Sam Stanton shines and John Hughes booed as Raith v Dunfermline Fife derby fails to ignite

Raith Rovers versus Dunfermline is one of Scottish football's great rivalries and down the years has delivered no shortage of noise, colour and drama.

Ben Williamson also made his Raith debut after joining on loan from Rangers. (Photo by Alan Rennie / SNS Group)
Ben Williamson also made his Raith debut after joining on loan from Rangers. (Photo by Alan Rennie / SNS Group)

It was something of a disappointment, then, that the first derby fixture of 2022 failed to get pulses racing as the sides battled out a drab goalless draw in front of just 500 fans inside Stark's Park.

Covid can certainly take some of the blame – without crowd restrictions the stadium would have reached fever pitch prior to kick-off with a crowd closer to 5000 rocking through the turnstiles – but the lack of quality in the final third was also a notable feature.

As well as the loss of their biggest gate of the season having a considerable impact on Rovers' finances, the lack of fans undoubtedly took an edge away from the occasion, although it didn’t spare John Hughes from the wrath of the home fans on the return to the club he steered to relegation in 2017 after taking over from Gary Locke.

Sam Stanton impressed on his Raith Rovers debut in the 0-0 draw with Dunfermline. (Photo by Alan Rennie / SNS Group)

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Despite the limited numbers there were audible boos as Hughes emerged before kick-off from the opposite end of the ground, as well as some less than flattering remarks, but the Pars boss was at least warmly received by his opposite numbers in the dugout as he shared a pre-match hug with John McGlynn, Paul Smith and Simon Pollock, the Raith kit man who Hughes famously said would be taking his team talks under his unsuccessful short-lived tenure.

The former Hibs, Ross County and Inverness boss now finds himself in a relegation battle on the other side of Fife, but neither club was able to get the new year pick-me-up they wanted after disappointing ends to 2021.

Raith were looking to get their title bid back on track after following a 15-game unbeaten run with back-to-back defeats in the last two matches of 2021. Leaders Arbroath and second-placed Inverness also playing out a stalemate at Gayfield ensured the third-placed Kirkcaldy side remain four points behind the leaders.

Meanwhile, the Pars' new manager bounce following the appointment of Hughes in early November has worn off somewhat with the East End Park side now five without a win and remaining just a point ahead of Morton at the bottom of the Championship.

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Both sides brought fresh faces into their starting line-up with Raith handing debuts to Ben Williamson, who joined on loan from Rangers on New Years Day, and former Dundee United midfielder Sam Stanton, most recently with Dundalk.

Dunfermline meanwhile threw Steven Lawless straight in for his first taste of action since leaving Fir Park in October as captain Graham Dorrans and Kai Kennedy missed out altogether due to being covid close contacts.

Of the trio of debutants, Stanton impressed most with a dominant and classy midfield display, suggesting he could be a key addition to McGlynn's squad, who bid farewell to Hibs-bound Dylan Tait in his final appearance.

With the Old Firm, Edinburgh, Dundee and Ayrshire derbies all postponed and rescheduled for early February, the Fife rivals took centre stage, but despite plenty endeavour neither side could find an elusive goal.

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Dunfermline had the best two chances with Lewis McCann denied by the legs of Jamie MacDonald in the first half, then heading inches wide after the break.

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