Raith And Hibs Draw A Blank
Raith Rovers pre-season preparations continued at Stark’s Park tonight, with an encouraging 0-0 draw against Europa League hopefuls Hibernian.
Raith made 4 changes from Wednesday nights 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United. David McGurn replaced Ross Laidlaw in goals, while in defence, Laurie Ellis dropped to the bench, allowing Reece Donaldson to slot in alongside Dougie Hill at centre half. Ross Callachan started in the middle of the park in place of Kevin Moon, and Greig Spence started on the sidelines as Calum Elliot partnered Gordon Smith up front.
Hibs had just returned from Portugal where they’d lost their previous warm up match 2-1 to Nottingham Forrest, and the conditions in Kirkcaldy seemed more suited to the Algarve, as Stark’s Park basked under the glorious evening sunshine.
This match was Hibernian’s fourth pre-season fixture, and they looked sharper early on as Rovers struggled to get an early grip on proceedings.
Ross Caldwell was the first to catch the eye and Callum Booth had to make an excellent sliding challenge to deny him as he looked to latch on to the end of a smart passing move.
The majority of Hibs good work was coming down their right hand side, and Alex Harris showed impressive technique to nutmeg Booth and get to the bye line, but although his cross found Handling unmarked, his shot was blocked by Thomson.
Handling came closer a few minutes later when he got a shot off after a one-two with Harris but McGurn saved comfortably.
Raith’s first attempt at goal came after quarter of an hour. A long, accurate ball by Hill found Elliot in a surprising amount of space just outside the box, but he couldn’t quite strike it cleanly on the turn and it was held easily by Ben Williams.
The home side then forced a couple of corners, the second of which saw Williams scrambling for the ball and failing to collect, but after a stramash in the box, the ball was eventually cleared.
The game had started to settle down and while goalmouth chances weren’t plentiful, there were signs that Raith were growing into the game. As it was against Sheffield United, most of the attacking threat was coming down the wings via Cardle and Anderson, while Fox and Callachan were both playing a holding role in the middle. Callachan especially looked impressive, snapping into challenges and using the ball well, despite being up against a far more experienced duo of Owen Tudor Jones and Tom Taiwo.
It was the Raith wide men who were involved in the next chance just after the half hour mark. Cardle swept the ball over to the opposite flank to Anderson, whose initial cross was blocked, but as he gathered up the rebound, his shot from an acute angle nestled into the side netting.
The last action of the half almost saw Hibs take a barely deserved lead into the break. Danny Handling shrugged off two challenges before sending in a shot that McGurn did well to palm away.
Pat Fenlon made one change at half time, replacing Alex Harris with Paul Cairney.
The deadlock was almost broken five minutes into the second half, after a brilliant free kick cross from Cardle was headed downwards by Hill but his attempt went just wide.
Worryingly for Hibs, considering they face a European tie against Malmo next week, Raith started to boss the game at the start of the second half. Both full backs had shown a willingness to get forward and Booth burst into the box before sliding the ball across goal, but it was just too far ahead of Anderson for him to connect.
A short pass back then almost allowed Smith a sight at goal but Williams spotted the problem early and sprinted from his box to clear the danger.
While both Rovers strikers were working hard, they were doing a lot of their work away from goal and dropping deep. While this was leading to Raith outnumbering the Hibs midfield, it also meant that at times there was no-one to aim a cross at when Raith won possession.
Grant Murray made his first substitution with 25 minutes remaining, replacing Elliot with Greig Spence. The forward had a wild strike at goal within seconds of arriving on the park, but as an indication of just how wayward his effort was, the game restarted with a throw-in.
As is always the case with friendlies, the game started to become disrupted with substitutions as Hibs looked to freshen things up with a number of changes. Rovers made far fewer, but did bring on Kevin Moon for Liam Fox with 20 minutes to go.
The former St. Johnstone man was involved right away, gathering up a Thomson pass and teeing up Anderson, but his fierce cross shot was well held by Williams.
Murray then made his final change, bringing on a trialist for Gordon Smith and he almost combined with Kevin Moon to provide a winner, with the latter teeing up Cardle, but with the goal at the wingers mercy, he took an extra touch to cut inside and the chance was lost.
The game may have ended up goalless but it was a good work out for both teams as they reach differing stages of their build ups. For Hibs, the concerns must be how they will cope against Swedish opposition next week, while Rovers fans were content with the strides that looked to have been made since Wednesday.
Donaldson would have been pleased with his performance at centre half , but it was his partner Hill who was man of the match with a stand out performance. In midfield, Ross Callachan showed enough to suggest he will be playing more than just a bit part role this season while Cardle again did well out wide.
Grant Murray will be hoping the improvements can continue, when they welcome Hearts to Stark’s Park on Wednesday evening.
Pictures: Tony Fimister Report: Shaughan McGuigan
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Photographs copyright Tony Fimister
Grant spoke to Davie about the tough pre-season test
Hibs gaffer Pat Fenlon was disappointed after the friendly