Stevenson Stunner Settles Fife Affair
Raith Rovers Fife derby woes continued today as they lost 1-0 to a resolute Cowdenbeath side at Stark’s Park.
Rovers started the match with the same starting XI and subs bench from the midweek win over Dumbarton at the Bet Butler stadium.
The hosts started slowly and the first chance came for the away side from a Jamie Stevenson free kick, 25 yards from goal after a foul from Stuart Anderson. Stevenson’s driven effort was well kept out by McGurn.
In the 4th minute, a burst of applause rang around the ground in appreciation of former player Ronnie Coyle, who sadly passed away 2 years ago.
On the park, both teams were serving up a fairly sterile affair, with neither side coming close to scoring. Spence almost capitalised on a fumble from Cowdenbeath goalkeeper Thomas Flynn but he gathered at the second attempt. Brian Graham then sent a deep Grant Anderson cross over the bar, but the forward was always stretching and couldn’t catch it properly. The provider then had the next half chance, but his good run into the box preceded a woeful effort that ended up at the corner flag.
It was the 20th minute before either side fashioned a good chance, and it should have put Raith one up. Allan Walker’s corner from the railway stand side was met at full tilt by Simon Mensing but he powered his header over when he should have done better.
Raith were struggling to replicate anything like the good form that they’d recently shown, and at times the middle of the park looked extremely congested. This problem was exacerbated by Jason Thomson struggling to get forward in support, something that has been key to Raith’s good recent run. Marc McKenzie in particular was working hard to close down Thomson or Anderson whenever they had the ball wide right.
This lack of a cutting edge meant that Rovers were only really looking threatening from set pieces, and Flynn’s first save came just before the half hour mark, when he did well to keep out a close range Graham header from another Walker corner kick.
The first chance from open play came in the 35th minute, when Stuart Anderson lost possession in the middle of the park. Despite Kyle Miller being surrounded by 6 Raith players, he still had time to pick out Jamie Stevenson who again unleashed a fierce drive that McGurn had to tip away at full stretch.
Despite Raith having plenty examples of Stevenson’s shooting ability, they continued to concede free kicks in and around the area. It seemed only a matter of time before they were made to pay, and it duly arrived in the 40th minute.
Grant Murray gave away the foul 25 yards from goal, and with David McGurn looking like he was anticipating the shot being hit to his left, Stevenson curled home a superb effort into the top right hand corner to give Cowdenbeath a precious lead at half time.
Both teams made changes at half time, and curiously it was both player managers who took themselves off. Grant Murray made way for Joe Cardle, while Colin Cameron swapped himself for Mark Ramsay.
The home change meant that Joe Hamill went to left back with Cardle just ahead of him.
Despite the change meaning that Rovers now had two out and out wingers on the park, the opening 15 minute spell of the second period, frustratingly involved very little of the ball being fed out to them. The build up play was slow and ponderous, and was allowing Cowdenbeath to regroup and reorganise whenever their attacks broke down.
The game sprang to life on the hour mark however, and Raith should have fired themselves level. Joe Cardle sent a dangerous looking ball into the box which Flynn half cleared. Walker’s drive from the edge of the box was blocked by a defenders body, but only as far as Grant Anderson who saw his two efforts both well blocked by Flynn from close range.
Seconds later the same thing happened again, Cardle’s cross again reached Walker on the edge of the area but his shot was blocked. In the aftermath of the flurry of chances, Jamie Stevenson went off injured, replaced by Dean Brett.
Cowdenbeath seemed to be sitting back deeper and deeper, inviting pressure onto them, and at this point it looked like Raith were likely to grab an equaliser. Graham teed up Joe Cardle but his curling effort was over the bar.
Grant Murray then made his second substitution, replacing Stuart Anderson with Ross Callachan.
Cardle was looking the one player who could create something and he was again involved with 20 minutes to go, slipping the ball inside to Greig Spence but in a moment that summed up the Rovers performance, the ball bobbled over his foot and the chance was lost.
The same two men combined minutes later, Cardle slipping Spence through with a clever pass, but with just Flynn to beat, the keeper spread himself well and blocked the forwards effort.
With just over 15 minutes left, Cowdenbeath almost put the game beyond Rovers. Greig Stewart was allowed to run almost unimpeded into the Raith penalty box, and his deflected shot bounced off McGurn’s left hand post.
With time running out Raith made their final change, bringing on Eddie Malone for Joe Hamill, and it would be the late substitute who had the final chance of the game, nodding a back post header into Flynn’s arms when he would have been better heading it back across goal.
The full time whistle brought a chorus of disapproval from the home fans, while the Cowdenbeath support celebrated a valuable 3 points in their battle to beat the drop. For Grant Murray, there were slim pickings in terms of positives to take from the game, although perhaps he, and the fans, can take some solace from the fact that there’s at least no more Fife derbies to negotiate this season.
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Photographs copyright Tony Fimister and Ian Martin.
The gaffer was disappointed to lose the last derby this season