VAUGHAN STRIKES IN DERBY VICTORY
A solitary first-half strike from Lewis Vaughan was enough to see Raith home in front of a bumper 2,600 crowd in this afternoon’s Fife derby against East Fife. Although the visitors enjoyed greater possession in the second half, Rovers limited their opponents to few clear-cut chances, and held out to take a deserved three points.
Despite falling from top spot in the League table on goal-difference, Raith showed character and mettle to retain the one-goal advantage against visitors who drove forward well from a five-man midfield. Lewis Vaughan’s nineteenth goal of the season in all competitions showed the striker’s clinical edge in front of goal, which proved the difference between the Fife rivals.
With Ian Davidson suspended following last week’s red-card, Scott Robertson and Euan Murray began in central defence. Ross Matthews joined John Herron in midfield in an otherwise familiar looking Raith line-up.
Low winter sunshine and a boisterous crowd met the sides as they emerged shortly before kick-off. With four wins in six, and a punishing 5-0 defeat to avenge from earlier in the season, East Fife had more than a point to prove, in their pursuit of all three. Duggan’s early penalty-box tumble under a challenge from Murray gave the away fans more reason to roar their support. At the other end, Spence, Vaughan and Buchanan each buzzed brightly in the opening minutes. With five minutes gone, McHattie caught Lamont napping on the by-line; his cut-back allowed Vaughan to shoot narrowly over.
While the opening ten minutes saw few direct shots on goal, the ball fairly zipped around the Starks Park surface. Buchanan, Vaughan, and Spence took turns to drop deep, allowing Murray and Robertson targets for passes out of defence. For the visitors, the bearded Lamont twisted and turned on his right foot, with Duggan and Willis willing runners upfront. The early pace of the match was impressive.
Herron’s cross found Vaughan at the near-post on eleven minutes; the Raith striker crowded out allowing East Fife keeper Hurst to gather. Moments later, centre-half Page clipped Herron’s feet just as the Raith man threatened a shot on goal – Vaughan’s dipping free-kick whizzed just over.
East Fife’s best opening chance came with the match fourteen minutes old. Willis was caught by Herron but recovered well. His ball inside fell for Docherty on the edge of the box – taking his time to set himself, the East Fife man planted a left-foot strike just beyond Smith’s right-hand upright.
Reilly stood out amongst the energetic East Fife midfield in the early stages. With one deft turn, the youngster took both McHattie and Herron out of the play, releasing midfield runners into Raith’s final third. His pass on twenty-three minutes allowed Lamont to curl just over the Raith bar with Smith looking on. Herron clattered Reilly seconds later, acknowledging his opponent’s fleetness of foot.
On twenty-eight minutes, a Raith opener, born of both persistence and a defensive error. Working the ball out of his box, Docherty was dispossessed smartly by Herron. Flicking on to Vaughan, Herron was involved again before the ball broke finally to Raith’s leading scorer, Vaughan beating Hurst to the loose ball to find the net from four yards. With both sides having traded blows early on, the first goal was always going to be crucial, and Raith’s players knew it, wheeling away to celebrate in front of the South Stand.
Within seconds, almost an equaliser. Duggan thumped a low cross along the six-yard line, only Smith’s fingertips diverting the ball beyond the onrushing Reilly. McHattie thumped clear, preserving Raith’s one-goal advantage.
With Docherty and Millar sitting in front of their defence, East Fife were able to hold possession and offer Duggan and Reilly opportunities to fly forwards. With Herron and Matthews sitting deeper, there was room the central third for East Fife to press on. Lamont’s lovely cross on thirty-six minutes deserved a finish.
Barr blasted just over with an impressive volley, catching a bouncing ball almost perfectly. With five minutes until the half-time whistle, Lamont – having moved inside for the visitors – released Willis with a double step-over in front of Herron; the youngster’s shot was ushered wide by Raith keeper Smith.
While Raith had moved the ball well from side to side, and no doubt had the greater volume of possession, East Fife had reaped dividends from a five-man midfield. While Raith’s front-three did look a threat, the visitors had numbers too when moving forwards. The Raith defence had withstood any real pressure, and the home side went in at the break deservedly in front, but the three points were by no means in the bag at half-time.
The second-half began under clear but darkening winter skies. The shower of driving November rain which had punctuated the first half had passed, and a beautiful sunset was visible to the west. As is often the case in sharp temperatures, the players buzzed with early purpose, the warmth of the dressing-room having been surrendered for the raw autumnal air.
