellis dropped to the bench.
The changes were perhaps understandable – Murray had to find a solution to the number of goals the team had been conceding lately.
But the plan wouldn’t have involved leaving Brian Graham isolated up front, and allowing Dunfermline to play most of their football in the Raith half.
The closest the home side came to a first half opener was in the seventh minute when Andy Kirk peeled to the back post to get on the end of a deep cross, but his downward header hit the side-net.
Raith’s best first half effort was also a headed one. Brian Graham got decent power into Grant Anderson’s hanging cross in the 12 minute, but Paul Gallacher managed to hold on.
Rovers had to replaced injured Eddie Malone with Reece Donaldson, but the rest of the half was largely forgettable as the teams offered plenty endeavour without providing much entertainment value.
The Pars upped the ante two minutes after the break when Ryan Wallace aimed for the top corner from 18 yards, missing by a matter of inches.
Rovers hit back, almost taking the lead five minutes later as Graham got his head to a David Smith corner at the back post but a combination of defender and goalkeeper managed to prevent the ball from crossing the line.
The home side had another couple of attempts from distance before carving out the game’s best chance so far on the hour mark.
Cardle’s cross bounced through to Kirk in isolation at the back post, but a poor first touch meant he could only stretch and poke the ball over the bar.
If an opener was coming it always looked more likely to come from Dunfermline, and so it proved in the 71st minute.
Rovers pulled everyone back into the box to defend a corner, so when the ball was cleared, it was only heading one way – straight back into Rovers’ area – where Geggan planted a header past Laidlaw from six yards.
Rovers responded by pushing Spence up with Graham and reverting to 4-4-2, and they almost levelled in the 75th minute, but Gallacher managed to block Walker’s near post flick from a low Smith cross.
However, they closest we came to another goal thereafter was at the other end as Pars looked for a clincher on the counter-attack.
This disappointing defeat leaves Raith still searching for the right balance between defence and attack – and fans to suffer the butt end of the bragging rights for a third time this season.