Drawing from experience of Man of many Play offsMonday, 3rd May 2021
“It’s a really interesting game for the neutral but these big games tend to come down to set-pieces or big moments like that
Pars central defender Paul Watson played 70 matches for Raith Rovers over two seasons after joining from Livingston in the summer of 2013. So when it comes to a Fife Derby he is very conscious of what they means to supporters of both Dunfermline and Raith Rovers:-
“It’s massive, and there’s the bragging rights as well. We’re just looking forward to the game now and to doing everything we can to win it.”
Paul has played in 30 of Dunfermline’s 34 matches this season but he missed the 5-1 horror show against Raith at the end of March through injury. He said that defeat had taught them a painful lesson:-
“As a group, we got it wrong on the day and we learned a lot from that. We won’t be making that mistake again, certainly.”
Paul is joined by Euan Murray and Declan McManus as one of three former Raith players in the Dunfermline squad and Raith could line up with former Pars Daniel Armstrong and Gozie Ugwu. For those players maybe a good thing that there will be no fans on the stadium. He added:-
“I would have loved fans to have been in, especially for these games. I think it would have been a sell-out and a lot of boys who will be on the pitch from both teams wouldn’t have experienced that.
“It’s a disappointment in that sense but maybe I would have got a bit of stick. There’s a few lads who have played for both teams, so it would have been interesting.”
With eight play off matches behind him Paul is both critical of and grateful for Premiership play offs. The third and fourth placed teams in the second flight having to play for the chance to meet the second placed team before the winner is allowed a crack at the eleventh placed Premiership team over two legs:-
“I think the Premiership team have to vote for that, so they can get a full week’s preparation for the game, while the Championship teams have had to play the other games. So, it’s a big ask. It is what it is and we’re very lucky to have the play-offs in there but it is very lop-sided.”
Paul Watson’s play off experiences
14/05/19 | Inverness Caley Thistle 1 Dundee United 0
17/05/19 | Dundee United 3 Inverness Caley Thistle 0
23/05/19 | Dundee United 0 St Mirren 0
26/05/19 | St Mirren 1 Dundee United 1
St Mirren won 2-0 on penalties.
Scottish Division One play off
19/05/17 | Falkirk 1 Dundee United 2, lost 4-3 on aggregate
Scottish Division One play off
13/05/16 | Falkirk 3 Hibernian 2
19/05/16 | Falkirk 1 Kilmarnock 0
22/05/16 | Kilmarnock 4 Falkirk 0, lost 4-1 on aggregate
Paul Watson can remember previous play off matches and he admits that he has had some bad experiences in them:-
“I think I’ve had every experience in the play-offs now - an early exit, getting to the final and winning the first-leg before getting battered in the second-leg.
“Then at Dundee United, we drew and went all the way to penalties - and I’ve never seen a penalty shoot-out like that since. It was disappointing, and it’s the toughest way to end the season. We’re just looking to get through this tie on Tuesday and Saturday and see where it takes us.
“I don’t think there’s many boys in our group who have experienced the play-offs, so I’ve been trying to give little bits of advice to them in certain areas. We can’t win through on Tuesday night, it’s two ties, so it’s just about staying in the game and taking it to Saturday.”
Manager Stevie Crawford hopes that 30 year old Watson’s experience in play off matches can be used to help the squad members experiencing a play off for the first time. Stevie Crawford has said that there is a balance there:-
“We have gone in a direction as a football club to try and give people an opportunity to play either at a higher level or younger players given the opportunity to come to a club who are trying to get into the Championship.
“Paul has played a massive part throughout the season, as much as his performances have been great and a help to us on the pitch, that calming influence on a day to day basis has been a benefit as well.
“I would not expect anything other that that from the homework I did on him before I brought him to the club. It will be great that he can give the boys a few reminders of what is going to be asked of them in these ties coming up. The excitement for us is also boys experiencing it for the first time.”
The three Fife derbies this season have produced 15 goals but as a defender Paul Watson said he would settle for two 1-0 wins to progress.
“Definitely. To be fair, I would take any way of going through, as long as we go through. They’ve been strange games, to be honest. They got the better of us at Stark’s and we battered them at home.
“So, it’s a really interesting game for the neutral but these big games tend to come down to set-pieces or big moments like that, so hopefully we can get the better of them.”
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