Raith Draw Pre-Season Opener
Raith Rovers were held to a 2-2 draw by an organised and spirited Edinburgh City side last night, as their pre-season got under way at a sun-drenched Meadowbank Stadium.
While the majority of Rovers starting XI were new signings and first team regulars, the back four was very much an experimental looking line up.
Ross Laidlaw was in goals, while Ross Matthews started at right-back. Rory McKeown was on the left-hand side, with Laurie Ellis and David Bates the central pairing.
Another Ross, this time Callachan was partnered with Liam Fox in the middle of the park, and they were sandwiched between new signing Mark Stewart on the left, with the right midfielder listed as a trialist. Up front, Christian Nade looked slightly more advanced than Calum Elliot, who was tucked in behind the Frenchman.
With Raith attacking the giant, though inert scoreboard end of the ground, McKeown wasted no time in demonstrating his willingness to get forward, surging down the line and sending in a cross, only to find a dearth of forwards awaiting it.
The home side had performed admirably against another Championship side in Dumbarton at the weekend, and you could see why, with centre-half Paterson going close with two early headers, while Bates had to be alert to block a Gibson chance.
It was a bright and open start to the game, and the left hand pairing of McKeown and Stewart were looking lively, combining with good effect, allowing the latter to test City’s trialist goalkeeper from 20 yards.
Edinburgh had some inventiveness amongst their ranks too, perhaps none more so than striker Ross Allum, with Liam Fox having to track back to cover a break from the former Hill of Beath man.
Despite the early parity between the sides, Raith should have taken the lead through Christian Nade, but his low, powerful header was straight at the goalkeeper from Fox’s cross.
The fans who had decided to take in the friendly, rather than the televised drama of the World Cup semi-final, didn’t have to wait too much longer for the deadlock to be broken, and it came from the penalty-spot in the 24th minute.
A free-kick was worked into Mark Stewart in the box, and while the foul was of the soft variety, there looked to be enough contact to warrant the decision. After some haggling between Nade and Elliot about who was going to take it, Elliot eventually won out, dispatching his penalty low to the keeper’s right.
While it would be fanciful to say that Raith were now taking control of the proceedings, they were looking brighter, with Nade coming deeper to gain possession and running at the Edinburgh defence, which included former East Fife and Cowdenbeath player Joe Mbu.
On a number of occasions however, Nade, and his new teammates, failed to pick out the final pass when they found themselves in a favourable position.
Any thoughts that Raith could go on and win comfortably were wiped away in the closing stages of the first-half. Firstly, possession was squandered by Raith deep in their own half, before the ball was fed out to Edinburgh’s left. With no pressure applied on the wide player, his cross was deep, but met by Ellis, who got in a tangle trying to clear, and succeeded only in fouling an Edinburgh forward.
Gibson’s penalty was confidently smashed high past Laidlaw to make it 1-1 after 33 minutes.
Five minutes later, Allum forced Laidlaw into another save, but the impressive forward was on-hand in the 41st minute, to put the Lowland side ahead. With the Raith defence looking for offside, Allum rounded Laidlaw, and slotted home well, with a defender on the line.
Raith started the second-half with two substitutions, with Grant Anderson and Kevin Moon replacing Liam Fox and Mark Stewart. Anderson started on the right, with the trialist moving to the now vacant left-hand-side.
Anderson was involved straight away, sprinting down the touchline and putting in a deflected cross that the goalkeeper struggled to deal with.
Despite now being the better side with more possession, Rovers were creating little, with only a wild Ross Callachan effort to show for their endeavours. That changed on the 54th minute however, when the away side fashioned an equaliser.
It was engineered by youngster Matthews, who had shown an eagerness to get forward during the second period. His cross appeared slightly aimless at first, but was met at the edge of the penalty area by Callachan. His strong drive was deflected onto the post by the goalkeeper, but Christian Nade was on hand to steer home the rebound.
Despite seeing little of the ball, Edinburgh then almost went back in front a few minutes later, when a harmless looking cross from the left, was tipped onto, and over the bar by Laidlaw. From the resultant corner, the custodian had to make a good stop, down low to his left to keep the scores level.
Despite the second-half proving to be a dreary affair, Nade and Mbu did manage to find something to take umbrage with, and the two became involved in something of a stooshie on the half-way line. The referee deemed it serious enough to ask the bench to replace the Raith forward, and this led to Lewis Vaughan’s introduction just after the hour.
For the next twenty minutes Rovers created little, with the game punctuated by a couple of attempts from Allum, neither of which troubled Laidlaw.
Raith almost went 3-2 up in the best move of the game in the 85th minute. Vaughan and the trialist combined excellently on the left, and the former’s cross to the back post was just steered away with Anderson waiting to pounce.
A couple of minutes later, Rovers squandered a guilt edge chance, when Anderson was released inside the box, and when he pulled his cross-come-shot across the goalkeeper, Elliot somehow contrived to send his effort wide from six yards with the goal gaping.
It was the final action of a game that, if nothing else, allowed the Raith players to stretch their legs in the build up to the season, and while Edinburgh City were impressive, Raith will face a sterner test on Saturday, when St. Johnstone are the visitors to Stark’s Park.
Copyright Eddie Doig