Holders Bow Out After Derby Defeat
Raith Rovers defence of the newly named Petrofac Training Cup was disappointingly brief, as they went out in the First Round to an impressive looking Dunfermline Athletic side 1-0 at East End Park.
Calum Elliot’s suspension mean that he was forced to sit out the tie, and he was replaced up-front by Lewis Vaughan, in what was manager Grant Murray’s only change from Saturday’s 4-2 win over Forfar Athletic.
Whilst the opening stages of the match were reasonably fast-paced, there were few clear-cut openings created within it. Dunfermline, with five men in their midfield were keen to keep the ball down and get it out wide, but despite this, it was Raith who fashioned the first half-chance after five minutes. Christian Nade’s flick on found Mark Stewart with a sliver of space in the box, but his chance was well closed down by Josh Falkingham.
The opening quarter-of-an-hour saw Raith on the front-foot, and they should have been a goal up, when Ryan Conroy played Nade through on goal, but after delaying his shot, goalkeeper Ryan Scully did well to block the chance with his feet.
Raith were almost made to pay for that miss a moment later, when Dunfermline squandered their first good opportunity. Shaun Byrne teed up Faissal El Bkataoui, who exposed a lax Raith backline, but as he ran in from Rovers left-hand-side, he made a hash of his shot, and crashed it into the side netting.
Byrne’s next involvement was less impressive, as he was cautioned by referee Alan Muir for simulation, much to the Pars midfielder’s consternation.
Although the opening half-hour had been reasonably tight, the momentum seemed to be swinging in the home side’s favour. Dunfermline looked neater in possession, exploiting their extra man in midfield, and testing Raith out wide. For Rovers, the chances from open play had started to dry up, and while Vaughan and Nade were struggling to gel, they were getting little in way of support, or service.
As a result, it was no surprise when Dunfermline created the next good chance, when Ross Millen’s whipped cross just evaded Michael Moffat, Andy Geggan and El Bakhtaoui who were all waiting to knock it home.
Rovers then wasted a good chance when Watson knocked a Conroy corner over the bar, before Vaughan shot wide after taking up a good position in the box. To the home fans annoyance, the referee signalled for a corner, and from it, Vaughan again had an attempt, but he was crowded out.
Dunfermline were causing problems with their own set-pieces, with a novel new corner-kick routine. Four Dunfermline players linked arms and formed a circle on the edge of the box, before indulging in what appeared to be a ring-of-roses type move, before dispersing in the box as the kick was taken. It almost worked, as Gregor Buchanan got on the end of the cross, flicking the ball over the bar.
Raith were starting to hang on as half-time approached, and Cuthbert did well to repel Moffat’s deflected shot, before Geggan blasted the rebound well over. Millen then went close, as his shot from outside the area flew past Cuthbert’s right-hand-post, as Rovers failed to deal with a throw-in.
The second-half began with Mark Stewart swapping places with Lewis Vaughan, in an attempt to provide the Frenchman with closer support. However, Nade almost opened the scoring all on his own, in the opening seconds of the second-period. Receiving the ball from Liam Fox, forty yards from goal, he accelerated towards Ryan Scully, leaving defenders in his wake. Shaping to shoot from ten yards, he sidestepped another tackle, before being denied by a fine top from Scully, who took just enough off the shot, allowing Millen to sprint in to clear.
Up the other end, Cuthbert had to scramble down to his right to keep out a low twenty-five yard drive from Byrne, and the Raith keeper had to be alert again, after fifty-five minutes. Moffat and El Bakhtaoui combined effectively inside the area, allowing the latter to make space for himself and shoot from close range, but Cuthbert smothered the shot well.
Although the game was tantalisingly poised, Raith were restricted to playing on the break, and were failing to make the most of their time in possession. While Nade was proving to be a real handful with the ball at his feet, it was too often being played to his head, a ploy which was failing to utilise his technical ability. Any time he was flicking the ball on, no Raith player was in close enough proximity to feed off the scraps.
To compound matters, Raith’s passing had started to become more ragged, and from a misplaced pass, Moffat was afforded time to control a pass, flick it up, and send a volley over Cuthbert’s crossbar.
Raith made a change with thirteen minutes remaining, replacing Liam Fox with Ross Callachan, but within five minutes, Raith found themselves a goal down.
Josh Falkingham’s shot from the right-hand-side was parried away by the Raith keeper, but he could do nothing about Millen’s excellent dipping shot from twenty-two yards, which flew over his outstretched hand and under the bar from the left-hand side of the penalty area.
Despite huffing-and-puffing, Rovers didn’t look like getting themselves level in the final ten minutes, although a Conroy corner was narrowly flashed wide by Jason Thomson.
The final whistle brought an end to Raith’s involvement in a competition which provided them with so much enjoyment last season, but it was a merited victory for Jim Jefferies men.
With the Championship campaign kicking off on Saturday, Grant Murray will be looking for an improved performance, as Raith welcome Dumbarton to Stark’s Park.
Copyright Eddie Doig