Sunday, April 24, 2011

Matchday 9: Dunfermline 2-1 Raith Rovers

23rd April 2011

Irn-Bru League Division 1

East End Park, Dunfermline

Attendance: 11,052

Earlier in this blog, we re-lived the classic top of the First Division clash from 1989-90 between St Johnstone and Airdrie which was a 10,000 sell out, a hell of a game and ended up being pivotal in deciding where the title went that season.

Fast forward 21 years, and leave Perth and Kinross for neighbouring Fife and the local Derby between Dunfermline and Raith Rovers at East End Park.

Arriving at the ground, the rumours of a similar sell out were clearly true as thousands of home and away fans poured through the streets of Dunfermline. My tickets were for the main stand – one of the three that house home fans (the others being the Norrie McCathie stand and the North Stand) – with the away fans in the East Stand.

Going into the match, Dunfermline sat at the top of the table only 1 clear of Raith with both teams having played 33 of 36 matches meaning the result of this match would go a long way to deciding who would be replacing Hamilton in the SPL. You couldn’t really blame the fans for being nervous....

…but they weren’t! Well, not outwardly anyway with the impressive travelling support from Kirkcaldy making a hell of a racket once again (just as they did in Dundee on matchday 3) and the home fans doing their very best to keep up their end of the bargain, helped along the way by their hugely entertaining mascot Sammy the Tammy.

Sammy is, without question, the single most entertaining mascot I’ve seen in all my time going to games.

Firstly, Sammy decided to mime along to a mash up of a few tunes, fairly convincingly actually, before disappearing back into the tunnel and re-appearing like this...
For those who can’t really tell what’s happened here….basically Sammy is sporting a home-made tank, made out of cardboard boxes. He then proceeds to walk to the centre spot, sit down and mimic blasting the entire East Stand into oblivion.

Did the Pars do the same over the 90 minutes? Well, not quite….but they did do enough to win the match and take a massive step toward the First Division title. And they had to do it coming from behind with Raith taking the league just before half time when Dunfermline keeper Chris Smith spilled a header straight into the path of John Baird (Raith’s best attacking player on the day by the way) who gleefully gave the visitors a half-time lead.

Dunfermline did have a lot of possession in the first half, and looked a bit more dangerous a side but seemingly just needed a touch of magic and who better to deliver than Martin Hardie.

Prior to the derby match, Hardie had scored 6 goals in 8 league games for Dunfermline since his January move from St Johnstone. He was known as a big game player for St Johnstone and has carried that on at the Pars scoring a number of important goals…and none more so than his brace against Raith. The first was a back post header – which Raith goalie McNeil did get caught under – and the second, 12 mins from time, was textbook Martin Hardie…..

I’d like to see some stats on how he does against the likes of Beckham in terms of efforts on goal vs. goals from free kicks, because the guy is an absolute specialist.

Oh…and he’s also got a song dedicated to him. You know that one by Sauce? Well here’s the Pars version…


Overall, a deserved win for Dunfermline who just edged it with that little bit more quality. Man for man, I think the Pars are the better side and will deserve their title should they go on to win it. Defensively, they look reasonably solid. Their midfield is quite dynamic with Gary Mason, David Graham and Martin Hardie providing a good mix of graft and creativity and Joe Cardle (man of the match in Matchday 6 vs Stirling) a constant threat and someone I’m looking forward to seeing in the SPL should the Pars close out the title in the next few weeks.

Raith on the other than deserve massive credit for their achievements this season. Even the most avid Rovers fans will admit that their team has over-achieved but what John McGlynn has done with that set of players has been nothing short of remarkable. I’m just gutted that both sides can’t come up to the top flight as Raith and their loud, passionate and loyal supporters would grace any SPL ground.

I suppose the same could be said of Dundee, Dunfermline and Falkirk….and you could even say Partick Thistle. Big teams, good fan bases and playing in the second tier.

For the love of god, give us a 16 or 18 team SPL….don’t reduce the league size and further penalise these teams by having them outside of the top division for even longer! For me, it’s the SPL that’s missing out by not having them all in the League.

We know it won’t happen though, we will end up with a 10 team SPL1 and a 12 team SPL2, but I can tell you this…if that does happen the SPL2…filled with Dundee, Raith, Falkirk et al will continue to be a more entertaining and more competitive league than the SPL and one which I will continue to enjoy watching as much as any other football from around the world.

Star Man: Martin Hardie

Time for the judge's scores:

Atmosphere: Excellent. Pretty much a sell out and loud sets of fans. 9/10

Facilities: Comfortable enough, though a strange pisser. 7/10

Catering: Best pie yet! Kudos to Stephen’s the butchers for their efforts! £2.80 for tea and pie and well worth it - 10/10

Quality: Nervous game so not as much quality in terms of expansive and open play, but both teams have talented boys in their ranks, and the match really did entertain from a neutral’s perspective 9/10

Access: Fairly easily, two train stations accessible in the Fife Circle – both about 15 mins walk from the ground. Bus station also close-by if coming from elsewhere and also only 10-15 minutes walk. 8/10

Recommendation: I found East End Park an extremely welcoming place. The home fans were friendly, a good mix of youngsters, older lads, ladies and kids. Promoted or not, I’d suggest people get along to see the Pars.

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