FESTIVE DERBY WIN FOR ROVERS
Raith began 2018 with a determined and deserved three points following a dramatic and hugely entertaining 3-2 win in today’s Fife Derby at the New Bayview. With chances at both ends, both sides contributed to a dramatic ninety minutes, which saw Raith keep pace with League One leaders Ayr United – two points behind with two games in hand.
East Fife equalised twice in a game which swung from end to end in the second half, and had the game’s most enterprising player in winger Mark Lamont; however it was Raith’s strength of character and quality of finishing which saw Barry Smith’s side home with a victory which could prove vital as the season moves towards its final stages in the Spring.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Raith’s starting eleven was the same as those who started the emphatic 3-0 victory over Stranraer on Saturday – Buchanan and Spence partnering upfront, with Lewis Vaughan dropping deeper into midfield alongside a rejuvenated Scott Robertson. 19-year old new loan signing Regan Hendry started on the bench.
East Fife, who ended 2017 on a real upswing with a well-earned point at Arbroath secured with a last-minute Mark Docherty penalty, made two changes: Kevin Smith and Jordan Piggott dropped out, with Aaron Dunsmore taking Piggott’s place at full-back and the rangy Kyle Wilkie starting upfront alongside the experienced Chris Duggan – both would prove troublesome customers for the Raith rearguard.
With no festive quarter being asked and none given, any first-footing was of a feisty flavour early on. Robertson and Vaughan were both pressurised in early possession, as the home side snapped into tackles. Keen to avenge the 5-0 thrashing dished out by their visitors in August, Docherty and midfield partner Kieran Millar patrolled their turf with vigour in the early exchanges.
With both side knocking passes left and right as the ball zipped across the wet astroturf surface, the first moment of real quality put Raith into the lead. As McKay took time to assess the options ahead of him, Scott Robertson surged into space – Spence found the charging midfielder with a beautifully-weighted knock-down, and Robertson gratefully took the opportunity to blast through keeper Goodfellow. With seven minutes on the clock, Raith looked to have picked up where they’d finished against Stranraer the previous weekend.
The hosts had other ideas. Linton and Wilkie combined well down the left-flank, the latter cutting inside with Davidson at action-stations. Zanatta covered back well, nicking the ball off Docherty’s toes as the home man set his bearings for a strike on Smith’s goal. On the quarter hour, Wilkie whipped in a lovely cross from the left, Smith claiming well with Duggan in close attendance.
On twenty minutes, the scores were level with a Wilkie header beyond Smith. A poor goal from a defensive perspective for Raith, both Hurst and Linton had chances to cross, with the pony-tailed Lamont also involved. The ball seemed to be in the Raith box for an eternity before Wilkie found space to head his fourth of the season.
Back came Raith again. Roared on by the management team led by Barry Smith – on the edge of his technical area through-out – Rovers won a corner soon after conceding the equaliser. Vaughan’s inswinging centre took a nick at the near-post from defender Page, with Buchanan getting a decisive touch in front of Goodfellow. The whip and bend on Vaughan’s corner-kicks caused difficulties through-out – Raith were back in front.
Both sides gave as good as they got in the run-up to half-time, with East Fife enjoying a real flow through midfield, allowing Wilkie and Lamont to attack from their respective flanks. With half-an-hour gone, Lamont set off toward goal – with a shot seeming the best option, the bearded winger opted to square for Hurst, with Thomson recovering well to clear the danger. Moments later, full-back Dunsmore made fully fifty yards up the right flank following Zanatta and Murray contriving to lose possession – the young fullback’s inviting cross skimmed through the Raith six-yard box and away. Kane’s free header from a corner drifted wide.
At the other end, Buchanan was unlucky to be called back for handball, having charged down Page’s clearance; Thomson’s cross from the right flank caught the roof of Goodfellow’s net; and Zanatta’s cross was too steamy for either Spence or Vaughan to reach. Spence was adjudged off-side with Raith’s last attack of the half, Buchanan’s through-ball a moment too late to release his strike partner from an on-side position.
Lamont’s wing-play was again a highlight. Having been East Fife’s stand-out player when the sides last met at Starks Park, the impish winger caused problems regularly today. Cutting inside on his right-foot or dancing beyond the outstretched legs of Raith defenders, Lamont drew defenders too him and frequently released others into space. Combining well with Duggan and Wilkie ahead of him, the winger looked dangerous on each possession. While Raith had their noses in front at the half, none present thought the three points decided with forty-five minutes still to play.
The second half began with both sides keen to increase their tally. Zanatta fired an excellent shot at Goodfellow, forcing an early save. At the other end, home fans were on their feet as half-time substitute Kevin Smith brought a sharp reaction from Graeme Smith in the Raith goal.
