For 90 minutes, football was all that mattered

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FOR Dunfermline Athletic Football Club, nothing is more important than survival.

However, for 90 minutes on Saturday, all talk of winding-up orders, steering groups and liquidation was put to one side as football took centre stage.

Greig Spence celebrates scoring against Dunfermline

Greig Spence celebrates scoring against Dunfermline

Why? Because it was Fife derby day, and when Raith Rovers and Dunfermline meet for a fixture packed with history, tradition and rivalry, all that matters is the result.

There was certainly no sympathy shown for the Pars plight among the Raith players as they chose this last meeting of the season (although hopefully not the last ever) to give their most committed derby performance of the season.

And the Pars players, disillusioned by the failure of their employers to pay them their full wages, suddenly rediscovered the pride in the shirt that they have understandably lacked in recent weeks, judging by results.

Fully paid or not, they were only ever going to give 100 per cent against the Rovers because these games matter more than any other - to the players as much as the fans - and that’s why there ought to be no dancing in the streets of Raith should Dunfermline’s troubles ultimately lead to their demise.

1212010 SSFF raith pars 'Allan Walker & Andy Geggan - Raith Rovers against Dunfermline FC at Starks Park, Kirkcaldy

1212010 SSFF raith pars 'Allan Walker & Andy Geggan - Raith Rovers against Dunfermline FC at Starks Park, Kirkcaldy

Some see Pars current predicament as their just desserts for financial mismanagement, after all it was only two years ago that they embarked on a January spending spree that helped them overtake Rovers to win the title.

However, football in Fife would be significantly worse off without these box-office games and Rovers would lose far more than they would gain if Dunfermline went to the wall.

The pre-match offer from Rovers directors to donate gate receipts to the efforts to save the Pars if their team brought more than 2000 fans helped swell the away support.

In the end the Pars turn-out fell just 50 people short of making money for their club, but they still out-numbered the home fans - 1700 in the home end is worryingly low for such a big game, but typical of the downward trend in attendances over the past two years.

The last derby at Stark’s was marred by indiscipline and a referee who lost control, however, John Beaton restored faith in officialdom by avoiding any soft early bookings.

That allowed a competitive game to flow from first whistle to last, and although the quality of football on a heavy pitch that required a pitch inspection was nothing to write home about, the action was compelling viewing.

Rovers made a number of changes from the dismal performance against Livingston the week before. Grant Murray recalled fit-again Simon Mensing to the midfield and he provided much-missed bite, while Greig Spence and Josh Watt stepped in from the bench as Murray ditched his five-man midfield to return to a 4-4-2.

It took Rovers until the second half to show any urgency against Livi but the change in attitude this week was quickly apparent as they played their way into the Dunfermline box inside two minutes, with Jason Thomson joining the attack to screw a shot wide of the near post.

The game swung back and forth but Rovers bore the look of a team in control and they took the lead on 39 minutes, Spence justifying his selection by reacting quickest to slam home a loose defensive header from close range.

Pars fought back after the break and a dominant start to the second half yielded an equaliser in 57 minutes when Andy Geggan crept into the box to stab home a Ryan Wallace knock-down.

The sides continued to trade punches but a combination of last ditch tackles, particularly from Laurie Ellis who made two key defensive blocks, and poor finishing, surprisingly from Brian Graham who had an off day in front of goal, meant neither ‘keeper was overly tested.

The best chance of a winner fell to Rovers in the last minute of injury time but after running himself into the ground, Allan Walker did not have the legs to play a simple square ball to substitute Grant Anderson for what would have been a tap in and his miscue landed in the arms of goalkeeper Paul Gallacher.

The full-time whistle ended the fight for the points. The fight for the future of this fixture, however, goes on.

MATTHEW ELDER

Twitter: @mattelder_ffp