Duku Decides Derby
Raith Rovers ended their Betfred Cup campaign with a 1-0 win against Cowdenbeath at Central Park this afternoon, with Manny Duku’s seventh goal of the season the difference between the sides.
Rovers made one change from the side which started the midweek match against Inverness Caledonian Thistle, with Dylan Tait coming back into the starting line up in place of Kyle Benedictus who missed out through suspension.
That meant a reshuffle was required at the back, with Frankie Musonda partnering Fernandy Mendy at the heart of the defence, and Daniel Armstrong moving to left-back.
Rovers started the match reasonably brightly, with the bulk of the opening passages being played out in the hosts half, although other than a Brad Spencer attempt from inside the area which was sent crashing a yard or so over Ross Sinclair’s crossbar, Gary Bollan’s side were doing a decent job of keeping Raith at arm’s length.
It was the same player who forced Sinclair into action a few moments later, getting onto the end of a really well worked move, but after Sinclair did well to spread himself and block the finish, the linesman’s flag went up give Cowden the free-kick.
Rovers were starting to stretch the home side now though, with Regan Hendry, Ross Matthews and Dylan Tait dictcting their direct opponents in midfield, while Ethan Ross and Reghan Tumilty were providing width.
The right back thought he’d given Rovers the lead in the 16th minute, when he got on the end of a corner kick at the back post and poked it goalward, but despite some claims that the ball had crossed the line, referee David Lowe waved play on.
Despite Rovers holding the upperhand , the home side should have taken the lead in the 22nd minute.
An attempted clearance went awry in the Rovers penalty area and fell kindly for Cian Kavanagh, but he made a hash of his finish, scuffing it into the turf, although Robbie Thomson still had to be alert to keep it from bobbling in.
Rovers were still knocking on the door though, and once again, it was Spencer who had an attempt, driving a low shot at goal which looked like it was on target, before it was deflected over the bar by a defender.
Tumilty was the provider of the next opportunity, after he was released down the right by a fine pass from Hendry, but his dangerous low cross was tipped away by Sinclair and out for a corner.
Rovers got the goal their play warranted in the 35th minute though, when Duku was picked out inside the penalty area, but with work still to do, he remained calm and turned a defender before slotting confidently past Sinclair to open the scoring.
There was concern a moment later however, when the forward went down with an injury after being beaten to the ball by Sinclair, but after receiving treatment for a couple of minutes, the Dutchman was able to continue.
With other scores going their way at the interval, Rovers knew a big win might be enough to sneak them through as one of the best runners up, and they should really have made it two in the 48th minute.
Cowdenbeath were unable to clear their lines from a corner, and the ball fell kindly for Musonda, but he was leaning back and could only guide his effort from inside the area over the bar.
A mix up at the back almost allowed Cowden back into the game in the 51st minute, with Mendy attempting to shepherd the ball back to Thomson, but instead, Kavanagh was able to sneak around the defender and almost guide the ball home from a tight angle, but instead found the side netting.
Gary Bollan’s men were starting to pressure the visitors though, and they had another good chance from a corner kick, when Kavanagh found space inside the area, but his header was well wide of target.
Rovers had fallen out the game a little, as the home side sensed they could get something from it, however, Rovers missed a gilt-edged chance to seal the three points in the 67th minute.
Ross did well to win the corner, and from it, Tumilty found himself free in the six-yard box, but he could only nod his great chance over the bar.
Rovers were finding the second period a far tougher one than the first, and Kavanagh again squandered a chance to score with 18 minutes remaining, stabbing over from close range after a teasing cross from the right.
With 15 minutes left, Paul Smith made his first substitution, replacing Ross with Quinn Coulson, with the youngster taking up the berth on the left of midfield.
The play continued to go towards Rovers goal, and Kavanagh had yet another sight of goal from a set piece, but he again failed to test Thomson with his header, which he planted over the crossbar.
It was the final chance for the home side, as Raith managed to see the game out, and while the eight points were enough to finish in second place behind Hearts in Group A, it wasn’t enough to make the last 16 of the tournament.
Rovers will be on their travels next weekend, when they make the journey to face Inverness next Saturday.
© Eddie Doig 2020
Paul Smith spoke to RaithTV after the win against Cowdenbeath FC in the Betfred Cup
After an exciting 3-3 draw with Inverness Caledonian Thistle in midweek, Raith’s League Cup group stage reaches it’s conclusion on Saturday, with a Fife derby against Cowdenbeath at Central Park.
Despite the bonus point victory garnered by Rovers on Tuesday evening, John McGlynn’s men have the poorest record out of all the second placed sides in the eight groups, making qualification for the next round unlikely.
Even a big win over the Blue Brazil would only suffice if results were to go their way in at least three out of the four matches between Peterhead and St Johnstone, Alloa and Stenhousemuir, Arbroath and Elgin, and Ayr United Stranraer.
Gary Bollan’s team currently prop up the Group A table with one point, after a draw with Inverness on matchday two, but a win on Saturday would see them leapfrog both East Fife and the Caley Jags into third, bringing with it an increase in prize money.
This will be the third time in four years that these two teams have met at this stage of the competition, and Rovers will be hoping it isn’t a repeat of the last fixture in 2018, when Cowdenbeath won 2-0 in a game played at Methil as Rovers were having their artificial turf installed.
Two goals from Jordyn Sheerin did the damage, as Barry Smith’s team ended up bottom of the table, which also contained Hearts, Inverness and Highland League Cove Rangers.
Rovers last win over Cowdenbeath came 12 months earlier, when goals from Lewis Vaughan and Liam Buchanan earned the home side a comfortable 2-0 win. That group stage also saw Rovers beat Buckie Thistle 6-1, but defeats to Dundee and Dundee United meant that Raith ended the campaign in third place.
Rovers hold the upper hand in this fixture, but only just, with five wins and four defeats from the last 10 meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be David Lowe.
Head-To-Head Cup Record Versus Cowdenbeath:
Raith Rovers Wins: 6
Cowdenbeath Wins: 7
Raith Rovers Goals: 24
Cowdenbeath Goals: 18
Raith Rovers: L-W-W-D-W-D
Raith Rovers: Manny Duku 6, Daniel Armstrong 3, Ross Matthews 3
Cowdenbeath: Brad Smith 2
Raith Rovers: 2/5