Sunday, 24 April 2011

Terrace Travels #9: Dunfermline Athletic 2 - 1 Raith Rovers

Click here or read below for my experience of one of the biggest Fife derbies in living memory between Dunfermline Athletic and Raith Rovers. It was published on The Terrace Scottish Football website.

Saturday 23rd April 2011 


Dunfermline Athletic 2 v 1 Raith Rovers

Raith started Saturday just one point behind their table-topping rivals Dunfermline Athletic with two games still remaining, making this Fife derby a crunch match of epic proportions. East End Park was packed to the rafters and The Terrace’s very own Will Lyon was there to see it.

The Norrie McCathie Stand
Nerves had been experienced by Raith fans in the build up to their Scottish Cup semi final against Dundee United last season, but this was different. Tickets sold faster than Usain Bolt on speed and it soon emerged that East End Park would be sold out for the first time in well over a decade. During the week leading up to the match, endless hours were spent scouring youtube for previous derby-day delights and my university revision brainstorms turned into doodles of Gregory Tade lashing home thirty-yard screamers.
Following a week of procrastination, derby day finally dawned. After the last fixture at East End Park was delayed by twenty minutes due to crowd congestion, Rovers fans this time made their way into the East Stand with plenty of time to spare. My dad and I found ourselves standing by our seats a full hour before kickoff and much to our amazement, so were another thousand Raith fans, already in full song.
Across to our right in the North East stand were some youngsters dressed in full tracksuits, some complemented by black and white scarves, who were only too happy to remind us that “we f*cking hate you, you're just a wee team.” The large choir of Raith fans hit back, informing the young team that we do not particularly like their team either.
The 'Cage' at East End Park
The atmosphere continued to simmer quite nicely for the next fifteen minutes. The teams emerged for their warm up and the songs continued to flow, with the visiting fans exchanging applause with their players who ventured near the stand from time to time. Meanwhile the young team in the North East stand decided to do the 'Poznan', turning their backs to the pitch and jumping in unison whilst singing “Ole, ole, ole, ole, the Pars, the Pars”. Raith fans once again retaliated, changing the lyrics rather intelligently to “Ole, ole, ole, ole, f*ck the Pars, f*ck the Pars”. Yes, we football fans are among the best thinkers of the world.
The players strode off the pitch with about ten minutes to kickoff and on came the rather strangely dressed 'Sammy the Tammy' – the Pars mascot. Sammy appeared to be wearing some sort of cardboard box, sporting – as one fan gleefully turned around and claimed - “a cardboard cock!” Sammy sat down at the halfway line, aiming his “cardboard cock” at the away end. It was only when he started swaying from side-to-side accompanied by the sound of machine gun fire over the tannoy, we realised that Sammy the Tammy had become 'Sammy, Tank Commander' and was pretending to shoot the Raith fans. One wonders what sort of uproar this would have instigated had the same activity unfolded at an Old Firm derby...
Raith fans in the away end
Scotland's “number one mascot” soon departed the pitch as the teams entered the arena from the dressing rooms, taking up their positions. Rain had pounded down onto the pitch before the match and it was no surprise that along with nerves, there were numerous miscontrolled passes and awful touches in the opening stages.
However, Dunfermline began to master the conditions far better than the visitors and should have taken the lead early on when player-of-the-year candidate Andy Kirk smashed a shot off the bar. Despite the Pars complete control of the game, they went in at the break a goal down. Goalkeeper Chris Smith failed to grasp a fairly innocuous looking shot and John Baird (another player-of-the-year candidate) pounced on the mistake and smashed the ball into the net.
The second half was actually a more tightly-contested affair, but Dunfermline equalised ten minutes after the restart with 'Big, Bad, Mental,' Martin Hardie heading in from close range following a corner.
The Pars scored the winning goal twelve minutes from time. Hibs loanee Kevin McBride needlessly conceded a freekick on the edge of the Raith box and Hardie took advantage, stepping up and curling the ball into the top corner of the Rovers goal.
The Main Stand at East End Park
Some of the away fans began to filter out of the stadium as the final minutes ticked by, simply unable to bear watching the Pars effectively clinching the title.
At the full time whistle there appeared to be some sort of altercation between Dunfermline's David Graham and Raith's Allan Walker, but they were separated before either player could land a blow.
The Pars fans sang their hearts out as their heroes proudly strutted off the park and before the remaining Raith fans fled the ground, they gave a standing ovation to their players, recognising just how far the club have come since sitting second bottom of the Second Division just over four years ago.
Looking back, the build up to the match was utterly fantastic and with the nerves and emotion during the game, it was possibly the quickest ninety minutes of my life. It is now ninety minutes that I hope to forget.
written by Will Lyon

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