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Play-offs: Who do Dundee want to face in the semi-final, Dunfermline or Raith?

Dunfermline will be looking to Fife avenge rivals Raith Rovers when they visit Kirkcaldy in August
Dunfermline will be looking to Fife avenge rivals Raith Rovers when they visit Kirkcaldy in August

All Championship eyes will be on East End Park this weekend where Raith Rovers host Dunfermline in the second leg of their crucial play-off clash.

Who makes it all the way to the final, we’ll all have to wait and see. The tie remains on a knife-edge after a 0-0 draw at East End Park in the first leg.

However, one team who knows they are at least in the semi-final is Dundee – and they’ll most certainly be keeping a keen eye on events at the weekend.

The Dark Blues grabbed second place at the final hurdle last Friday and now await the winner of the Pars and Rovers next week.

Dens boss James McPake will be an interested onlooker at Stark’s Park but who will he want to be facing next week?

Dundee boss James McPake (second from right) with assistant Dave Mackay (right) at East End Park on Tuesday.

Raith head-to-head

Dundee and Raith have shared the spoils in meetings this season with Rovers just edging an aggregate score by one goal.

A win apiece after a draw in the opening fixture doesn’t give clear indication yet about who would be favourite in a potential two-legged tie.

In fact, taking the last two as such, the Kirkcaldy side would head through to the final 4-3.

Dundee beat Raith in their last meeting, Jason Cummings opened the scoring in a 2-1 win.

Dundee 1-1 Raith, October 31

The Dark Blues were still a little fragile after their opening day 6-2 defeat to Hearts and that proved the case late on against recently-promoted Raith.

Charlie Adam had netted his first goal at Dens Park from the edge of the area and Dundee looked to be heading for three points.

However, poor defending from a corner allowed Frankie Musonda to head in an equaliser on 86 minutes.

At that point, Raith were flying out of the traps on their return to the Championship, having scored eight in their opening two games and beating Arbroath and Queen of the South.

They would then fire five past Morton the following week.

Frankie Musonda knocks the ball home for Raith Rovers in the 86th minute.

Raith 3-1 Dundee, January 30

This was a low point in the season for the Dark Blues and a high one for John McGlynn’s Rovers. They were deserving winners against a poor Dundee and rose to second place for the first time in the season.

The Dark Blues had mitigating factors of missing central defenders with teenage pairing Malachi Fagan-Walcott and Sam Fisher thrown in at the deep end.

However, it was a disheartening defeat for McPake and his side as they failed to build on their big win over Hearts at the turn of the year.

Dundee 2-1 Raith, April 24

The most recent meeting of the pair and therefore most relevant.

On the back of a good run of form, Dundee knew only victory would do if they were to pip Raith to second.

And they came away with a deserving win at Dens Park.

Critically they nullified the threat from their opponents, denying Raith the chance to get possession in areas that have caused so much damage to teams this season.

And they made the most of their chances at the other end, too. A good move earned a penalty, slotted home by Jason Cummings before Liam Fontaine headed in a second.

Rovers would come back into it late on with a Kyle Benedictus goal but it was Dundee’s day.

Dunfermline head-to-head

Against Dunfermline it makes better reading for Dundee – a win and two draws, though the Dark Blues can argue they should have had at least two wins.

Using the same logic as before – taking the last two clashes into account, the Dark Blues head through in a two-legged tie 3-2.

Dundee 3-3 Dunfermline, December 19

For much of this game it looked like the Dark Blues had finally found their feet this season only to throw it all away.

Strolling to victory with 12 minutes to go, the wheels came flying off as the Pars roared back from 3-0 down to draw with the final kick of the game.

Declan McManus makes it 3-3 with the last kick of the game in December.

At that point, Dunfermline’s form had cooled off after a sizzling start to the campaign but Dundee were unable to add to their worries.

Dundee 3-2 Dunfermline, March 27

Another goal-laden clash with a big comeback at Dens Park came just a few weeks ago.

Poor defending from the hosts gave the Pars a two-goal lead within six minutes.

This time it was the Dark Blues storming back, goals from Cummings, Lee Ashcroft and Danny Mullen earned three points.

Lee Ashcroft heads in for Dundee against Dunfermline.

Dunfermline 0-0 Dundee, April 13

A night to forget for most who watched it at East End Park. The two sides showed promise in attack, Dundee more so, but neither had the finishing touch to earn victory.

Raith form

DWWLL

Raith’s form going into the play-offs is decent enough, two defeats in eight.

However, the last two could be the most telling – confidence-shredding defeats to Dundee and Hearts.

If the loss at Dens was a kick in the guts, the Jambos were aiming a bit lower last weekend.

Lucky to get away with just a 4-0 scoreline against the champions, Raith put on a show of how not to play out from the back.

Tonight will be a test of their character after that.

Dunfermline form

DDWWL

The Pars took a 5-1 tanking from their rivals not so long ago but went five unbeaten before losing to Alloa last time out.

That clash against the already-relegated Wasps won’t tell us much, though, with Stevie Crawford’s mind already looking ahead to the play-offs.

That was shown with a changed line-up and early subs for key players Ewan Murray, Declan McManus and Ewan Henderson.

Key men

Raith

Regan Hendry

The midfield man makes Rovers tick in the middle of the park with much of their good attacking play going through him.

Regan Hendry

Lewis Vaughan

Major injuries have blighted the attacker’s career but the talent he possesses has never been in doubt.

Gozie Ugwu

Raith’s most in-form goalscorer has three in his last seven.

Dunfermline

Craig Wighton

The former Dundee favourite moved onto nine Championship goals this season with two against Arbroath last time out.

He has netted six times since leaving Hearts in January and has found his best Pars form in recent weeks.

Craig Wighton has been in fine form lately.

Declan McManus

Dunfermline’s top scorer this season has already netted four times against Raith and Dundee respectively this term.

He also has nine in the league, including two in his last five appearances.

Kevin O’Hara

The livewire forward has made a real impact since moving from Alloa last summer and finished the regular season with eight goals.

He has two in his last three.

Conclusion

Almost all of Dundee’s clashes against Raith and Dunfermline have ended up in tight scorelines.

And don’t expect any play-off meeting to be any different.

The question of who the Dark Blues would rather face comes down to a preference of form over style – or vice versa.

Dunfermline are in better form than Raith, no question. And the Kirkcaldy side have worries to contend with at the back with the loss of Musonda.

His pace and ability on the ball allowed them to play their game – high defensive line and passing out from the back.

They haven’t coped so well without him in big games recently.

Raith and Dunfermline battled out a 0-0 draw on Tuesday night.

The Pars, meanwhile, had lost their way not so long ago but seem to have found a bit of momentum.

Goals are coming from Wighton, McManus and O’Hara and they’ve kept both Dundee and Hearts out in recent weeks.

Form suggests a preference to face Raith next week, particularly after another two bruising encounters.

However, Dundee haven’t lost to Dunfermline this season and the Pars haven’t won a league game at Dens Park for 17 years.

The record books say the Pars are a better bet for the Dee.

The fact Dundee are able to sit out this stage while their coming opponents battles through two tough play-off games leaves them as favourites next week.

And that may be the best outcome for McPake and his Dark Blues – sitting back while Raith and Dunfermline play out a punishing two-leg tie that goes the distance, leaving the winner out on their feet before the semi-final.

 

John McGlynn insists there’s no pressure on Raith Rovers following Premiership playoff stalemate with Dunfermline

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