Raith's Efforts Prove Academic as Hamilton Open With A Win

Raith Rovers made a disappointing start to their Championship campaign today, losing out to a solitary James Keatings strike in a frustrating 1-0 loss to Hamilton.

Raith lined up with the same starting eleven that began last weeks 6-0 win over Queens Park, while Hamilton were without the suspended Martin Canning and the injured duo, Louis Longridge and Jonny Routledge.

As a result, Hamilton started with three at the back and five strung out across the middle, with player-manager Alex Neil protecting the defensive trio.

The game started slowly, with Hamilton enjoying the lions share of possession and they were the first to threaten when a Lee Kilday flick on was gathered in the box by Darian MacKinnon, but his turn and shot was ineffectual.

Neil flies in on Eliott

The early part of the game saw Alex Neil heavily involved, with the 32-year-old stamping his authority on proceedings. At times however he was doing so quite literally, and his poor challenge on Calum Elliot probably merited more than just the warning that was dispensed by referee Crawford Allan.

It took Raith almost a quarter of an hour to register their first meaningful attack, but Kevin Moon's half-volley was never troubling Accies keeper Kevin Cuthbert.

A few minutes later Calum Elliot provided the first effort on target, but his well struck drive was hit straight at the keeper, who gathered it easily.

The game was failing to get going, with Raith struggling to gain possession from the numerically advantaged Hamilton midfield, while the flow of the proceedings was being disrupted by niggly fouls and regular stoppages.

The best chance of the half came after 26 minutes, and it should have seen the visitors take the lead. Grant Gillespie had the first opportunity, but his effort was well blocked by Hill, but with the Raith defence failing to clear their lines, Ali Crawford had the ball teed up to him, but he wastefully blasted the ball over the bar from the edge of the box.

Dougie Hill then came to the rescue again with a perfectly timed tackle on MacKinnon, just as the forward looked ready to pull the trigger.

The last goalmouth incident of the half saw a long throw by Ziggy Gordon flicked on by Jon McShane, but David McGurn was alert enough to spot the danger and cut it out.

McShane challenges Moon

The second half began in much the same way as the first, with Hamilton looking the stronger in the tackle, and the first to every second ball. Raith's most creative outlets in the opening two games had been Callum Booth and Joe Cardle, but they were struggling to exploit any weaknesses in the Hamilton defence.

One thing that did change was that Neil, who had bossed proceedings in the opening period was given less time on the ball at the start of the second. He was caught in possession in the middle of the park, but the counter attack was stopped by Stephen Hendrie who sliced the ball over the Railway Stand, and for the first time in the game, you felt the momentum may just have been swinging Raith's way.

After 55 minutes Cardle and Booth combined effectively for the first time, and it almost opened the scoring. Cardle help up the ball and fed it to Booth, who was gallivanting down the left hand side. The young full-back put in a great cross but for Smith but it was just too far ahead of him, and the chance was lost.

Cardle was the next to create, his cross to the back post was met by Anderson but he was blocked off by Kilday.

Callum Booth runs at the Hamilton rearguard

The home side were starting to look the likelier, and Hamilton's earlier dominance seemed to be fading as Neil's influence lessened. Again, a cross caused danger in the Accies penalty area, with Watson and Hill both going for the same ball which Cuthbert seemed to fumble around the post.

With Rovers struggling to create anything from open play, Grant Murray chose to freshen things up, and Greig Spence replaced Gordon Smith with half an hour remaining, and the striker was straight into the action, almost latching on to a Calum Elliot knock down.

Despite the change, and even though Raith had looked the more likely to break the deadlock in the second half, it was Hamilton who took the lead in the 67th minute.

Darian MacKinnon was unlucky to see his fierce drive tipped round the post by McGurn, but from the resulting corner swung in by Ali Crawford, James Keatings found space from close range to force the ball home.

If the Raith fans expected the Rovers players to put Hamilton under pressure during the final twenty minutes then they were sorely disappointed.  Galvanised by having a lead to defend, Neil and his charges doggedly dug in and prevented Rovers from having any space to work with. Indeed, despite playing with two out-and-out wingers in Cardle and Anderson, Rovers managed to create little of note.

With ten minutes remaining a Cardle corner was headed over by Hill, and in the closing stages Booth's cross was flashed just wide by Grant Anderson

A late chance for Hill goes begging

The loss was Raith's first opening day defeat since 2006 when they lost 2-0 to Morton, and while Raith will feel aggrieved at losing a goal when they were in the ascendency, Hamilton's fans left Stark's Park feeling the better team had prevailed. They certainly had the games best player in Alex Neil, who was at the heart of most of Academical's good work, while his tactics left Raith starved of possession and unable to break down their resistance. Raith will be hoping to bounce back next Saturday against Cowdenbeath at Central Park.

Report: Shaughan McGuigan  Pictures: Tony Fimister


Photographs copyright Tony Fimister



Niall caught up with Grant after the opening league match of the season

Live Updates

First attack by Rovers, Thomson fouled but ref waves play on. Anderson's cross goes straight to Cuthbert
Mackinnon's shot on the turn well held by McGurn
Odd to see Rovers in white and Hamilton in Inter Milan's colours...
Thomson slides in to deny McShane. Excellent defending.
Awful tackle by Neil on Elliot, but he's only spoken to
Moon with a tricky volley, but its well over
A very different game to last week, both teams making it a very tight midfield battle
Elliot getting stuck in, showing loads of fight to win possession near the dugouts - he's fouled
Good play from Rovers, but Elliot's shot is straight at the keeper
Great chance for Hamilton on the break, Hill does well to block in the box, the ball eventually breaks to Crawford who blasts wide
Elliot penalised for barging into a Hamilton player on the corner of the box. McGurn holds the free kick.
Incredible defending, Hill then Booth with perfectly timed tackles
Anderson and Cardle both helping out in defence when Hamilton break. The game's lively even if its short on incident!
A hard fought and even first half. Lots of committed play in midfield, there'll be cards and hopefully goals in the second half!
No changes at the break
Cardle just fails to connect with a Thomson cross. The game's still being played at a very fast pace.
Strong claims for handball against Kilday but nothing given
Watson just wide with a flick on from a Cardle free kick
Good break from Rovers, Booth's cross evades Smith, and Anderson's cross back in is cleared to Fox, but he can't hit the target
Cardle cuts in and whips a cross to Anderson at the back post, but its too tight an angle
Gillespie and Cuthbert manage to scramble a header off the line
Spence on for Smith. Rovers now unfashionably wearing numbers 1 to 11!
Cuthbert sclaffs the ball onto the railway line with Spence closing in
Elliot almost plays in Spence with a great back header
Great save by McGurn to deny Mackinnon
0-1. Keatings heads the corner in. Raith have been on top, so its a tough one to take.
Appalling refereeing. THREE reckless challenges on Anderson go unpunished, and then Cardle is penalised for a fair challenge on the keeper to reach the cross.
The cards are finally out, Mackinnon booked for a foul in midfield
Ryan on for McShane
Neil now booked for an agricultural challenge on Thomson
Almost! Elliot heads a Cardle free kick over
Andreu on for Crawford
Hill heads another Cardle corner inches over
Brophy on for Keatings
Devlin booked for pulling back Elliot
Inches wide from Anderson. Looked like a corner, but not given.
Booth named man of the match. Well deserved.
That's it all over, a good match that Rovers deserved to take something away from.