Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Today's Fife Derby saw both teams take a point but Rovers will definitely feel the more disappointed of the sides. Raith started the opening stages of the match brightly as Ethan Ross crashed a curled effort off the post. The loanee previously spent a spell at East End Park and was one of a number of stand out performers in an attacking display for the Kirkcaldy side.
With all that was made of Dunfermline's ruthless efficiency from set pieces it was Rovers who fared the better team. On the 26th minute a free kick was played deep into the Dunfermline box and incredibly nobody tracked Manny Duku. The Dutch forward's first attempt at goal was headed at Fon-Williams who couldn't keep ahold of the ball and the forward rifled home a finish to put Raith into the lead.
Both teams displayed attacking threats throughout a first half but neither really had many clear cut chances. Dan Armstrong had a lobbed effort which went narrowly over the bar before Ryan Dow missed a gilt edged chance after Jamie MacDonald spilled an initial effort. At half time, Rovers were in control with a 1-0 lead.
With 63 minutes on the clock Frankie Musonda managed to nod a header over the line and give Raith a 2-0 lead in the Fife Derby. It was a well deserved lead: Musonda had already hit the bar from a previous effort and it was a deserved reward for a display where Rovers looked comfortable in possession. Both Musonda and Duku, two players who were unknown in Fife prior to the Summer, looked like they'd given Rovers a clear route to three points and to end their rivals unbeaten run.
But then a five minute spell saw everyone in Kirkcaldy come back to earth with a bang. Firstly, Fraser Murray broke forward in a footrace with Reghan Tumilty for a ball. The loanee from Hibs did well to cut inside before unleashing a fine finish past Jamie MacDonald. Before the fans had even had a chance to refresh their browsers or express frustration in group chats Declan McManus found space in the box to hit a superb volley on the turn to restore parity. It was a fine finish from the ex-Falkirk forward who will undoubtedly be giving it big licks on social media.
So with the game level, surely Stevie Crawford's team would besiege the Rovers goal and the Kirkcaldy club would be forced to cling onto a draw? Not quite. After the equaliser, Rovers looked to calm the game down and they managed to reduce the tempo considerably. The game descended into an end to end match where neither team really carved out any chances of note in the final third. Crawford's side seemed content that they'd rescued a point rather than going for a memorable turnaround.
Ethan Ross was replaced by Brad Spencer and Manny Duku made way for Lars Lokotsch as Rovers regained control. Dunfermline had very few chances of note after their second goal but Raith failed to really find any openings to snatch a late winner. The only real drama came when a misplaced pass from Kyle Benedictus found it's way to Ryan Dow. Dow didn't control the ball properly and ultimately lost out in a found race with Frankie Musonda who bundled him over outside the box with the referee allowing play to continue.
At full time, it felt very much like a case of two points dropped. The game had shades of the Betfred cup against Inverness where a couple of minutes of pressure allowed for the opposition to turn the game on it's head. With that said, Rovers will have shown they're no pushovers and the players deserve plaudits for the attacking manner which they went about their business.
With all this said, here's three things we can take from today's Fife derby:
Stranger 'hings: Today was one of the most peculiar Fife derbies in recent memory
Today should have been a day Rovers fans have been looking forwards to having ended their Championship Exile. After a miserable spell following relegation, the club had long missed regular derbies with our rivals from along the A92 other than that game in the Scottish Cup. Instead, the pre-match discussion was based around whether £14 was a justified price given the different prices which had been available before. For the first time, there were no fans in the stadium for a game which usually provides an excellent atmosphere.
We can only speculate on how wildly the home fans would have reacted to Manny Duku and Frankie Musonda putting us into a two nil lead. Likewise, the Pars supporters will have been gutted not to have been falling over each other when Declan McManus scored their second. Raith TV Commentators Niall Russell and Davie Hancock both mentioned that this was exactly the type of game where you want the fans to be involved. The club will have been gutted to have missed out on such an opportunity on the commercial front.
