Ground #: 150
Ground: Stark’s Park
Competition: Scottish Division 1
Kick Off: 3pm
Raith Rovers 1
Dunfermline Athletic 1
When Inverness player Philip Roberts skied his penalty over the bar at Easter Road on January 26th to send Hearts into the League Cup Final, that prompted myself and my Deutsch friend Mr Gieseke to come up to Scotland for it. What was meant to be the undercard match on the Saturday would see him travel to Livingston and myself to Pumpherston Juniors (which are 3 miles apart) to catch some fitba. Sadly, the weather decided to intervene (again!!) and knock both out rather quickly. That led us scamping across to Kirkcaldy to catch the Fife Derby between Raith and Dunfermline.
Kirkcaldy is a town and former royal burgh in Fife, on the east coast of Scotland, around 12 miles north of Edinburgh. The name Kirkcaldy means "place of the hard fort" or "place of Caled's fort". It is derived from the Pictish caer meaning "fort", caled, which is Pictish "hard" or a personal name, and –in, a suffix meaning "place of". Caled may describe the fort itself or be an epithet for a local "hard" ruler. Prior to the development of Kirkcaldy, the Battle of Raith in 596 AD is believed to have taken place to the west of the town. The battle was fought between the Angles and an alliance, led by King Áedán mac Gabráin of Dál Riata, of Scots, Picts and Britons. The first document to recognise the town was issued in 1075, when the King of Scots, Malcolm III granted the shire of Kirkcaladunt, to the church at Dunfermline. In 1304, a weekly market and annual fair for Kirkcaldy was proposed by the Abbot of Dunfermline to King Edward I. The reason given for these discussions was that the town may have been referred to as "one of the most ancient of burghs". This status as a burgh dependent on Dunfermline Abbey was later confirmed in 1327 by Robert I, King of Scots. At the beginning of the 16th century, the town became an important trading port, which facilitated trading contacts with Western Europe. According to treasurers' accounts of the early 16th century, timber imported via the harbour was used at Falkland Palace, Edinburgh Castle and shipbuilding. Raw materials such as hides, wool, skins, herring, salmon, coal and salt were exported from the town until well into the 17th century. Towards the end of the 17th century, the economy recovered with growth in manufacturing and during the mid-19th century, whaling became important to the town for a short period. For most of the 19th century, the main industries in the town were flax spinning and linen weaving. In the 21st century, Kirkcaldy remains an important centre for the surrounding areas, with a Museum and Art Gallery, three public parks and shopping facilities. The town also hosts the annual Links Market, commonly known as Europe's longest street fair. Kirkcaldy Harbour, which closed in 1992, re-opened in October 2011 to cargo ships.
The modern Raith Rovers were founded in 1883, playing at Robbie's Park. The club became a senior team in 1889 around the same time they were forced to leave Robbie's Park. The team subsequently moved to their current home of Stark's Park named after and run by councillor Robert Stark in 1891. The club turned professional by 1892 and were the first football team in Fife to be elected to the Scottish League in 1902/03. Three years later, the club made their only appearance in the Scottish Cup Final losing 2–0 to Falkirk. The team battled on during tough times between 1920s and 1930s but things improved by 1937/38 as Raith set a British League Record with 142 goals in just 34 league matches while winning the 2nd Division. In the period of the club's greatest high level consistency, Rovers stayed in the top division until 1962/63, when the club finished bottom of the 1st Division conceding 118 goals in 34 games. In 1975/76, the league set-up changed to a 3 tier system and in the inaugural year of this system, Raith were promoted to the 1st Division, before becoming a yo-yo side. Raith then performed reasonably well in the 1st Division, hovering around the top 4 until the early 1980s. Raith reverted to being a full-time side again for the season of 1991/92 which was soon followed by winning the 1st division title in the season of 1992/93. This was to start the most successful period in the club’s history, which saw the team's first foray into the SPL. In November 1994, Raith, surprisingly beat Celtic 6–5 on penalties to win the Coca Cola Cup, after a 2–2 draw. The same season, Raith were again promoted to the Premier League after winning the First Division title. As a result of the Cup win, Raith qualified for Europe for the first time in their history. After eliminating both GÍ Gøta and ÍA Akranes in the first two rounds of the UEFA Cup, the club finally succumbed to eventual winners Bayern Munich 2-1 on agg.
The club were eventually relegated to the 1st Division and at the start of the 2004/05 season, Claude Anelka offered £300k to any team who would offer him a manager's job and was subsequently appointed the manager of Raith Rovers. Anelka signed a team of continental players from the lower leagues in France. A disastrous season followed, despite Anelka resigning halfway through the season, as Raith were relegated to the 2nd Division after finishing bottom of the 1st with just 16 points in the season. During 2005/06, the future of the club looked doubtful after the club and its traditional home of Stark's Park were both placed under threat. However, the Reclaim the Rovers fans' campaign, which was launched in a bid to secure a local future for the club, raised £100,000 towards the final figure and in late December 2005, Raith Rovers' future was secured after a £1.2 million community buy-out assisted by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown who is a fan and shareholder of the club. In 2008/09, Raith were promoted back to the 1st Division, clinching the title with a 1-0 win at Queens Park. They have stayed there since, with a 7th place finish last season after a late run of good form got them clear of the relegation places. They were looking fairly solid this time out under the guidance of new boss Grant Murray and were coming into this game in 6th place, 6 points clear of the relegation places.
