Perhaps there was just too much anticipation ahead of this meeting between two sides expected to be among the Championship promotion contenders because, when it came to the real thing, it was a right slow-burner of a game.
Mutual respect abounded on the field, with no one wanting to give anything away, and also afterwards, as both managers complimented their opponents’ endeavours. Alas, entertainment was the victim and the supporters of both Raith and Dundee will have left with some nagging doubts about whether their sides have sufficient firepower for the long campaign ahead.
The visitors had the better of the meagre ration of scoring opportunities and were denied what looked like a certain winner by a wonderful stop by Raith goalkeeper David McGurn from a Declan Gallagher second-half header. “It’s a clean sheet and we’ve come away from home and got point, but we squandered a number of chances in the first half from set pieces,” reflected Dundee manager John Brown. “Full credit to Raith, they battled away, but we’re struggling in that final third to create enough chances”.
A litany of wasted possession and lack of creative spark saw the ball shuttle from end to end, with neither goalkeeper called upon to do much in a poor opening 45 minutes. A penalty appeal by Dundee after Peter MacDonald tumbled in the box proved to be the main talking point, but there were contrasting views from either camp. “It’s a stonewall penalty – the referee’s the only one that didn’t see it”, asserted Brown. “The ref sees it as two bodies coming together and that’s it. We get the foul,” shrugged his Raith counterpart Grant Murray.
As the interval approached, the visitors did at last stir some interest with a series of well-struck corners from Jim McAllister. From one of them Gallagher nodded the ball into the net, but it was ruled out for an infringement by referee John Beaton. Gary Irvine and MacDonald were also picked out by McAllister’s excellent deliveries and both should have at least directed their headers goalwards.
The second half just had to be better and, mercifully, that proved to be the case. Both sides tried to show a bit more urgency and initiative, with Raith quickly conjuring up a couple of attempts on target courtesy of Grant Anderson. Dundee looked to build on their earlier momentum, but their main threat continued to emerge from set pieces with Gallagher once again connecting powerfully from a free kick. He, like almost everyone else in the ground, was astounded as McGurn conjured up a stupendous one-handed reaction save to keep it out. Gallagher then had a decent effort with the follow-up only to see Callum Booth clear it off the line. Yet again there was little unanimity between the two managers however. “It wasn’t a great save, our player’s got do better, it’s a clear header,” insisted Brown. “It was fantastic. Davie’s a top goalkeeper,” retorted Murray.
Moments later Dundee mounted their most impressive ground raid of the afternoon as substitute Steven Doris was sent clear, but he pulled his low drive wide. Raith then responded with a nicely-worked corner which saw Paul Watson knock the ball down for Gordon Smith, but the youngster blazed opportunity high and not so handsomely over the bar.
“I was delighted with the effort the boys put in,” concluded a satisfied Murray. “We defended well against a very good Dundee side”.