Nade’s Seals Fife Derby Victory
Raith Rovers got their year off to the perfect start, with an extremely late, but thoroughly merited, 1-0 win over Cowdenbeath at Central Park.
Grant Murray made just one change from the side that won 1-0 at Falkirk the previous week, with Barrie McKay dropping out, to be replaced by Grant Anderson.
Although the sun was shining overhead, the Central Park turf was looking heavy after sustained rain over the weekend, and while conditions were far from ideal, both sides were initially at least, looking to keep the ball down.
That certainly made sense from Raith’s point of view, as the opening stages of the game saw the Cowden central defender Nathaniel Wedderburn winning every aerial challenge that he was asked to make.
Raith looked keen to use their flanks, and both Ryan Conroy and Anderson combined in the seventh minute, to provide the first half-chance.
Conroy’s deep cross from the left was headed back by Anderson at the back-post, but Mark Stewart was crowded out before he could get his shot away.
The opening quarter of an hour was relatively even, with the home side looking to spread the ball wide to Jordan Halsman on the left-hand-side as much as possible, and he almost managed to get a shot away after a three-man-move, but his effort was well blocked by Jason Thomson.
Martin Scott then ambitiously tried his luck from 45-yards out, but while his shot was blocked on the edge of the area, the rebound fell kindly for Elliot, whose first-time shot from 25-yards, rose just over the bar.
Perhaps inspired by Scott’s long-range attempt, Rory McKeown then forced Robbie Thomson into his first save of the match, with a 35-yard effort of his own. The shot seemed to be moving in the air, forcing the Blue Brazil goalkeeper to punch the ball over the bar.
While the away side had the momentum, and were dominating possession, they were finding it difficult to create too many clear goalscoring opportunities. Although they were winning their fair share of corners and free-kicks, the Cowdenbeath defence were remaining resolute, with Darren Brownlie and Wedderburn in particular, providing Raith with little change.
It was yet another set-piece which almost saw Raith take the lead on the half-hour mark. Conroy’s free-kick was headed to the edge of the area, where Dougie Hill’s first-time shot appeared to be heading in, only for it to whizz just wide.
Callachan was the next to threaten, getting on the end of an Anderson cross, but his header was straight at Thomson.
It felt like a breakthrough was coming, and in the 41st minute Rovers did have the ball in the net after the best passing move of the game, but the effort was ruled out. Elliot backheeled the ball to Thomson, who had made excellent headway down the right-hand side. His through ball teed up Stewart, who slipped it under the advancing goalkeeper, only to be denied by the assistant referee’s flag.
With half-time approaching, Anderson, who had given Cowdenbeath left-back Iain Campbell a torrid opening period, once again skipped past the defender, cutting inside, only to see his shot blocked by Wedderburn. Conroy’s follow-up slithered just wide of the post.
The start of the second period, failed to live up to the flow of the first. It was scrappy, and far less fluent, with Rovers struggling to bring their wide midfielders into the action. As such, it began in an even manner, not necessarily because Cowdenbeath had improved, but more that Rovers were failing to find the tempo they had in the opening 45 minutes.
Conroy was presented with a good chance to open the scoring in the 55th minute, when he was picked out by Anderson on the edge of the box. However, he delayed his shooting opportunity a fraction too long, allowing his shot to be charged down.
Raith were still very much in the ascendency, but it was all crosses, corners and close calls, with nothing going Raith’s way in front of goal.
Anderson sent a shot into the side netting after good work from Stewart, before Elliot had a shot blocked, after a long throw from McKeown.
With all the pressure that Raith were exerting, you started to sense that Cowdenbeath, may just fancy their chances of a sucker punch goal, and they almost had it, in the 62nd minute.
Jon Robertson found himself in time and space at the back-post, but his shot from an angle was too close to McGurn, who got both hands on it and pushed it wide.
There was an irony that after all the chances Raith had eked out, Thomson had to pull off his best save of the match, from his own teammate. An Anderson cross was swiped at wildly by Wedderburn, and was heading into the top corner, without the goalkeeper’s excellent intervention.
Grant Murray made his first change with 15 minutes remaining, replacing Elliot with Christian Nade, who went up front to partner Mark Stewart, and the two combined immediately.
Stewart slipped the former Dundee man through, but his touch was heavy, allowing Thomson to gather at his feet. Nade then turned provider, flicking the ball on for his strike partner, who could only dink an effort over the bar.
Cowdenbeath made a substitute of their own, bringing on Sutherland for the final ten minutes, and he could have won the game for the Blue Brazil. After latching on to a through ball, his pace took him away from the Raith defence, but his touch took him away from goal, and his shot was straight at McGurn’s chest.
That let-off was punished by Rovers with just two minutes left, with a well worked, and taken goal. The ball found Mark Stewart on the left-hand side, and his excellent back-post cross was met by Nade, whose downward header went beyond Thomson and into the net.
The win was Raith’s second 1-0 victory in a row, and their third consecutive victory over Cowdenbeath this season. It’s also the first time Raith have won the last league game of one year, and followed it up with a win in the first game of the new year, since the 2007/08 season, when their opponents were Alloa Athletic, and coincidentally, Cowdenbeath.
More importantly however, the win lifts Raith up to sixth in the table, and they can now look forward to a home match against Queen of the South next Saturday.