Rovers Impress With Hamilton Win
A swashbuckling first-half performance from Raith saw them win their second straight pre-season friendly, with an impressive 3-2 win over Hamilton Academical.
Goals from Regan Hendry, Kieron Bowie and an own-goal from Johnny Hunt saw Rovers race into a three goal lead, and despite a far stronger second half showing from the Premiership side, Raith held on to claim the victory.
John McGlynn made five changes from the side which defeated Stirling Albion.
David McGurn made his return to the team in goals, while Kyle Benedictus made way for Iain Davidson at centre-half. There was also a change in the right-back berth, with David McKay replacing Jamie Watson.
In midfield, Brad Spencer made his first start since joining from Forfar Athletic, while Grant Anderson dropped to the bench, vacating the lone striker role for Rovers latest signing, Lewis Allan.
Despite being Hamilton’s first pre-season exercise, they looked by far the brighter side at the start of the match, and Fernandy Mendy must have breathed a sigh of relief after just eight minutes, when a low cross from the right by Blair Alston, saw him swipe at a clearance, which went just over the bar from close range.
Rovers were keen to play a patient, possession based game, and while the ball was being zipped around impressively, it wasn’t getting them up the park too much, with a 20-plus passing move only getting the team as far as the halfway line, before one errant pass ended the move with Hamilton gaining a throw-in just inside Rovers half.
However, Rovers had the first real crack at goal after 20 minutes,
Ross Matthews did well to deliver a good ball in from the right, which teed up Hendry, who flashed a volley just wide of Owain Fon Williams left-hand-upright.
A match which had started slowly had now become an end-to-end affair, and Accies almost took the lead in the 24th minute, when Alston’s cross was clattered against the crossbar by the head of George Oakley.
Barely 60 seconds later however, Rovers had the lead, and just like Saturday, it came from the penalty spot.
Once again, it was awarded after Hendry was fouled in the area, this time by an onrushing Williams after being slipped through by McKay, and just like at the weekend he made no mistake, sending the ball to the ‘keeper’s right with Williams diving the opposite way.
It was almost two just three minutes later, when Spencer’s corner kick found Mckay in space in the penalty area, but from 12-yards out, the defender could only side-foot the ball over the bar.
Rovers didn’t have to wait too long for their second goal, and when it did come in the 33rd minute, it was a cracker.
New signing Allan did well to win possession deep inside Hamilton’s half on the left-hand side, and after picking out Kieran Bowie 20-yards from goal, the 16-year-old did excellently to pick his spot and curl the ball past Williams and into the right-hand side of the net.
Rovers were well on top at this stage, and they had chances galore to make it three as the half drew to a close.
McKay was the first to try his luck, venturing up from the right-back slot before bringing a diving save out of Williams from 25-yards, then Bowie almost got his second, diverting a Kieran MacDonald cross just past the post.
Joao Victoria was the next Rovers player to try his luck, latching on to a MacDonald pass, but seeing his shot from inside the area beaten away by the rapidly overworked Williams.
Rovers got a deserved third just before the interval though, although there was a huge dollop of good fortune attached to it, when Ross Matthews shot didn’t appear to be troubling Williams, but a large deflection off Accies defender, Johnny Hunt wrong-footed the Welshman, who could only watch as the ball nestled into the net behind him.
As much as it was just a summer kick about before the real thing kicks off in a few weeks, Rovers first half performance had been excellent, and could easily have seen them going in at the interval with more than a three goal cushion.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hamilton came out with a little more about them in the second period, and after Mendy backed further and further off Alston, the midfielder should have done better than send a shot meekly over McGurn’s bar.
However, the visitors got themselves back into the match in the 56th minute, when Oakley found himself one-on-one with McGurn, and he coolly slotted past the ‘keeper to reduce the arrears.
Rovers barely had enough time to catch their breath and it was reduced further, when Aaron McGowan’s cross from the right was nodded home by Ronan Hughes.
A capitulation suddenly seemed a real possibility, but Bowie was continuing to be a bright spark for Rovers, and he linked well with Allan before heading into the area at an angle, and sending a shot which was just too straight at Williams, allowing the former Inverness custodian to scramble away.
After the shock of conceding two goals in quick succession, Rovers had started to find their feet again, keeping possession well and spreading play in a similar fashion to the first period.
Indeed, they could very well have scored a fourth with a little over 20 minutes remaining, when a blocked shot from Miller fell to Allan, but despite having time to pick his spot from inside the area, he could only curl an effort high and into the stand.
Rovers had McGurn to thank for preserving their lead in the 73rd minute, when he reacted well to push away a low drive to his left-hand side, before pouncing on the second ball, as the visitors appealed in vain for a pass back decision.
Hamilton had the wind in their sails again, and with a plethora of subs for both sides appearing to do more for the visitors than the hosts, it looked a matter of time before Brain Rice’s side restored parity.
However, Rovers weathered the storm in the closing stages, to make it two wins in less than a week, with Spartans next up on Saturday at Stark’s Park.
Photos © Tony Fimister