Ten minutes into the half, Murray conceded a sloppy free-kick slightly to the right of centre, five yards or so from the edge of the Raith box. There were ugly scenes with pushing and shoving in the wall – referee Gavin Ross separating jostling players. East Fife full-back Scott Linton took his time, and – with the crowd hushed in anticipation – curled a lovely free-kick up and over the wall into the unguarded left-hand side of Smith’s goal. A moment of genuine quality had brought the sides level at two-apiece.
Chances followed at both ends. With midfields tiring slightly, and the ball zipping from end to end, there followed ten minutes of very scattered play. Buchanan came close at one end, nearly nipping ahead of Goodfellow to finish an inviting cross, while within seconds, Murray was booked for a trip in midfield as Lamont showed a real turn of pace, threatening to out-run the Raith rear-guard.
Another Lamont drive saw Smith save at full-stretch, with Docherty’s cross headed just over by a retreating Davidson as the balance of play tilted toward the Raith goal. Smith saved well from the resultant corner.
Back came Raith again, with substitute Jonny Court introduced for Liam Buchanan, changing the dynamic of the visiting front-line. Zanatta swung over a driving cross, Vaughan’s shot was blocked in a forest of legs in front of Goodfellow’s goal, and a home defender thumping clear. Released from a lovely one-two between Zanatta and Court, Matthews’ shot was well-saved by Goodfellow.
With twelve minutes to go, the goal which would prove decisive. Zanatta picked up a loose ball and fired goalwards, deflected by an East Fife leg; Spence had a touch, and with home defenders on the line and Goodfellow at full-stretch, Zanatta’s bundled shot limped over the line – goal-of-the-season this was not, but the away dug-out celebrated joyously.
East Fife poured forward again. Withdrawing Lamont for the more direct Flanagan, and with Raith perhaps unwisely looking to the corners with several minutes left on the clock, the home side threw bodies into the attack. Duggan was charged over by Thomson, just as he looked to fire on Smith’s goal; substitute Mutch flew down the left-flank, winning two corners with his first two forward bursts; and successive corners flew into the Raith box, with arms and legs everywhere.
With the last chance, and supporters on their feet, Flanagan nipped inside his man and fired beyond Smith, only to see his shot strike the inside of the post and run along the Raith line and away. Flanagan, and the home support, held their heads in anguish.
Moments later, the final whistle blew. A game of narrow margins which Raith edged in terms of effort, quality of possession, and decisiveness in front of goal; but East Fife could equally claim to have deserved at least a point – Lamont’s fleet-of-foot, Linton’s free-kick, and Flanagan’s last-minute chance giving the match moments of genuine quality and drama. As with the away-win at Arbroath in late December, this victory has the feel of three points which could prove hugely significant later in the season.
©Eddie Doig 2018
RaithTV spoke with Kevin Cuthbert after the 3-2 Derby win over East Fife
Raith Rovers begin 2018 with a Fife derby on Tuesday afternoon, with a short trip to Methil to play East Fife.
Rovers comfortable 3-0 win over Stranraer at the weekend, coupled with Ayr’s loss to Forfar, moved Raith to within two points of The Honest Men at the top of the table, having played two games fewer.
The Fife are currently on a five game streak without a win in the league, but a 1-1 draw against Arbroath last time out, was enough to take them back up the table to sit sixth in League One.
The two sides have met twice already this term, with Rovers taking six points from six so far.
The first meeting was in August, when Rovers romped to a 5-0 victory to give Raith their biggest ever win at the home of their rivals. Goals from Bobby Barr, Lewis Vaughan and Greig Spence gave Barry Smith’s team a comfortable half-time lead, and further efforts from Liam Buchanan and Vaughan again, sealed the scoring.
It was a far tighter affair at Stark’s Park at the beginning of November, with Rovers edging out their opponents by a single goal, thanks to a solitary strike from Vaughan.
That result made it ten games without defeat for Rovers against East Fife, with East Fife’s last win coming in March 1988, with a 1-0 win in the First Division at Stark’s Park.
Tuesday’s match referee will be Gavin Ross.
East Fife Wins: 15 | Raith Rovers Wins: 13 | Draws: 4
East Fife Goals: 63 | Raith Rovers Goals: 59
East Fife: W-L-D-L-L-D
Raith Rovers: L-W-W-D-W-W
Top Goal Scorers:
East Fife: Chris Duggan 10 | Mark Docherty 6 | Greg Hurst 5
Raith Rovers: Lewis Vaughan 19 | Greig Spence 11 | Liam Buchanan 10
East Fife: 14/5 | Raith Rovers: 10/11 | Draw: 14/5