FOR so, so long, Dunfermline Athletic have reigned in the Kingdom of Fife, bestowing the moniker of “wee team” on to their near neighbours from Kirkcaldy.
Scorers: Raith - Hill 2, Fox 64 pen
Referee: G Aitken. Att: 3,765
You can hardly blame supporters of Raith Rovers, then, for lapping up their status as the region’s dominant force following the Pars’ financial travails of the last 12 months. And, as their side claimed just a second win at East End Park in 13 years, that is exactly what they did.
It took less than two minutes for the visitors to claim the lead and, naturally, Joe Cardle was pivotal in its creation as he returned to face the club with whom he spent four years before being made redundant in March. The waspish winger delivered a superb corner-kick which was consummately headed into an unguarded net by Dougie Hill, with goalkeeper Ryan Scully posted missing.
The chants of “who’s the wee team now” – with a key expletive removed – were immediate.
Tranquil passage to tomorrow’s Ramsden’s Cup quarter-final draw was assured with 25 minutes to play and former Pars star Cardle was again at the heart of the action.
He cut in from the left flank and was felled by a clumsy Andy Geggan challenge. Liam Fox stepped up and, despite a valiant hand from the plunging Scully, his strike was powerful enough to find the corner.
“It was a great night for the fans, the players, the coaching staff and the board, these are massive games and this could be the only one this season,” said Rovers boss Grant Murray.
The relative “size” of each club will, of course, remain a source of debate, however there is absolutely no doubt Raith Rovers are comfortably the strongest side in Fife, boasting a starting eleven of seasoned professionals.
Meanwhile, Dunfermline, whose biggest victory this season is merely existing, have seen their squad decimated by administration and last night fielded a starting line-up with an average age of 21.
To their credit, despite a gulf in experience, Jim Jefferies’ side stuck to their task diligently and Dundee United loanee Jordan Moore came close to finding the net with a fine volley.
Gifted midfielder Shaun Byrne also forced a fine save from David McGurn after navigating some statuesque defending and firing a powerful shot from 18 yards. By the same token, the margin of defeat could have been more substantial, as Morris denied Greig Spence a tap-in.
“We were playing against a very experienced side and I thought we matched them all the way and, if anything, the better football came from us,” Jefferies said. “But again we have suffered from a bit of naivety, and we knew that would be an issue. Everybody knew who they were marking but, within two minutes, we are behind.
“For the penalty, we knew Joe would run at us, especially in the rain, and Andy [Geggan] should have just pulled out.”
Dunfermline: Scully, Geggan, Young, Morris, Whittle, Ferguson (Husband 45), Byrne, Thomson, Falkingham, Wallace (Dargo 73), Moore. Subs not used: Millen, Potter, Goodfellow.
Raith: McGurn, Thomson, Hill, Booth, Watson, Cardle, Fox, Moon, Anderson (Vaughan 85), Elliot, Spence (Smith 45). Subs not used: Laidlaw, Donaldson, Ellis.