A great team performance and a display of outstanding creativity from Kallum Higginbotham saw Dunfermline record a great New Year derby win in Kirkcaldy. With results from the weekend's Championship games leaving the Pars in ninth position in the table, the team set about making a mockery of their league placing and giving hope for a much more productive second half of the season.
Rhys McCabe and Lewis Martin were both absent from the Pars side, presumably through training ground injuries in the past few days. Manager Allan Johnston replaced them with Nat Wedderburn and Andy Geggan. Kallum Higginbotham also came into the team having served his one match suspension, with Joe Cardle dropping out.
The game began with Dunfermline having the majority of possession and the home side only threatening in breakaways. Higginbotham came close from a well struck free kick, then Lee Ashcroft's header from a Higginbotham corner was well saved by Rovers keeper Kevin Cuthbert. In the 11th minute it was another Higginbotham corner that led to the opening goal. The Pars winger played in a pinpoint cross that was met by Nicky Clark to power home a header and give Dunfermline the lead.
Raith started to come into the game more as the first half went on, aided by some awful refereeing by Don Robertson, who awarded numerous free kicks to Rovers despite minimal contact being made. The referee was assisted in similarly abysmal fashion by the standside linesman, a rotund character whose ample bosom bobbed about under his shirt in the cold Kirkcaldy air without the help of a much needed bra.
Pars keeper Sean Murdoch was required to tip over a close range Rovers effort after a stramash in the penalty box. Rovers' Rudi Skacel had a goal disallowed after 3 of his team mates were clearly offside before the ball broke to the ex-Hearts player.
The second half began with Rovers forcing 3 consecutive corners, but soon after Dunfermline began to take a grip of the game. In the 56th minute Higginbotham received the ball in a packed penalty area, and his back-heeled pass put Nicky Clark straight through, with only the keeper to beat, but the Pars striker was unable to finish the move, hitting Cuthbert with his shot. Clark had another chance in the 65th minute, in a similar position, but pulled his shot wide.
With just a one goal lead, there was always a risk of what would have been an undeserved Rovers equaliser, but the Pars defence were in determined mood, blocking any efforts from the Rovers attack. One passage of play saw Pars captain Callum Fordyce challenge and win 3 tackles in a row, with the ball then going out for a Pars goal kick. The Pars support roared their approval of their captain's tenacity.
The second Dunfermline goal came after a Higginbotham corner was headed out to Paul McMullan, who played the ball back to Higginbotham. His ball back into the box was driven hard across the "corridor of uncertainty" that all defenders and goalkeepers find difficult to defend against. It was met by Lee Ashcroft who bundled the ball into the net.
There were further Dunfermline chances, with substitute Joe Cardle coming closest when his shot forced a save from Cuthbert.
The final whistle sparked great celebrations from the Pars support and players. This was an important and potentially hugely significant victory.
Pars starting 11, with marks out of 10:
Photos by Pars Review.
Tomorrow: full match photo gallery.