After monsoon-like conditions at East End Park forced the cancellation of last week’s Fife derby, Raith Rovers season will finally get underway this Saturday, when they welcome Forfar Athletic to Stark’s Park.

Saturday’s League Cup first round tie will be just the fourth time the two clubs have met in cup competitions, with the last coming in 1997, when Raith prevailed 5-0 in the second round of the same tournament.

Their first encounter in a knockout competition was in the first round of 1926-27 Scottish Cup, which Forfar won 4-2. However, the Angus side’s involvement in the cup would be short-lived, as they were eliminated at the next stage 3-0 by Mid-Annandale.

This will be Forfar’s second visit to the Kingdom this season , and Dick Campbell’s side will be hoping to bounce back after they went down 2-1 to East Fife in last weekend’s Petrofac Training Cup tie. Jon McShane and Ewan Moye’s gave East Fife a two-goal lead, and despite Dale Hilson halving the Methil side’s advantage, Gary Naysmith’s men clung on to eliminate their League One opponents.

Ex-Dundee United forward Hilson is amongst a number of new-recruits who have signed up at Station Park this season, with Dick Campbell concentrating predominantly on bolstering his midfield options. To that end, he’s recruited former Livingston man Danny Denholm, as well as Stephen Husband from Dunfermline. The experienced Derek Young has also signed up, after leaving Queen of the South at the end of last season.

Forfar’s last win at Stark’s Park was a 2-0 Second Division victory nine years ago, but the two teams recent head-to-head couldn’t be any tighter, with four wins and two draws each.

Saturday’s match referee will be Brian Colvin.

Head-to-Head Cup Record:

Raith Rovers wins: 2 | Forfar Athletic wins: 1 | Draws: 0

Raith Rovers goals: 9 | Forfar Athletic goals: 5

Match Odds:

Raith Rovers: 1/2 | Forfar Athletic: 5/1 | Draw: 3/1


Elliot double seals extra-time Cup win

Raith needed extra-time to earn a place in the second round of the Scottish League Cup, finally overcoming a skilful and resourceful Forfar Athletic 4-2 after two goals in extra time. A fine 20-yard strike from Calum Elliot and an own-goal from Forfar’s Derek Young proved the difference after a match in which the visitors’ slick pass-and-move style caused Raith problems for long spells.

Although the home side had the edge in terms of overall quality, Raith were made to struggle with Forfar keeping possession and creating several good chances. The second half of extra time saw two gilt-edged opportunities passed up by the visitors, which could easily have taken the match to penalties or saw Raith lose at this first Cup hurdle.

After the false-start of last week’s postponement at East End Park, the competitive season finally got underway today, with Raith’s starting eleven including no fewer than seven new faces from last season. In common with many sides outside the Premiership, the preponderance of one-year contracts and loan deals at this level has required that Raith rebuild. While acknowledging the number of summer changes in his programme notes, manager Grant Murray highlighted the 2014/15 Raith squad’s greater depth and strength in numbers. All of today’s substitutes enjoyed first-team spells last season.

Martin Scott
Martin Scott

So, farewell then, Joe Cardle, Greig Spence, cup hero John Baird, Gordon Smith, and several others with key roles last term. Amongst those making their competitive debuts for Raith were wide midfielders Ryan Conroy and Mark Stewart, bustling target-man Christian Nadé, and popular goal-keeper Kevin Cuthbert. In only the second minute, Stewart’s cross found Nadé, who’s flashing header was pushed wide at point-blank range by Forfar keeper Rab Douglas.

Raith adopted a 4-5-1 from the off, with Nadé seeking to dominate the two Forfar centre-halves Darren Dods and the youngster Aaron James, with three central Raith midfielders supporting in the form of Liam Fox, Calum Elliot and former Livingston lynchpin Martin Scott. In the opening stages however, while the gameplan looked clear, each of the three midfielders looked to drop deep or play square, with none using pace to support the lone Nadé. For much of the first half, the French Ivorian looked isolated.

Forfar, safely mid-table in last season’s League One, themselves started brightly. Welcoming a host of new faces, Forfar looked sharper and more cohesive for much of the first half. Dale Hilson troubled Raith debutant McKeown at left-back, former Aberdonian Derek Young anchored a versatile midfield, and Danny Denholm showed pace against Raith captain Jason Thomson. Having played one more competitive game than Raith this season, Forfar’s greater understanding paid dividends as the first half progressed.

