SFL First Division: RAITH ROVERS 3 DUNFERMLINE 0: 03/01/00

There can be few more welcome first foots in Kirkcaldy than Ian Westwater. Within 70 seconds a back pass from Andy Tod was received by the veteran Pars keeper who decided not to opt for the push out to Hamish French at right back but rather attempted to play the ball across the face of the goals and beat the advancing Craig Dargo. The Raith man dispossessed Westie and turned the ball into Alex Burns’ path to guide home the opener from six yards. To many of us who have watched Dunfermline home and away this season this was an accident waiting to happen.

Scott Thomson was still out through injury but Jamie Dolan returned to midfield and John Potter was returned to the bench. So in the bitterly cold January twilight Dunfermline kicked off towards the home support in the full South Stand.

The effect of the early goal followed the classic text book lesson. Dunfermline had travelled to Starks Park unbeaten under Jimmy Calderwood and full of optimism. Having sold out the North Stand, the Pars largest travelling support in yonks was up for the match and silenced the Raith fans while the start was delayed by 9 minutes to allow in the 7463 fans - Scotland’s largest gate of the day. The Millennium party had moved to Kirkcaldy but for Dunfermline the rockets were about to come down about them. The Pars fans were silenced and the team looked defeated from that early moment.

In reply the first ten minutes saw Dolan shoot wide left and Moss put an effort straight at Guido. Raith looked quick and tenacious. Jay Stein fired over a cross in the 12th minute that Dargo headed over the crossbar. In the 21st minute a corner was needlessly conceded by Andy Tod. The corner from the left was met by Paul Browne whose header powered into the net through the static Dunfermline defence.

The Pars efforts to retaliate were not as direct as Raith’s attacks but things were not helped when just after the half hour Dunfermline were reduced to 10 men. Owen Coyle was taken down on the left side of the penalty box and he appealed strongly for a penalty. He was restrained by Craig McEwan as his jersey was pulled but the referee dismissed his claims and sought to get ahead with the goal kick when the railway side assistant referee was spotted standing near the goalline with his flag raised. The away stand thought that possibly a penalty might transpire. Having consulted his assistant Alan Freeland went to Owen Coyle turned him around to check his number 10 and showed him a red card. Coyle then had to be held back by Stewart Petrie as he tried to protest his innocence. It is claimed that Coyle kicked out at McEwan but judging from the South Stand’s nil reaction one has to conclude that the assistant referee was wrong.

So two goals and one man down it was going to take a miracle to turn this match around. There was great interest in how Jimmy Calderwood would change things at half time. Off went Brian Reid (who had been yellow carded) and on came Steven Hampshire; the system changed from 5-3-2 to 4-3-2 with Dunfermline pushing forward for a break.

This naturally exposed the defence and they lived dangerously as Dargo failed to head in after 62 minutes and shot wide a minute later. At the other end Crawford cut back to Hampshire from the bye line but his shot was saved.

Hampshire was hauled down by Sacha Opinel in 72 minutes and as the penalty claim was turned down the Raith player who had just (eventually) been yellow carded was substituted. Five minutes later a good Andy Tod shot from 25 yards was well saved by Van de Kamp in his top left corner and that really killed off what had been a spirited Dunfermline response in the second half.

Tosh hit the post on 79 minutes and in the dying minutes Westie found himself in the thick of it as the ball hit off him to be fired back in and through him but cleared before another goal could be scored. This was a temporary let off as sub Clark’s cross was dropped by Westwater and Steven Tosh netted.

Dunfermline did not deserve to win or even draw. The previous match against Caley Thistle had been a steal but Raith Rovers were ready for them and showed greater urgency, control and endeavour than the First Division favourites from West Fife. Serious lack of midfield supremacy along with poor passing and wayward goalkeeping cost the team and supporters the humilation of a resounding defeat.

The Starks Park PA blared out Daydream Believer yet again as we queued to escape; Jimmy Calderwood has the challenging task of cheering up his men and producing a unit that has belief before facing Livingston on Saturday lunchtime.

DUNFERMLINE: Westwater, Tod, Skinner, Reid (Hampshire 46); French, Moss, Dolan (May 69), McGroarty, Petrie; Crawford, Coyle.
Subs not used: Potter.
Yellow Cards: Petrie (13), Reid (19), Hampshire (66)
Red Card: Coyle (32)

Raith Rovers: Van De Kamp; McEwan, Andrews, Browne, Opinel (McCulloch 74); Agathe, S Tosh, Black, Stein (Clark 86); Dargo, Burns
Sub not used: P Tosh
Yellow Cards: Andrews (64), Opinel (72).

Referee Alan Freeland (Aberdeen)
Attendance 7463
League Position 2nd
Strip: Black & White (home)

Next match v Livingston (away) League Saturday 8th January 2000 12.30pm kick off

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