Honours even in the first leg of the Premiership playoffs

After a goalless first leg at East End Park, Dunfermline and Raith Rovers have it all to play for in the second leg of this Premiership playoff tie. Jake Gray reports.

Photo Credit – Jake Gray

Pre-Match

Fife rivals Dunfermline and Raith Rovers faced off in the first leg of the Scottish Premiership play-off quarter final at East End Park tonight. 

Owain Fon-Williams, Aaron Comrie, Steven Whittaker, Dom Thomas, and Craig Wighton all returned to the Pars starting 11 after Stevie Crawford fielded a much-changed side against Alloa on Friday night. As for the away side, Kai Kennedy and Ross Matthews returned for the Rovers, in place of Adam King and Fernandy Mendy.

The Match

The game started in a very physical manner, which is exactly what you’d expect for a Fife Derby of this importance. 

The first chance of the evening fell to the hosts. From a Thomas free kick, Declan McManus nodded the ball into the path of Whittaker, who saw his effort flash just wide of Jamie MacDonald’s goal. 

Just a few moments later, McManus was in action at the other end of the park. He was able to clear a Lewis Vaughan snapshot away from his goal, and, from the clearance, Ewan Henderson was left bearing down on MacDonald with Kevin O’Hara in support. Henderson chose not to play the ball to O’Hara, instead opting for a through ball to McManus, and Raith were able to clear their lines. 

The visitors were moving the ball well, dragging their opponents around the park, despite creating little in the way of chances in the opening half hour. 

MacDonald was on hand to tip a goal-bound O’Hara effort round the post and just moments later, Wighton’s effort went narrowly wide of the visitors’ goal.

The Rovers’ biggest chance of the first half came just five minutes before the interval. After a mazy run from defence, Kieran MacDonald found Kennedy, who floated the ball into the box, but it was just too high for Jamie Gullan and it dropped out for a goal kick. 

A Wighton snapshot sailed over the bar just a moment later, and the game remained level going into the break. 

Both teams came out looking lively in the second half. Regan Hendry was the first to have an effort at goal, but his shot was well over Fon-Williams’ crossbar. 

Henderson caused the Rovers problems in the first half, and the second half was to be no different. His lovely through ball was met by McManus who lashed an effort at MacDonald, but the Rovers keeper was able to palm the ball to safety. 

Henderson saw an effort of his own sail narrowly over the Rovers bar and moments later, a Thomas cross looked destined for the head of O’Hara, but Iain Davidson was on hand to head the ball over his own crossbar. 

A flurry of chances for the visitors is what followed. Kennedy played a tremendous through ball to Vaughan, who forced Fon-Williams to tip the ball round the post. From the subsequent corner, Kyle Benedictus rose above everyone else, but his header went over the bar. 

The Dunfermline backline remained solid, and they were to be relied on once again. Reghan Tumilty arrowed the ball into the box and had Paul Watson not been on hand to clear the ball from danger, Gullan would’ve been left with a tap in. 

With five minutes remaining, Dunfermline had what was arguably the biggest chance of the evening. The ball ricocheted off Benedictus and set up perfectly for substitute, Kerr McInroy, who flashed his effort wide to the right of MacDonald’s goal. 

Post Match Comments

Despite not being able to convert any of their numerous chances, Stevie Crawford was pleased with the application of his players:

“We created a number of chances in the game. I thought we created the better chances and, even though we didn’t win the game, there’s a lot to take from tonight.

“I thought it was a good advert for football in Fife, albeit it was 0-0. Raith Rovers showed what it means to them and my players were the same. I thought it was a good battle, and Saturday will be no different.”

John McGlynn believes the pressure is off his side going into Saturday’s second leg: 

“We’re used to our pitch with regards to the movement of the ball. The passes that were maybe slightly mistimed or misplaced, that won’t happen on Saturday, so I’m delighted to come here and come away with a 0-0.

“Dunfermline’s record isn’t great away from home. There’s not any pressure on us. Both teams have a great chance of getting through, so, bring it on.”

The two teams are set to clash again this coming Saturday, with the winner of the match at Stark’s Park going on to face Dundee in the Premiership playoff semi-final.

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