Spence Provides Central Spark
Raith Rovers left Central Park with all three points today, after a last gasp Greig Spence penalty sealed a thrilling 4-3 victory for the visitors.
Raith made only one change from the starting eleven that lost their opening league game against Hamilton last weekend, with Gordon Smith making way for Spence, and it didn’t take the former Alloa striker long to justify his inclusion.
After just 2 minutes, a Kane Hemmings chance was cleared from the edge of the penalty area, straight upfield to Spence, who somehow found himself clear on goal. Cowdenbeath keeper Grant Adam narrowed the angle and did well to block the initial shot but Spence gathered the rebound, steadied himself, and with defenders charging back, dinked the ball into the net.
The game had started at a whirlwind pace, and while the early goal should have settled Raith nerves, the opposite seemed to happen, with the hosts taking the game to Rovers despite the early blow of going a goal down.
On 7 minutes a Jamie Stevenson free kick from distance seemed to catch David McGurn unsighted, with the ball striking his midriff and deflecting wide. From the resultant short corner, Jordan Morton picked up possession and fired a shot through a crowd of bodies from 18 yards to bring the scores level.
At this point, the Raith defence were having real difficulty with the movement of the Cowdenbeath forwards, and Hemmings almost struck next, when his low shot was stopped well by McGurn.
A minute later it was Morton again causing danger in the area, getting to the bye-line and crossing for Greg Stewart, but his looping header was well held by the Raith keeper.
Raith had barely been seen since that goal in the opening few minutes, but despite that they should have went 2-1 up after quarter of an hour. Cardle picked up a loose pass in the middle of the park and threaded it through to Spence, but with just the keeper to beat, Adam narrowed the angle and smothered his attempt.
For the first time in the match, Raith started to dictate proceedings, with Fox and Moon starting to get their foot on the ball and adding some much-needed stability to what had been a ragged opening from Grant Murray’s men.
Raith’s next chance came after 22 minutes from a Cardle corner, with the ball breaking to Kevin Moon on the edge of the box, but the midfielder should have done better than send his shot high over the bar.
The goal that Rovers deserved arrived just two minutes later though, and when it did, it was thanks to poor goalkeeping from Grant Adam. The keeper’s decision to come and punch a throw in backfired, and his misjudged attempt presented Joe Cardle with a simple chance to put Raith back in front.
Another goal for Rovers at that point would have given them the breathing space they badly needed, and over the next 10 minutes they created a number of good goal scoring opportunities. Andersons cross presented Cardle with a chance but his shot from 6 yards was blocked by Adam’s legs. Spence was next to get a sniff at goal but the through ball was just too far ahead of him, giving Adam the chance to gather the ball at the striker feet.
The game then saw its first 2 bookings, Jordon Morton for a foul on Elliot, and Liam Fox for a challenge on Wedderburn.
Despite Raith being on top at this point, Cowdenbeath brought themselves level with an outstanding strike after 42 minutes. Kane Hemming’s had time to knock the ball down to Kenny Adamson just outside the box, and the defender rifled an unstoppable half volley past McGurn from 20 yards.
Raith then went right up the park and almost went in front again, Callum Booth’s low 25 yard strike deceiving an anxious looking Adam but rebounding off the post.
If the Cowden’ custodian was feeling nervous, then the opening action of the second period would have done nothing to soothe his nerves. A forward pass saw him get in a tangle with his own defender with Spence waiting to pounce, but Adamson recovered to clear, before giving his goalkeeper an earful.
Kevin Moon then picked up the games third yellow card after 49 minutes, and a minute later Rovers nearly went a goal up, after Cardle’s set piece found Dougie Hill, but the centre-half headed wide from 8 yards.
While the first half hadn’t produced particularly great football, it had been played at a ferocious tempo, creating an abundance of chances. The second period on the other hand was simply producing poor football, not helped by the blustery conditions and slippery pitch, caused by the heavy rain earlier in the afternoon.
It was after the hour mark before the first real chance of the second half presented itself, and again it was a cross from Cardle that this time found the head of Greig Spence, who did everything right, but an excellent finger tip stop from Adam kept the scores level.
Not for long however, as on 64 minutes, Cowdenbeath took the lead for the first time. A mistake by Thomson allowed Hemmings the chance to get to the bye-line on the right hand side, and with two men to aim for, his back post cross found Greg Stewart who drilled the ball home.
Four minutes later, Murray made his first change, replacing Grant Anderson with Gordon Smith, and going with three up front.
It almost paid immediate dividends, after Adam flapped at a poor pass back, but substitute Smith skied his chance over the bar.
The introduction of Smith, coupled with a necessity to get back into the game meant that Raith started to play far more direct, and while it pinned the Cowdenbeath defence back, it didn’t seem to be creating too much trouble to the home sides back line.
Then on 81 minutes, Raith got the break they were looking for. Jason Thomson chested the ball down and drove into the box, going down under a challenge which referee George Salmond deemed a foul, much to the disbelief of the home fans and players. Greig Spence picked the ball up and planted his penalty low into the right hand side of Adam’s net to bring the scores level.
That set up a grandstand finish, and Hemmings almost put Cowdenbeath 4-3 up, skinning Booth down the left hand side and firing just wide.
It was to be the Blue Brazil’s last chance of the game, as Rovers bossed the final 5 minutes. First Smith crossed straight into Adam’s hands when he should have done better, then Spence found himself one-on-one with Adam again but the keeper kept out his effort with his toe. Then, in what appeared to be the last chance, Hill flashed a Cardle corner just past the post.
There was still time for late drama however, as Smith found himself through on goal, before being brought down by Grant Adam. At first George Salmond appeared to be ready to book Smith, but he instead awarded the spot kick and sent off the Cowdenbeath keeper. After a long delay to allow Thomas Flynn to take his place in goals, Greig Spenceonce again placed the ball on the spot, and this time he lashed his penalty high to the keepers right to complete his hat-trick, and more importantly, to make the score 4-3.
There was only enough time remaining for Cowdenbeath to take centre before the referee blew for full-time, bringing an end to an incredible match.
After going 8 Fife derbies without a victory last season, Raith will be hoping to win two in four days, with a visit to East End Park on Tuesday night for a Ramsden’s Cup second round tie with Dunfermline.
Words: Shaughan McGuigan Pictures: Eddie Doig
Copyright Eddie Doig.