A WONDERFUL goal from teenager Ross Millen ensured Dunfermline claimed the bragging rights over Fife rivals Raith Rovers and deservedly sent the holders crashing out of the Petrofac Training Cup at the first hurdle.
Dunfermline 1 - Millen (82)
Raith Rovers 0
Referee: A Muir
After a number of missed chances from the impressive hosts, who made a mockery of their position a league below their fierce foes, Millen provided a moment of inspiration to settle an absorbing contest.
In truth, the victory could have been more handsome, but for the Pars’ own profligacy and an inspired display from Rovers goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert.
Dunfermline can now look forward to another derby in the next round as they face Falkirk and, on this evidence, will provide a stern test for another of their rivals from the Championship.
The first attempt to stage this tie was sabotaged ten days previously by a freak storm which contributed to a power cut and rendered the East End Park turf unplayable. Last night, on a thankfully mild Fife evening, both sides started well.
Within 15 minutes Raith and Dunfermline had created, and squandered, fine opportunities to break the deadlock. Rovers striker Christian Nade was the first culprit, pulling out of a 50-50 challenge with Pars goalkeeper Ryan Scully after being played through on goal by Martin Scott.
Faissal El Bakhtaoui was presented with an even better chance for the hosts minutes later, with the French-Moroccan attacker scampering on to a fine Shaun Byrne pass. With the angle closing inside the box, he appeared caught in two minds over whether to square to Michael Moffat or shoot – and proceeded to wastefully lash the ball into the side-netting.
Lewis Vaughan, an 18-year-old midfielder of some promise, came into the Raith side to replace the suspended Calum Elliot, and he went within a whisker of giving Rovers the lead, flashing a low shot just wide from a tight angle.
With half-time approaching, a ferocious Moffat drive was parried straight to Andy Geggan eight yards from goal, however the Pars skipper snatched at his effort and it cleared the bar. Millen was proving a potent threat from right-back and shot inches wide as Jim Jefferies’ side pushed for the opener.
Raith emerged with renewed vigour after the break and only a superb stop from Scully denied Nade after a powerful run and close-range shot.
Rovers goalkeeper Cuthbert was equally competent moments later with a smart low save from Byrne’s shot from distance.
And Cuthbert had to be at his best on the hour mark to ensure parity remained. The irrepressible El Bakhtaoui wriggled free inside a packed penalty area but his effort was brilliantly saved by the goalkeeper. However, Cuthbert could do nothing about the winning goal.
A low delivery from Josh Falkingham found Millen on the edge of the box and the gifted full-back showed remarkable composure and technique to curl a sensational shot into the top corner.
A predictable bombardment followed from Grant Murray’s men, however the hosts held firm.
Dunfermline: Scully, Buchanan, Martin, Drummond, Millen, Geggan, Byrne (Thomson 87), Falkingham, Spence, El-Bakhtaoui (Ugwu 88), Moffat. Subs not used: Wallace, Forbes, Page, Williamson, Goodfellow.
Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Perry, Watson, McKeown, Thomson, Fox (Callachan 78), Scott, Conroy, Stewart, Vaughan, Nade. Subs not used: Laidlaw, Ellis, McCroary, Robertson, Matthews, Bates.