Plenty Of Positives Despite Defeat

Raith's pre-season may have ended with a single goal defeat to Inverness Caledonian Thistle, but there were some encouraging signs as they headed into next week's Fife derby at East End Park.

Kevin Cuthbert

Manager Grant Murray handed debuts to three players, with Kevin Cuthbert starting in goals, Ross Perry lining up in the centre of defence, and Martin Scott making his first appearance of the summer in the heart of midfield.

In an illustration of how many changes have been made to the Raith squad this summer, the entire spine of the starting line-up featured new partnerships. Ross Perry and Paul Watson in defence, Liam Fox and Martin Scott in midfield, while Lewis Vaughan started with Christian Nade for the first time up-front.

It became apparent fairly early that Vaughan was intent on dropping deep, and it was his willingness to do so that created the first opening, winning the ball back in the middle of the park, before supplying Nade, whose lay-off to Scott saw him test Inverness keeper Dean Brill from 25-yards.

Despite having the lions share of possession, Inverness were struggling to create any early chances, although they were moving the ball around well. While Billy McKay was playing the lone striker role, he was receiving plenty of support from Daniel Williams, James Vincent and Marley Watkins. Their precision passing game however, was failing to break down a resolute Raith back line, and chances remained at a premium.

The 20th minute almost saw the opening goal, and what a strike it would have been. The move started with Perry and Watson, before Scott swept the ball out wide to Mark Stewart on the right. His cross to the back post looked slightly too deep for Nade, but his volley on the turn, ricocheted off the bar and was cleared.

Nade's volley looks goal bound...

Inverness were then presented with a flurry of chances. First, Nade brought the ball down in midfield, but with the ball running away from him, and both central players caught on the wrong side of play, Greg Tansey had time to slide McKay through on goal. His finish was heading into the bottom corner, but for the outstretched foot of Cuthbert, who diverted it wide with the sole of his boot. Not according to referee Stephen Finnie however, who signalled for a goal-kick, much to McKay's consternation.

Cuthbert did well again just a few moments later, tipping wide a Williams drive down low to his left, as Inverness started to exert more pressure. The same player had another chance after Raith gave away possession again, but this time Watson flung himself in front of the ball, conceding a corner.

Raith may have had far less of the ball, but they were making good use of it when they were in possession, and it was the industrious Vaughan who was involved in their next two opportunities.

Finding space inside the box on the right-hand-side, he brought a decent save out of Brill, although the angle was too acute for it to be considered any more than a half-chance. Then, with the half-time interval approaching, he and Conroy combined to tee-up McKeown, who had sprinted into the box. With time to set himself, he didn't quite catch his shot correctly, although Brill still had to save well to keep out his drive.

...but it strikes the bar

The second period began with 5 substitutions for the Inverness side, but despite the wholesale changes, the pattern of the match remained the same, with plenty of ball retention for John Hughes' men.

Despite this, it was Caley Thistle's substitute goalkeeper Ryan Esson who was called into action first, diving to his right to tip away an angled attempt from Nade, after he was played in by Stewart.

It was indicative of just how deep Lewis Vaughan was playing at times, that at one point he broke up an Inverness attack at the edge of his own penalty area. His perseverance was paying dividends however, and after winning a throw-in deep on the right, Thomson's cross was narrowly headed over by Nade.

The away side really should have taken the lead in the 55th minute, but again Cuthbert was there to deny McKay, after the striker was put clean through by Dorans. While McKay should have done better, Cuthbert did well to narrow the angle and spread himself.

Doran's then almost opened the scoring a minute later, when he curled a shot fractionally wide from just outside the box.

With half-an-hour remaining, Grant Murray made his first two substitutions, replacing Lewis Vaughan and Mark Stewart with Calum Elliot and Grant Anderson.

The first of those subs, Elliot, was almost involved in a goal right away, nodding a Conroy cross into Nade's path, but his acrobatic half-volley, was parried away by Brill.

Even though it was his first pre-season match, Martin Scott seemed to be growing into the game the longer it went, and it was encouraging to see his willingness to support the front-men. Indeed, with 15 minutes to go, he was inches away from opening the scoring, sending a powerful header from a great Conroy cross just over the bar.

Martin Scott holds off a challenge

Whilst Inverness had looked neat and tidy with the ball, they'd failed to ask too many questions of the Raith defence for the majority of the second-half, which added to the feeling of disappointment when they took the lead in the 81st minute.

Left-back Graham Shinnie was able to make his way to the bye-line, crossing into the middle for Ryan Christie, who made no mistake from close range, despite the best efforts of Cuthbert.