Stark’s Park is 122 years old and as a result of that is a classic looking ground that can be seen from distance on the walk from Kirkcaldy rail station and up Pratt Street to the ground. Two large seating stands dominate the ground in the North and South Stands. These were built as a result of Raith’s Coca-Cola Cup win and the UEFA Cup run that allowed the money to come in. Down the side that the railway passes is the Railway Stand (see why!) and is currently unused by spectators but does house a large Raith flag that is present at every game. I have seen pictures of this stand with seats in, but these have now been taken away. Opposite this is the classic Main Stand that was built in 1925 and designed by the Leonardo di Vinci of football stadia, Archibald Leitch. There is an uncovered terrace that runs down next to the Main Stand but that is also unused by supporters. This is great mix of old and new and the floodlight pylons you can see in the distance, just add to the build up as you walk towards the San Starko.
While Raith looked fairly comfortable in their fight against relegation, things were quite dire for their Fife rivals Dunfermline. Money troubles had well and truly hit and some people in the media were claiming this could be their last ever game with a tax bill owing to HMRC needing to be paid but no money there to pay it. With that in mind, Raith had done the brilliant offer of donating gate money to Dunfermline if they brought with them 2,000 fans for this game and supporters of other clubs such as Hearts and Hibs saying they would go along and support the Pars by attending this game and donating to the collection that was going on in the away end. In the end “only” 1,951 away fans were in the North Stand and so a donation was not made, but it allowed for an excellent atmosphere as both sets of fans got right behind their teams.
After the minute’s applause to ex Raith and Dunfermline player Ian Lister, I learnt rather quickly that these two sides do not like each other, at all. With chants of “WE FUCKING HATE YOOOOOO!” from Raith and “WE’LL ALWAYS BE THE BIG TEAM!" from the Pars, it fed onto the pitch as both sides jumped into tackles and played the match at a 100mph pace. Raith started the better side as Greig Spence fed ex Jambo Jason Thomson to fire wide and then Spence also had a shot at Paul Gallacher’s goal as Rovers tried to grab an early goal. Dunfermline slowly got to grips with the game as the match became a tight contest in the midfield area. They also managed to create a chance as Callum Morris fired an overhead kick at Raith goalie David McGurn. The Pars started to create more chances as Andy Kirk also headed over the bar from a corner but went a goal down later. Jason Thomson launched a high ball into the penalty area and while Brian Graham controlled the ball down, it was deflected into the path of Spence who had an easy tap in. The home fans went mental as they were looking at their first derby win in 5 attempts (in January 2011). There was a moment of controversy right on HT as Joe Cardle beat Thomson to the ball in the Raith penalty area and was taken out but John Beaton had none of it, despite it being a stonewaller.
Dunfermline started the 2nd half a lot better as they managed to nullify Josh Watt’s pace down the wing and create chances for themselves. Ryan Wallace was allowed time to turn and get a shot that McGurn saved well before they equalised on 57 minutes. Joe Cardle managed to get a cross in and Wallace was all alone in the area to head the ball back across goal and Andy Geggan fired in from close range to send the 1,900+ behind the goal mental. The Pars were well on top now and Raith had to defend well from shots from Kirk and Wallace. The game went into the closing stages still level as both sides had chances to win it. Dunfermline were denied another clear penalty when Kirk was taken out by Grant Murray in the area and then the ex Hearts man connected with a low cross but the ball was deflected wide. The final chance of the game feel to Raith as Graham sent Allan Walker away down the right but he was caught in two minds and his cross/shot failed to trouble Gallacher in goal or fall to Grant Anderson who was open at the back post.
Considering how this day started with a double postponement, this could have been an afternoon sat in Edinburgh somewhere and moaning at the weather. Instead, me and Julian ended up watching an entertaining Fife Derby. Stark’s Park is an excellent old school ground and is definitely worth a visit and I’ll be back again one day. The game was also a great watch and an excellent advert for Scottish football. Dunfermline have managed to survive at the time I write this, however they have announced they had applied for voluntary administration which had been granted. Eight first team players have been released which included Gallacher (who joined Ross County), Cardle (currently unattached) and former captain Jordan McMillan (who joined Partick Thistle). The club are “touch and go” to survive according to the administrator Bryan Jackson. I hope the Pars survive, either in their current form or as a new co. This season may be tough to avoid the drop to Division 2 now when the administration penalty kicks in, however this will be one of the least things on the club’s mind currently.
- Match: 8/10 (absorbing local derby)
- Value for money: 7/10 (kudos to the gateman for the cheap price)
- Ground: 8/10 (a classic)
- Atmosphere: 7.5/10 (feisty)
- Food: 8/10 (found a new favourite in Macaroni Pie)
- Programme: 3/10 (advert happy)
- Referee: John Beaton – 4/10 (missed two penalties)