Rovers Ease Through Against Dons
Raith Rovers made it through to the second round of the Irn Bru Cup with the minimum of fuss this evening, after a straightforward 3-1 win over the Aberdeen development side.
First half strikes from Nat Wedderburn, Ross Matthews and Kevin Nisbet saw off the Dons in comfortable fashion, and although Paul Sheerin’s side pulled a goal back in the second period through Bruce Anderson, Raith’s experience was far too much for the Colt team.
Barry Smith made two changes from the team which disposed of Stenhousemuir 2-0, with Kyle Benedictus making way for Iain Davidson, who returned from suspension.
Meanwhile, up front, Liam Buchanan dropped to the bench, with his place being taken by Lewis Milne, who partnered Kevin Nisbet.
Other than that, it was as you were for a Rovers starting eleven which looked surprisingly strong for this stage of the competition, and while the Aberdeen team was something of an unknown quantity, the presence of Anderson, who scored a last-minute equaliser against Rangers just over a week ago, meant that the visitors shouldn’t be underestimated.
As has often been the case for games in this competition since the introduction of development sides, there was very much a pre-season friendly feel about the opening stages of this one, and it was the away side who were dictating the tempo, and possession in the opening ten minutes.
Raith were struggling to get out of their own half, with Aberdeen looking impressive on the ball, with Ethan Ross looking particularly lively attacking from deep, skipping past two challenges on the edge of the penalty area, before having his attempt at goal crowded out.
Rovers were starting to feel their way into the match however, forcing three corners in quick successions, the third of which presented them with the opening goal in the 16th minute.
The set-piece was cleared by the Dons defence, but only as far as Matthews, whose lofted ball into the area caught the Aberdeen defence underneath it, allowing Wedderburn to gather and set himself, before rattling a superb shot from an angle past Dons ‘keeper, Archie Mair.
Despite the setback, Aberdeen continued to probe, and Dave McKay had to get across and time his sliding challenge superbly to nick the ball away from Anderson, who probably thought he had a free run at goal after being slipped through from Ross.
Sheerin was probably thinking his side had acclimatised well against their experienced opponents, but they saw their deficit double in the 27th minute, with Matthews adding a goal to his assist.
Nisbet did well to win a high ball on the edge of the area, and after laying it off to Matthews, the midfielder shifted the ball into a shooting position before drilling it low past Mair and into the bottom left-hand corner.
Aberdeen barely had time to catch their breath before it was 3-0, and almost certainly game over just three minutes later, with another well worked goal.
Flanagan did well in the middle of the park, teeing up Nisbet who had taken up position at the left-hand side of the penalty area, and after skipping past one challenge, he dispatched a fine finish past Mair from twelve yards.
Rovers had now very much found their groove, and after the reasonably even start to proceedings, it appeared Raith could win by a bumper scoreline, if they kept up their tempo against a discouraged Dons team.
Despite holding a healthy advantage, Rovers looked keen to add to their advantage at the start of the second period.
Flanagan in particular was causing Aberdeen all kinds of trouble down the left, but despite the winger proving to be a handful, clear cut chances were at a premium, with a Matthews shot from distance that was charged down, as close as either side came to troubling the opposing goalkeeper.
Rovers made a double change after an hour, with Chris Duggan and Euan Valentine replacing Grant Gillespie and Nisbet.
Rovers were now completely dominant, with Matthews and Wedderburn in particular giving their direct opponents a torrid time, and it was almost four in the 68th minute.
Jamie Watson played the ball down the wing to Flanagan, and after coming inside and skirting a challenge, his shot from an acute angle fizzed just over the bar.
The same player was involved again, when the home side missed an even better chance to go further ahead a few moments later.
Again, Flanagan caused the damage, cutting inside from the right, only to see his shot turned away by Mair, but from a central position and around 12 yards out, Duggan blazed his effort over the bar.
It was Flanagan’s last contribution to the match, as he made way for Liam Buchanan with 20 minutes remaining, but within 60 seconds, Aberdeen had reduced their arrears with a fantastic strike.
Anderson picked up possession 25-yards from goal, and lashed an unstoppable shot past Kieran Wright and into the top-right corner from the edge of the area.
Aberdeen now had the bit between their teeth again, but a far bigger concern was a clattering challenge on Wedderburn in the middle of the park.
With Rovers out of subs, the midfielder elected to stay on, despite being severely hampered and struggling for mobility.
The injury concern was the final talking point in the encounter, with Rovers keeping the Dons side at arm’s length for the closing period, as they made their way safely into the bowl for the second round draw.
Manager Barry Smith talked to RaithTV after the 3-1 win at Stark’s Park
Raith Rovers Irn Bru Cup campaign begins this Tuesday evening, with Aberdeen’s Colt side visiting Stark’s Park for the First Round tie.
It’ll be the second time Rovers have faced a development team in the last two seasons, with Barry Smith’s men overcoming Ross County’s youngsters in the Second Round of the same competition last September.
Raith eased themselves into the Third Round on that occasion, when goals from Liam Buchanan, Bobby Barr and a Lewis Vaughan double, sealed the 4-0 win.
All the goals came within a 27 minute blitz at the start of the opening period, and at one stage, it looked like a rout was on the cards, but with Raith easing off the gas, the Dingwall youngsters made it to full time without conceding any more.
Rovers go into the game on the back of a 2-0 win over Stenhousemuir, and while the scoreline was eventually comfortable, they were made to work hard for it by a Warriors side who twice hit the woodwork with the score at 1-0.
The win lifted the Rovers to second in the table, with four points from six games, with only Arbroath above them, who currently boast a 100% record.
The new SPFL Reserve League has yet to kick off, but last season’s Aberdeen Under-20 side finished fourth in the 14 team Development League, behind Hearts, Dundee and champions Hibernian.
Tuesday evening’s match referee will be David Dunne.
Raith Rovers: L-D-L-L-D-W
Top Goal Scorers:
Raith Rovers: Kevin Nisbet 3 | Grant Gillespie 1 | Liam Buchanan 1