Rovers final substitution was a minute later, when Liam Callachan replaced Liam Fox, but Inverness were able to hold on comfortably for the victory.

This may have been Raith's second loss in a week, but it was a completely different performance from Tuesday night's defeat. Despite relinquishing possession for large periods of the game, Inverness struggled to create too many chances against a more solid-looking back-four, while the performance of Scott, added some energy to the middle-of-the-park. Whilst it was unfortunate that no-one was able to convert a chance-or-two, the heartening aspect was that several opportunities were created.

Rovers will of course hope to build on these positives, as they head into the first competitive match of the season at East End Park next week.


Photographs © Tony Fimister 2014

Live Updates

It's been a dreich afternoon here in the Lang Toun and it's very cool n overcast. The ICT supporters are housed in the main stand.
Kevin Cuthbert, Ross Perry and Martin Scott make their Rovers debuts today.
ICT in their black kits kick off towards the South Stand. Rovers in all-white
Nearly a debut goal for Martin 'Jimmy' Scott his piledriver skids off the sodden turf and Brill grabs at the second attempt
Williams cute through chip blasted away by Perry
McKay nearly through but ball gets stuck under his feet and Watson clears
Bad tackle from behind by Draper on Nade. He's ok but could have been worse
Rovers 4-4-1-1 with Vaughan in the 'hole'
Stewart timely tackle on Shinnie in the box. It's a corner, headed across the goalmouth. Still ICT and now a free on the wing.
Watson heads clear under pressure from Warren and it's a Rovers free
It's been mostly ICT and McKeown slides in to stop Raven, conceding a throw in
Vincent nearly plays in McKay and Thomson good tackle wins the ball. Still all ICT
Draper 3rd foul and no yellow....
Scott sends Stewart down the wing, cross into the box and Nade left foot volley rattles the crossbar. Would have been a superb goal
Rovers corner. Conroy takes and Brill gathers it.
Rovers have a bit more confidence now and starting to assert themselves more into the match
Nade and Scott mix up, Tansey puts McKay through and he shoots just wide
Raven out swinging cross goes out for a throw in
Williams 25 yard drive and Cuthbert at full stretch to fingertip it away for a corner
Shinnie plays in McKay and his chip past Watson is too strong, a goal kick is the result
Bit of ICT pressure, two corners in a minute. Second one headed over the bar by Warren
4th foul by Draper stops Vaughan breaking free....I know it's a friendly but still no warning. Deserves a yellow
Vaughan gets a bit of space in the box but angle too acute and Brill stops his stinging shot
Thomson down looks like his ankle as he was challenged by Vincent
Another corner for ICT on their left wing. Williams takes and Thomson heads away. Still ICT camping in Rovers third. Have to say defence looks more solid
Vincent shoots wide outside the box
Possession wise 65-35 to ICT and territory wise about 70-30....These are estimates
Watson does well to clear a low cross over his bar with McKay alongside him
ICT cross from Shinnie and Watkins flicks wide
Vaughan and Conroy combine to play in McKeown and his fierce drive pushed away by Brill
Rovers have had the better chances so far......
McKay again nearly played in and Thomson just does enough to win the ball off his feet
Half time. A much more encouraging performance compared to Tuesday evening.
Rovers kick off towards the South Stand.
Brill, Draper, Watkins, Williams & Vincent off, Christie, Polworth, Dorans, Ross & Esson on.
Nade forcing a save from Esson with a narrow angled shot from the right of the box,
ICT's new formation keeping Rovers pegged back.
Vaughan doing the work breaks from defence, Stewart crossed to Nade who headed just over the bar.
Dorans sends through McKay he shoots straight at Cuthbert who palms the ball to safety.
Polworth sends in a tempting ball alas no takers.
Thomson runs twenty yards down the wing and is sent to ground before he could get a cross in, no foul says Mr Finnie.
Stewart and Vaughan off, Elliot and Anderson on.
The sky is getting very dark.
Conroy to Elliot taps the ball onto Nade who tried a scissor kick which is palmed away by Esson.
Christie fires a decent twenty yarder but Cuthbert makes an equally good save at chest height.
Tansey and Raven off, Baptie and Brown on.
Scott denied by Esson, Anderson with the perfect cross after good work by Elliot to play him through.
Nade and Elliot doing the work released Conroy, passses to Scott who scaped the top of the bar with a header.
McKeown goes off with a slight knock.
Rory comes back on.
Cuthbert saves well from a rasping shot from Ross.
Goal Inverness, Ryan Christie from close range.
Fox off, Callachan on.
Billy McKay strikes low to the bottom corner, Cuthbert gathered and clears.
Scott off, Matthews on.
Full time.