Vaughan’s Goal Eases Raith Through
Ray McKinnon made a winning start on his competitive debut as Raith Rovers manager, after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Cowdenbeath, in the first round of the Challenge Cup.
Youngster, David Bates stood in for the suspended Kyle Benedictus at centre-half, and he partnered Lewis Toshney who returned to Central Park after a spell at the club last season.
Despite the alterations to the squad over the summer months, there were only three new faces in the starting eleven, with Lewis Toshney, Ryan McCord and James Craigen all making their competitive debuts.
Cowdenbeath also had a well-known face to the Rovers fans up-front, with Greig Spence leading the line alongside Luke Armstrong.
The game started in a reasonably scrappy manner, with Cowdenbeath arguably the better of the two sides in the opening stages, although nominally so, with few chances eked out, despite having slightly more of the ball. They did manage to win a flurry of corners, but other than a Bradley Donaldson header which went over the bar, the Raith defence dealt with them comfortably.
Rovers were having their own difficulties on the creativity front, although unlike the home side, their attacks had a little more purpose around them. Good work from Lewis Vaughan presented McCord with an opportunity, but his shot was sent skyward. A run from Vaughan a few moments later ended when he was flattened at the edge of the area, and while he took the set-piece himself, his shot was pulled wide.
The Raith forward was at the hub of most of Raith’s dangerous looking moments, and he was the creator again after 20 minutes, showing some fine set-up play on the edge of the box, allowing Grant Anderson a sight at goal, but he also dragged his attempt wide.
Raith were now showing some initiative after a difficult opening period, and they took the lead in the 22nd minute. A ball over the top of the defence was scampered onto by Mark Stewart, and although his run had taken him out wide, he was composed enough to pull a great ball back to Vaughan, who slid a fine finish beyond goalkeeper, Michael Andrews.
The goal looked to have eased some nerves amongst the away side, and at this point, a second goal looked reasonably likely. A cross from Jason Thomson found Stewart with his back to goal, and whilst he was able to shrug off his marker, he sent his bouncing ball over the bar.
The same player was almost able to take advantage of a mix-up in communication between Andrews and his defenders, with everyone leaving the ball to each other. However, although Stewart nipped in to gain possession, he was unable to get a clear shot at goal, and his pass to Anderson saw the winger chip the ball over the backtracking goalkeeper, and the crossbar.
Craigen then came even closer to doubling Raith’s lead, when the ball fell to him inside the box from a corner-kick, but his goal-bound shot was hacked off the line by Dean Brett.
After being on the defensive for a 20 minute spell, the home side gradually crept back into the match, but other than a volley from Spence from the edge of the area which spun well wide, they created little to trouble the Raith defence.
The half-time interval saw Vaughan replaced by Craig Wighton, but he had little chance to impress straight away, as Cowdenbeath pushed for an equaliser in the opening minutes of the half.
Toshney had to look lively to divert a cross from Sam Orritt away for a corner, and from the delivery, a real stramash was produced inside the Raith penalty area, with no-one of a Cowdenbeath persuasion able to steer it home, before Rovers finally averted the danger.
The pattern of the second period was following the first, with the Blue Brazil, in red, seeing a reasonable amount of possession, but creating little or nothing in way of chances.
At the other end however, Wighton had made a bright start after his introduction, creating two chances in a short space of time.
Firstly, he combined well with Stewart, before galloping down the right and sending a cross into his strike partner who had continued his run, however, John Armstrong nicked it off his toe as he shaped to shoot.
Then, Wighton again advanced down the right, evading three challenges, before sending a cross over which McKeown ran onto, but, like several other attempts which had gone before, he sent it wide of the mark.
With 25-minutes remaining, Toshney had to be replaced after some lengthy treatment, with Elliot Ford replacing the stricken defender. Ford went to the right full-back position, with Thomson moving into the centre with Bates.
The re-jigged defence didn’t look too adversely affected, although there was one scare with fifteen minutes remaining, when Spence found himself in the clear, although he elected to set up Craig Johnston rather than have a shot, which allowed McKeown time to block his drive.
Player-manager, Colin Nish brought himself on with just over ten minutes remaining, as Cowdenbeath pushed for a late goal, but while Armstrong came close with a header which he put over the bar from a corner, the grandstand finish never really materialised, as Rovers continued to keep their opponents at arm’s length.
In fact, it was McKinnon’s men who came closest to scoring again, when McCord’s last-minute shot from distance was deflected just wide of Andrews right-hand post.
The final-whistle meant Raith were through to the second round draw, which takes place on Monday at 2:30pm.
Rovers next match is also a first round tie, as they welcome Albion Rovers to Stark’s Park for a League Cup fixture.
Apologies for restricted view & no audio in parts due to bad language
Copyright Eddie Doig
Raith TV spoke with the gaffer after the derby win at Cowdenbeath
The competitive campaign gets underway this Saturday, and it all kicks-off with a Fife derby, as Raith Rovers head to Central Park to take on Colin Nish’s Cowdenbeath.
The two sides only played each other three months ago, when a Nish hat-trick inspired the Blue Brazil to a 3-1 win at Stark’s Park, but like Raith, the League One outfit have made a whole host of changes over the last few months.
In the dugout, player-manager Nish has replaced the outgoing Jimmy Nicholl, and the rookie boss has had a busy summer, as he’s looked to supplement a squad which saw 15 players depart from the end of last season.
His oldest acquisition is 25-year old goalkeeper, Michael Andrews, who spent last season at Colin Cameron’s Berwick Rangers. Ex-St. Mirren defender, Mo Yaqub may start in the left-back position, while on the opposite side, Bradley Donaldson has been brought in from Livingston. His teammate from West Lothian, Jack Beaumont is predominantly a central midfielder, and he could potentially link up with right-winger, Sam Orritt, who was signed after leaving American College side, Limestones.
Up-front, teenagers, Kyle Mitchell and Luke Armstrong have been snapped up from Penicuik Athletic and Birmingham City respectively, but the forward line will possibly be led by former Raith striker, Greig Spence, meaning that Saturday’s contest could feature the last two men to score a hat-trick in this fixture.
This will be the third time that Raith Rovers and Cowdenbeath have met at the first round stage of the Challenge Cup, with the previous two occasions both taking place in the last five years.
In 2010, a John Armstrong goal was enough to secure a 1-0 win for Cowdenbeath, while 12 months later, a John Baird double secured a second round berth for Raith, despite Lewis Coult’s late effort reducing the arrears in a 2-1 win.
The two sides recent head-to-head record is neck-and-neck, with both teams on four wins and two draws from the last ten encounters.
Saturday’s match referee will be Kevin Clancy.
Head-to-Head Cup Record at Central Park
Cowdenbeath Wins: 3
Raith Rovers Wins: 2
Cowdenbeath Goals: 8
Raith Rovers Goals: 12
Raith Rovers: 11/8