Saturday, 24 August 2013

Raith Rovers 0 v Dundee 0 - SPFL Championship

Saturday 24th August 2013, at Stark's Park, Kirkcaldy
SPFL Championship
Raith Rovers 0
Dundee 0
Admission £17, Programme £2, Attendance 2,603
Raith Rovers v Dundee photographs
Left click pictures for enlarged versions
Raith Rovers
McGurn, Thomson, Booth, P Watson, Hill, Vaughan, Cardle, Moon, Smith, Elliot, Anderson.
Subs - Callachan, Donaldson, Ellis, Murray, J Watson, Matthews, Roberts
Dundee
Letheren, Irvine, Lockwood, Dyer, McBride, Conroy, MacDonald, Monti, Gallagher, McAlister, Rae.
Subs - Doris, Thomson, Reid, Boyle, Kerr, Carberry, Twardzik
As I was driving into Kirkcaldy, Tony Blackburn was waffling away on the car radio, introducing Tom Jones singing 'What's new Pussycat?', the Burt Bacharach and Hal David penned theme song for the comedy flick of the same name, that was Woody Allen's debut movie role, where he starred alongside Peter Sellers, Peter O'Toole and Ursula Andress (amongst others).
It was just like being teleported back to the 1960's all over again ... and so too was the irresistibly singalong-esque ditty booming out of my automobile's sound system.
Not exactly the most enthralling game of football I have ever watched if truth be told.
In fact, as nil-nil draws go this one was, err, goalless.
I didn't realise that Gavin Rae was playing for Dundee again until today. I think he must have one of those travel tickets that allows him to travel to other clubs as often as he wants, on the proviso that he returns to Dens Park on a regular basis.
A draw was a fair result all told, because although Dundee had slightly the better of things during the first half, Rovers picked up a bit after the break.
It's not as though there was any shortage of graft and endeavour on display, but both teams downfall this afternoon was a distinct lack of quality in the final third.
Although as I'm sure the navy blue half of the city of Dundee would testify, the match referee Joe Beaton also had quite a big say in the final outcome too.
I picked up a radio station on my return journey where this game was referred to as 'absorbing'.
Hmm, possibly it was for the fans of both sides who were willing their respective teams to break the deadlock, in a game that could have gone either way right until the very end.
But, for this neutral onlooker, it was more a case of wishful thinking that one side, either side, would just stop buggering about so much in front of goal and find the net, to open the game up a bit.
Possibly, my purported 'talent' of selecting evenly matched games to attend on my travels, struck gold today and proved what a shrewd judge of prortion and balance I am, as two very similar looking sides cancelled each other out for lengthy spells of the game.
I recall this happened once before when I went to watch Arsenal v Ajax, the two form teams in Europe at the time, play out a really dull game where they simply suffocated each other's usual flow and  rhythm out all over the Highbury pitch, so at least the Rovers and the Dark Blues are in esteemed company to that end.
So, what of John Beaton's contribution to the overall entertainment of this £17 SPFL Championship showpiece game this afternoon?
Well, a certain Scottish Sunday newspaper with a fairly large circulation is giving him 5 out of 10 for his display today.
I'm assuming they give officials at least 4 for merely turning up in the right kit and remembering to bring a whistle then. And possibly an extra mark is given for providing comedy value. Not that the Dundee manager John Brown was laughing much.
I'm not usually one to criticise referees, because there would be no game without them and I'd like to think they all have a far better understanding of the rules of the game than I will.
But Mr Beaton had what can politely only be called 'a bad and mistake laden, day at the office'.
If a player put in a performance like that he would be substituted and dropped into the stiffs until he regained his form and focus again, But as it was, both benches, two teams and 2,603 spectators were stuck with him for the duration.
I will add, in the spirit of fair reportage, that I've seen John Beaton officiating previously and he is usually a far better ref than his poor showing today would suggest.
Raith Rovers had three former Hearts players in their starting eleven today, namely Calum Elliot, Gordon Smith and Jason Thomson.
Never let it be said that the ex Jambos striker Calum Elliot isn't a threat in the goal area. 
The problem with that analogy is, he was playing in a defensive midfield role today for the home side today and threatened to give Dundee an advantage in the 35th minute, when he blatantly shoved the Dees' striker Peter MacDonald to the ground in the Rovers goal area. 
It was as blatant and easy a penalty decision to make as you'll ever see ... and even the supporters sat around us in the South Stand at 'San Starko' collectively sighed in disbelief as Beaton was unmoved by the vociferous appeals for a spot kick from the Dundee players.
Less than a minute later, Declan Gallagher appeared to have put the visitors ahead at the back stick when he towered over the Rovers defence to head home Jamie McCallister's left wing corner, but the goal was ruled out. Hmm, I'm not aware that being able to jump higher than a goalkeeper and the last defender is actually an offence, but what do I know?
Apparently Gallagher was adjudged to have been climbing on a defender.
Spurred on by a couple of first half let offs, Raith Rovers, who should've been trailing by two goals  already, switched on and raised their game after half time and the home supporters responded accordingly by getting behind their team ... or maybe they let the more vocal ones in for free at half time.
Amazingly however, sections of the Raith support started to vent a lot of abuse towards John Beaton every time a 50/50 decision went against them.
'Jesus you guys, give him a break, he's kept you in the game up until now', I thought about standing up and shouting. But I figured that I really needed to get back to Edinburgh after the game in one piece, to meet up with some old mates for a couple of hours before picking up my family from outside the zoo, assuming the keepers there hadn't found suitable cages for them yet, so I kept schtum.
With the home side pushing forward more now, Dundee appeared to have caught them flat footed at the other end on the counter, but David McBurn pulled off a sublime double save from Declan Gallagher to keep the scores level.
Both sides had further attempts on goal as as the game petered out towards its 'climax', but a lack of clear cut chances and some woeful finishing, combined with David McBurn's prowess and John Beaton's reluctance to let the visitors score, meant that both sides shared a point apiece.
Outside the ground, the Raith fans seemed fairly content with the draw, but then they probably knew that if they hadn't of had the rub of the green with the decisions that mattered, it would've been a much different story.
I think the postscript by the reporter who covered the game for Dundee sums things up fairly well: "Dundee looked more comfortable playing a 4-4-2 formation, but the supporters don't want to see a comfortable team. They want a hungry, dangerous team that always looks capable of grabbing a goal. Sadly we're still some way short of that".
As I pulled into a layby on my way out of Kirkcaldy, to phone the result from Harworth's game in to the CMFL (thanks for the details Paul Latham) I got a panoramic photo opportunity from the south end of the ground to finish off my visit to Stark's Park.
The South Stand and McDermid Stand (away end) which is sponsored by the Scottish crime writer Val McDermid,  stand symmetrically identical at either end of the ground. A full length (unused) terrace runs down the full length of the pitch along one side, but 'San Starko's' jewel in the crown, is the L shaped main stand on the east side that sits geometrically at odds with the rest of the ground. 
This eye catching construction was built in 1925, having been designed by the renowned football ground architect Archibald Leitch, a lot of the money that was used to finance it's construction was raised from the transfer of Alex James from Rovers to Preston North End. Apparently, this is where the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown sits when he watches Rovers play ... so now you know.