The derby was also quite strange on the pitch. Usually, these games will see a team rise into the ascendancy and control the match but today both teams were equal to each other. In past years, we've seen Dunfermline give Rovers an absolutely torrid time (particularly when we first returned to the old First Division). Today was different: It was an end to end fixture with both teams playing attacking football without creating many clear cut chances. Rovers continue to earn plaudits for their style of play and today will undoubtedly have caught a few fans from the West of Fife off-guard. The industrious long ball football of the past is a distant memory as Rovers controlled the pace of the game for the most part.
Fly with the Craw, Get shot with the Craw: The Pars gaffer doesn't seem to relish the derbies
Today was Stevie Crawford's second Fife derby as a manager and he left this evening still in search of his first win. Crawford is now in his third season in charge with the Pars and from the outside I'm yet to be convinced. With someone like me, he's probably damned if he does and damned if he doesn't: if he does well it will be down to the resources and astute recruitment rather than his tactical nous. If he doesn't meet expectations then he's simply a poor manager who is squandering money. Throughout his time in the dugout at East End Park, the Pars have picked up numerous talented players but never troubled the likes of the larger clubs in the division with two mid-table finishes. Even with Kevin Nisbet, the club still finished last season outside the top 4.
Crawford undoubtedly deserves credit for how the Pars have started the season. Dunfermline are in a rich vein of form but today saw them knocked off the top of the table. Tactically, Crawford seemed to come across as second best compared to Paul Smith as Rovers dictated the game. The ever-reliable Thomas-Murray combination at set pieces failed to ever really test Jamie MacDonald. Outside of this, the Pars didn't really show much ability to control the match in the way that previous managers have done.
Dunfermline have the luxury of being able to commit financially to picking up talent players. Kyle Turner was one of their stronger performers in midfield today and was brought in for a four figure fee from Stranraer. Earlier in the summer, winger Dom Thomas moved for a fee from Kilmarnock. Euan Murray was picked up from Raith for a nominal price two seasons ago. This will have been expedited with the German investment in the club.
In spite of all this, Dunfermline looked firmly second best to McGlynn's players today. Rovers have done well to assemble a squad of excellent talents from top flight academies (Hendry, Armstrong and Ross), unknown players from England (Musonda, Duku) and young players from the Fife Elite Football Academy (Tait). Given the array of talents that Dunfermline had at their disposal, I was expecting a lot more of an attacking display - Manager Paul Smith also pointed out that today's opponents were an established Championship side whereas we're still finding out feet following our promotion. Rovers deserved complete credit for the way they shut down their opposition today - sadly there was a two minute gap where the damage was done.
Looking back at both derbies, Dunfermline are now quite fortunate to have walked away with a draw which could have easily been two losses. I'm sure Crawford's day in the sun will come at some point. Having watched Rovers toil in a league which many fans could have seen as being 'not the level they should be at', it can be easy to be dismissive of other teams and dismissive of opposition. Currently the jury is still out on the Pars manager and I'm yet to be convinced.
Break the Chain: Rovers week off worked wonders for Kieran MacDonald.
Prior to the match today, the mood was split between players and managers as to whether Rovers would benefit from their week off after their group stage elimination in the Betfred Cup. Paul Smith was resolute after the loss to Caley and said he'd rather get back to league duty without a break. Skipper Kyle Benedictus was more open to the rest period highlighting the knocks and niggles which had been holding players back.
One such player was Kieran MacDonald. In the opening quarter, MacDonald had started where he left off at the end of last season with attacking displays down the left wing. An injury down in Dumfries meant that he missed the games against Dundee and Morton in the league along with Cowdenbeath and Caley in the league cup. When he did return in Inverness on league duty, it was a more reserved display from the full back.
Today was a different story. There was no question of his fitness as he caused numerous problems for the Pars on their right flank. The former Airdrie full back looked comfortable in the match winning his battles while still looking to overlap with the likes of Armstrong and Ross.
One of the main issues against Inverness was the lack of attacking impetus. Following that game, most fans noted that the midfield didn't look their usual self. The game highlighted Macca's importance as an attacking threat and showed how he can add a balance to the team. If the club can keep both himself and Tumilty fit then it allows for an overflow down the wings.
It was great to see MacDonald put in such an assured display. In the league matches so far he has looked comfortable with the step up to Championship football having spent most of his career at League 1 level. Hopefully, he'll continue this next week on our trip to Somerset Park to face old foes Ayr United.