Raith happier as Fife derby ends in goalless draw

Raith forward Declan McManus tries to escape the clutches of Dunfermline midfielder Nat Wedderburn. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Raith forward Declan McManus tries to escape the clutches of Dunfermline midfielder Nat Wedderburn. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Dunfermline Athletic 0 Raith Rovers 0

It was honours even at East End Park this afternoon as Dunfermline Athletic and Raith Rovers battled out their first goalless draw in 21 years.

In a typically frantic local derby played at 100mph, Rovers struggled to find enough quality middle-to-front to score against the division's leakiest defence, but produced another staunch defensive display to deny a Dunfermline side that had most of the possession and chances.

The Kirkcaldy camp were certainly the happier afterwards as the hard-earned point helped to consolidate third place in the Championship while maintaining their 12 point gap over their local rivals, who dropped into the relegation play-off position.

Raith boss Gary Locke said: "Dunfermline shaded the first half, but I felt we certainly shaded the second.

"It wasn't a boring nil-nil, both teams had chances and both teams tried to win the game so in the end a draw was a fair result.

"In a derby you need everyone putting their bodies on the line and we're getting that in abundance right now.

"It summed up the way we've been for the last month.

"The players are a credit to themselves for the way they are going about their business right now."

Fears that in-form striker Mark Stewart was sit to miss out after undergoing wrist surgery in midweek proved to be unfounded as the striker took his place up front in an unchanged 11 that started the previous week's victory over Queen of the South.

With more than 5500 inside the stadium, including 1500 Raith fans who made the journey across the A92, there was a great atmosphere as the teams emerged for kick-off.

The game in the early stages was a nervy, edgy affair with very little quality on show from either side, but Dunfermline soon settled and by half-time, Raith were hanging on.

There was an early chance for the Pars as Farid El Alagui received the ball eight yards out with his back to goal but his hooked shot was gathered by Kevin Cuthbert.

The hosts continued to set the pace and were almost in on the 15-minute mark as Raith were caught short at the back but a vital interception from Kevin McHattie managed to stop a clear goal-scoring chance.

Three minutes later, Raith were done by a one-two on the edge of the box with Nicky Clark shooting just wide from narrow angle.

Just after the half hour, a high looping cross into the Raith box caused problems but luckily El Alagui could only nod wide with Cuthbert in no mans land.

Dunfermline were playing by far the better football going forward with Raith's long hopeful balls for the front two to chase relying on slip-ups in a shaky Pars defence.

Rovers needed a huge save from Cuthbert to reach half-time on level terms as ex-Rover Joe Cardle played the pass of the game to send El Alagui clean through but the Raith 'keeper raced out to make a vital block with his legs.

Raith had become camped inside their own half but the half-time whistle provided the visitors with respite, and a chance to regroup.

It also allowed some treatment for McHattie, who was clearly struggling with a knock picked up during the first half but who bravely soldiered on.

Raith were much improved after the break with the front four finally seeing some involvement, and a 49th minute corner almost led to the opener when goalkeeper Sean Murdoch palmed a corner straight to Iain Davidson, who could only blast over the bar from 14 yards.

Rovers were much more on the front foot - pressing the game into Dunfermline's half - but only an incredible defensive clearance from Davidson prevented the hosts from taking the lead on 55 minutes.

It seemed certain that Clark would nod home Kallum Higginbotham's cross at the back post but the Raith defender threw himself at the ball, somehow managing to divert it past the post from underneath his own crossbar.

Raith went close at the other end as Stewart's cut back found Ross Callachan six yards out but Murdoch bravely dived at the midfielder's feet to keep him out with a point-blank save.

Callachan had another chance on 72 minutes as Murdoch left his box and collided with Stewart, leaving the Raith midfielder with a shooting chance from 20 yards, but with defenders racing back to the cover the goal line, he dragged his effort wide of the target.

The Raith defence made several blocks and interceptions as the hosts pushed for a winner, with rock solid centre-half partners Kyle Benedictus and Jean-Yves M'voto proving impassible.

Had it been a boxing match, the Pars would've taken the judges decision, so it was they who trooped off most disappointed with the outcome at the full-time whistle.

Raith would have hoped for a more cohesive attacking performance but they will be very encouraged by the recent ability to pick up results when not firing on all cylinders.

Dunfermline: Murdoch, Talbot, Martin, Ashcroft, Herron, Geggan, Wedderburn, Clark, El Alagui, Cardle, Higginbotham. Not used: Hutton, Paton, McCabe, Fordyce, Williamson, McMullen, Moffat.

Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, McHattie, Davidson, M'vocto, Benedictus, Johnston (Roberts 76), Stewart (Skacel 88), Matthews, McManus, Thompson. Not used: Lennox, Vaughan, Coustrain, Crawford, Brennan.

Booked: McManus

Referee: Craig Thomson

Attendance: 5649