Updated: Nov 1, 2020
A late goal from Frankie Musonda saw Raith leave Dens Park with a point in a mixed performance for the Kirkcaldy club. With five minutes left to play, the make shift full back barrelled into a corner to secure the draw after an afternoon of mixed emotions. Fans will be happy at how the midfield grew into the game but the team did have some lucky escapes throughout the match.
The result leaves Rovers second in the league with Dunfermline moving to the summit of the table following their win against Queen of the South. But what can we take from the visit to Dundee?
Rovers did well to adapt during the game and got the result they deserved
Aside from the first five minutes, this game was very much like a pressure cooker for the home team. Dundee had a shaky start with Lokotsch causing issues as Rovers made a hugely positive start. However, the Dundee midfield trio of Byrne, Adam and Dorrans quickly began to impose themselves on the game. The first half was characterised by some uncharacteristically sloppy passing from the Rovers midfield in what was the first time in a good while where it felt like they were the hunted rather than the hunters. Obviously there's been a jump in quality of the opposition but it's hard to recall the opposition has dictated the play.
Dundee were rewarded for their efforts right before half time. Charlie Adam is a player who will understandably attract a lot of attention when people talk about Dundee. Players of his calibre will rarely end up at this level: a guy who has gone on to rub shoulders with the very best. Adam hit a fine strike into Jamie MacDonald's bottom left hand corner to given the Dees the lead. Half time came and went and Rovers had yet to impose themselves on the game.
As the second half progressed, Rovers grew into the game. Daniel Armstrong in particular became an influence and was unlucky to see a shot fly over the bar from the edge of the box. Tait, Hendry and Spencer all started to also show more attacking impetus and the link up we're familiar with returned. This coincided with McPake trying to shore up the game bringing off Adam, Mullen and McDaid and switching to five at the back.
This wasn't to say that we were creating a lot of chances but it was still a vast improvement. There were also more subtle changes which were made by the players who showed brilliant nous to change things up to try something different.
An example of this was with corner kicks. Rovers tried several times to replicate their corner routine from the Arbroath set up which caused issues: a short corner to a front post runner who would return it back to the wing. This afternoon, this simply resulted in the initial corner taker being boxed out.
Instead, Armstrong and Tait then started to then pile corners into the box. After making the change, there were a few corners where the ball was going right through to the far side without any connection. The change paid off when Musonda strolled in to equalise with five minutes remaining. It can be subtle changes like this that make all the difference when trying to break teams down.
Forward Thinking: Missing Manny and Lars the lone forward
When the team lines came through at 14:15, the immediate question for Rovers fans was over the absence of Manny Duku. The Dutch forward has started the season on fire and has been attracting attention in papers, podcasts and from pundits on the telly. A double against Queen of the South certainly didn't do any harm to his profile as he seeks to make a name for himself.
So it was with a degree of disappointment to notice that he wasn't in the squad. In his post match interview Paul Smith confirmed that Duku had missed out after a tight hamstring. The club said that they were reluctant to risk losing him for a four to five week period if the injury became worse.
Instead, this meant that Rovers turned to new loanee Lars Lokotsch. 'Loko' immediately imposed himself on the game and looked threatening in the early stages where he linked up well with Ethan Ross. Rovers created a half chance which flashed across the goal but from thereon in, the forward put in a shift as a lone striker with very little support. At times, he looked isolated as the midfield struggled to string together the necessary passes to involve him in the game.
Later in the second half, he had a few touches in the box but couldn't get the ball out of his feet to fire away a shot. It's safe to say, that it was a tough 90 minutes for the German forward but it has allowed for him to get minutes on the pitch. Once Duku is back, it'll be interesting to see what type of partnership the two can form.
Sometimes, you get the breaks. Today was one of those days.
It's hardly an original thought, but football is a game of small margins. Seasons can hinge upon whether you get a decision or a goal in your favour or against you. Rovers, like most clubs, can point to numerous situations like this in the past: Stephen Dobbie's free kick which was somehow adjudged to have crossed the line which ultimately relegated the club with no verification. Lewis Vaughan hitting the post in the dying seconds as we missed out on the League 1 title to Ayr.
During the match, the Dundee commentary team lamented the refereeing performance after a tackle on Iain Davidson in spite of both teams going in competitively for 50/50 tackles. During the opening period of the second half, Rovers seemed to get very little from the referee.
Sometimes, lady luck can fall on your side though. Rovers arguably saw this twice today and it really does merit a mention. The first incident was midway through the second half when a low cross into the Rovers box ran into the path of Regan Hendry who was about 6 yards out. In attempting to clear the ball, Hendry was somewhat fortunate to hit the ball off the bar rather than into his own net. Given Regan's technical ability, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt that it was intentional.
The second stroke of luck came with ten minutes to go. With the ball bouncing about in the box, it came up and bounced off Iain Davidson's hand. Alan Newland's decided that it wasn't a penalty much to the bemusement of everyone spectating the game. There's been a lot made of the new hand ball rule, particularly with VAR in the top leagues around Europe. In this case, there wasn't much dispute and Rovers were fortunate. Ultimately, Rovers will know more than most that you can't rely on luck to pick up points.
John McGlynn's transfer dealings look to be absolutely spot on this season
The transfer window saw six new faces arrive to Stark's Park: Jamie MacDonald and Reghan Tumilty were the only two who were immediately familiar to fans. Gozie Ugwu's spell with Dunfermline also meant that it was quite easy to ask for a gauge on the type of player we'd recruited too. When a player comes in from outwith the SPFL it can be hard to judge how they'll be - often it's difficult to gauge the standard of leagues and fan bases have limited information. In particular, fans of English clubs can be dismissive of the SPFL set up and critical of players who maybe didn't fit in perfectly into their system.
So as a fan, it's fantastic to see the likes of Frankie Musonda and Manny Duku quickly establish themselves in the team. As mentioned at the start, Duku has attracted praise from various media outlets but Musonda also deserves praise for playing so well in an unnatural position. Compared to last week, the ex-Luton defender looked far more comfortable going down the wing in his new role.
While Ethan Ross definitely had a quieter afternoon and Gozie suffering injury set backs all of the players have shown at some point that they can handle the level Rovers are playing at. In the second half the team went toe to toe with one of the teams who have been tipped for a playoff place and deservedly came away with a point. It's very rare that a manager has a perfect summer, and it's still too early to suggest that the players will be complete successes, but the early indications are positive.
Fernandy Mendy's redemption continues and fans are absolutely loving it.
It's safe to say that I don't think I've ever seen fans want a player to succeed at Raith as Fernandy Mendy. The French centre back suffered a difficult start to life in Scotland where he suffered a concussion before making several mistakes in last season's Betfred Cup (including a game against today's opponents). Today's game represented somewhat of a redemption for Nando: while he had limited game time he won several headers, put in a few clearances and bodied over Paul McGowan - a player who had caused him numerous issues in his previous meeting.
While he didn't play for the full 90 minutes, Nando's performances over the last two weeks have shown that he's adapting to Scottish football. His loan spell at Kelty will have given him game time and he'll be far more familiar with the language and he has adjusted to the level. Today saw several defensive clearances through towering headers. It also saw him body Paul McGowan: a player who gave him the run around at Stark's Park last season.
Football fans love a wee story of redemption. Someone willing to go up against the odds and come out victorious. It wouldn't surprise me if Fernandy Mendy becomes a regular feature in the squad and it will be reassuring for McGlynn and Smith to know they have such an imposing figure available for them.