East Fife looked slightly keener – Lamont again scampered forward from wide right with light-footed impish steps, nipping beyond Herron and Matthews only for Murray to clear the danger. Scott Robertson and Duggan jostled over a loose ball, referee Finnie judging the physical contest a fair one. It was ten minutes before Vaughan forced another Raith corner, which Hurst clutched gratefully at the second attempt. Murray’s delightfully lobbed pass released Barr on fifty-six minutes, the Raith winger’s cross just evading Buchanan as Page cleared.
On fifty-eight minutes, a clear Raith break. Barr and Herron both set themselves for shots from distance, both efforts blocked away; Vaughan followed up, hammering high and wide. Good quality possession was all too often not being translated into a clear goal-scoring opportunity. Following a Vaughan tug on Duggan, Lamont’s free-kick lacked the pace to trouble the Raith defence – Page rose highest but could only nod harmlessly over.
With Spence withdrawn for Zanatta, Barry Smith tried to re-inject the first-half fluency into his team’s second-half display. Although clear chances were at a premium, it was East Fife who were stringing more passes together – whether it was the distance between Herron, Matthews, and their strikers, or the link-up play of East Fife’s Docherty and Millar for the visitors, the Raith manager may have sensed the pressure on his back four would increase as the final whistle approached.
Following a spell of East Fife Play around the Rovers’ area, Smith’s belted clearance almost found Barr on the run – only Hurst patrolling the edge of his rea prevented a route-one second for the Rovers.
With quarter of an hour to go, there was a nervy atmosphere around Starks Park. While Raith looked to have more quality, East Fife were still winning more of the possession and generating most momentum. Substitute Kevin Smith ran hard at Jason Thomson, causing problems down Raith’s right, while Zanatta Vaughan and Buchanan struggled in their link-up play.
Lamont skipped outside McHattie, crossing for Duggan to head over, as the clock showed ten minutes remaining. Lamont – who would be replaced minutes later – was a constant thorn in the Raith defence, asking questions both from wide and central positions.
There was a real chance for an equaliser on eighty-six minutes – McHattie was booked for a questionable push on Flanagan, who had looked to over-run a through-ball. With the South Stand howling its disapproval, substitute Smith was inches away from connecting with the free-kick.
Raith survived a number of late howitzers in the closing minutes. Robertson and Murray won their headers, but with the Raith midfield unable to control or retain possession, the visitors repeatedly tested the Rovers rearguard in the closing stages. Referee Finnie’s final whistle was greeted with as much relief as celebration, as the Rovers secured the three points.
While Raith’s first-half was more impressive than the second, Raith’s rearguard performed admirably, limiting the visitors to few clear-cut chances. For all the possession enjoyed by East Fife in the second-half – their five-man midfield contributing much to that – at no point did Raith’s defence look under serious pressure, a real testament given two centre-halves were unavailable. Today’s encounter may not live long in the memory, but will be regarded as a hard-earned and valuable three points nonetheless.
RaithTV chatted with Barry after the 1-0 derby win against East Fife
Raith Rovers return to Stark’s Park for the first time since the middle of October this Saturday, as East Fife visit for the second Fife derby of the season.
Despite losing 5-0 to Rovers earlier in the campaign, East Fife’s decent form since has seen them rise to third in the table, and would move just two points behind Barry Smith’s men with a victory on Saturday.
That victory at Bayview was arguably Raith’s most complete performance of the season to date, with three first-half goals putting Rovers firmly in the driving seat, before pulling even further clear in the second period.
Goals from Bobby Barr, Greig Spence, Liam Buchanan and a brace from Lewis Vaughan gave Rovers their biggest ever win at the home of their Fife neighbour’s.
It’ll be the first time the two have met competitively at Stark’s Park since a League Cup tie in 2010, when goals from Jamie Mole, John Baird and a double from Gregory Tade handed the home side a 4-1 victory.
You have to go back some way for Rovers last loss to the Methil men, ten games and 29 years ago in fact, with a 1-0 loss at Stark’s Park in March 1988.
As such, Raith have a fine record in this fixture, with eight wins and one draw from the last ten competitive meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Stephen Finnie.
Head-to-Head Home League Record:
Raith Rovers Wins: 13 | East Fife Wins: 11 | Draws: 8
Raith Rovers Goals: 54 | East Fife Goals: 46
Raith Rovers: W-W-L-W-W-D
East Fife: W-W-L-W-L-W
Top Goal Scorers:
Raith Rovers: Lewis Vaughan 17 | Liam Buchanan 7 | Greig Spence 6
East Fife: Chris Duggan 6 | Mark Docherty 5 | Greg Hurst 3
Raith Rovers: 2/5 | East Fife: 13/2 | Draw: 4/1