Nostalgia: Raith Rovers triumph in 1993’s title-chasing Fife derby

It was billed as the biggest Fife derby for years and it ended in triumph for Raith Rovers.
Raith's Peter Hetherston and Dunfermline's Craig Robertson challenge for the ball.Raith's Peter Hetherston and Dunfermline's Craig Robertson challenge for the ball.
Raith's Peter Hetherston and Dunfermline's Craig Robertson challenge for the ball.

On March 20, 1993 First Division leaders Rovers hosted rivals Dunfermline who were hard on their heels in second place as both teams challenged for the league title, with Raith six points in front.

Come the final whistle they had extended their lead by another two points and Pars boss Jocky Scott gritted his teeth and conceded the first division title as two goals from his counterpart Jimmy Nicholl (inset) had assured victory for the league leaders.

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However it was far from a straightforward win with boss Nicholl describing his side’s first half performance as “shocking”, adding: “Athletic were hungrier, sharper and better than we were but I am pleased that we were able to withstand their pressure.”

An aerial duel between Dunfermline's David Moyes and Raith's Craig Brewster.An aerial duel between Dunfermline's David Moyes and Raith's Craig Brewster.
An aerial duel between Dunfermline's David Moyes and Raith's Craig Brewster.

The first division’s biggest gate of the day of 6985 watched a typically hectic derby clash which while not short on skill, failed to justify it’s top billing

Both teams had chances when the play broke out of the clogged up midfield but there was little time or space for ball players such as Peter Hetherston and Craig Brewster to work their wonders.

Despite dominating the match in the first half, Dunfermline rarely threatened to break down the home defence, while Nicholl’s first goal, a freak strike direct from a corner kick, caused them into a dejected collapse which Raith capitalised upon.

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Their heads went down and from then on in, the result was never in any serious jeopardy. Nicholl fired a memorable striker’s goal 11 minutes from the end as Raith turned the screw.

Rovers had been forced to rejig their team after Shaun Dennis called off with ‘flu, ‘and David Sinclair dropped back to his formed role at centre half.

Colin Cameron came back into the starting line up and the second substitute spot was awarded to Robbie Raeside.

The game began tensely with Dunfermline quickly closing down Rovers in the midfield and frustrating their attempts to settle into any rhythm. Pars’ pressure kept Ian McLeod and John McStay effectively pinned into their full back positions and unable provide support.

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After 12 minutes, Scott Leitch controlled Paul Smith’s long pass and shot wide of Arthur’s right post, then Billy Davies played a neat one-two with Hamish French and volleyed the return just wide.

Rovers returned fire with an on-target Brewster head flick from Hetherston’s 19th-minute corner which Pars’ defender Rab Shannon scrambled off the line.

Top scorer Gordon Dalziel played despite an injury and was subbed in the 48th minute for Alan MacKenzie.

A fully-fit Dalziel would have done better in 34 minutes when, after taking Cameron’s pass inside the six-yard box, he hesitated and keeper Lindsay Hamilton blocked at his feet.

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Raith’s goal survived a scare in 55 minutes when McStay cleared off the line from French after the Pars’ danger man burst through the defence, then, five minutes on, the home side took the lead.

Awarded a corner on the railway side, Nicholl waved away Brewster and Hetherston, the normal flag kickers, and elected to take the corner himself.

His in-swinger went straight into the net after a half-hearted attempt to save by Hamilton.

As the Dunfermline threat faded, Raith surged forward strongly.

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Hamilton scrambled away a long range Sinclair drive then Cameron drilled a ball into the penalty box which MacKenzie picked up but he couldn’t handle its pace.

In the 79th minute, Raith extended their lead with a devastating move which started in midfield. MacKenzie’s running tore the Pars defence apart and opened the gap for Brewster to pinpoint Nicholl.

The player/manager was a cool executioner, chipping over Hamilton as he rushed out.

Four minutes before time, Coyle’s pass enabled MacKenzie to fight his way into the box but Hamilton was equal to his shot.

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Then, in 88 minutes, Dunfermline were denied a late equaliser. Arthur was quick of his line to save at French’s feet after Davies’ pass caught the Raith defence square.

Rovers would go on to take the title with a home win over Dumbarton on April 10, but for Dunfermline the defeat was to prove costly.

They were pipped for the automatic second promotion spot by a single point by Tommy Burns’ Kilmarnock and another season in the First Division beckoned.

Raith Rovers: Arthur, McStay. McLeod, Coyle, Sinclair, McGeachie, Nicholl, Dalziel (S48 MacKenzie), Hetherston, Brewster, Cameron. Sub (not used): Raeside.

Dunfermline Athletic: Hamilton, Shannon, Cunnington, McCathie, Moyes, Robertson, French. Leitch, Smith. Davies. McWilliams S73 Grant). Sub (not used): Cooper.

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