In the opening exchanges, visiting striker Chris Templeman nearly had sight of goal after centre-halves Watson and Perry hesitated, Husband drove at Cuthbert’s goal from distance, and Denholm had a shot blocked after cutting inside Thomson.

The visitors’ first goal when it came was as incisive as it was straightforward. Following a long spell of possession, the tidy Gavin Swankie jinked across the box from left to right, and played a neat ball inside McKeown, who was caught on his heels. Denholm angled his run and finished beyond Cuthbert. The lead was deserved based on quantity and quality of possession.

Denholm opens the scoring
Denholm opens the scoring

Moments later, Denholm delightfully back-heeled a flick over Fox in a defensive position, triggering another Forfar attack – the away side had both momentum and confidence.

Much of Raith's attacking play in the opening stages as coming from angled cross-field passes from both Fox and Scott. Stewart set off after one like a whippet, his zipped cross finding no takers in front of Douglas’s goal. The opening stages saw both sitting midfielders dropping back toward Watson and Perry to collect possession, leaving Elliot the only central plank between back and front. As a consequence, Raith’s passing too often was long and mis-guided, with Nadé struggling without meaningful service.

Just after the half-hour, Raith were level with a goal which bears positive portents for the coming season. Stewart scrapped for a ball in the final third, Nadé held off two defenders before releasing Conroy, who placed a weighted finished beyond Douglas.

Raith emerged from the half-time interval more composed and more aggressive, winning 50/50 challenges that would have been lost in the opening forty-five. Calum Elliot particularly was given a clear brief to get closer to Nadé – his fizzing cross forcing a low save from Douglas with the half just seconds old. Nadé got his head to a Conroy corner moments later, Douglas stretching to usher to ball over the bar.

Nadé’s physical presence – the striker has never been an out-and-out goal-scorer – will change the focus of Raith’s attack this season. Where previously Raith have utilised smaller terrier-like strikers or angular front-men with aerial prowess, the barrel-chested Nadé seeks to dominate and win the physical battle. Darren Dods felt every one of his thirty-nine years following a clash with Raith’s No.27 under a McKeown long-throw. A well-weighted invitation from Scott allowed Nadé to out-muscle Dods on fifty-four minutes; only a fine low save from Douglas kept Forfar on terms.

Another clash in the Forfar box followed. A clumsy high-boot from Forfar’s Dods caught Nadé, with referee Colvin whistling immediately for a penalty. Elliot coolly slotted home the spot-kick.

Elliot slots home the penalty
Elliot slots home the penalty

Raith came close to extending their lead in the following minutes – Conroy’s fine side-footed half-volley going narrowly wide following Stewart’s first-class cross on the run, Nadé’s flicked header had Douglas looking on anxiously, and an Elliot cross was well-held in a crowd by the Forfar keeper. With the tide turning in Raith’s direction, Forfar’s Dick Campbell made a triple substitution which reaped dividends within minutes. Introducing pace and verve in the form of James Dale, Omar Kader, and Gavin Malin, Forfar upset Raith’s tempo and suddenly were able to stretch the game on both flanks. After a Kader break, a high swinging cross evaded Cuthbert with Denholm stealing in the score his second.

As expected for so early in the season, spaces opened in the final fifteen minutes. With a wet pitch soaked with more second-half rain, the ball raced across the turf as the newly invigorated Forfar front four sought a winner. Swankie hooked a shot over from twenty yards, Kader linked with Malin to give Hilson a sight of goal, and Swankie again was unlucky when a stray touch from Jason Thomson nearly left him with only Cuthbert to beat.

In the final moments, a superb driven cross by Elliot found the gap between Douglas and the onrushing Nadé, Scott steered a volley just over from a Conroy corner, and a Nadé header was booted clear by a tiring Dods.

Perry and Kader
Perry and Kader

The match went into extra-time, with Forfar’s fresher legs suggesting that, although Raith had shown greater quality in possession and had created the better chances overall, the visitors still had plenty to offer. Former Spartans midfielder Omar Kader was catching the eye, a quick and willing runner with good awareness of colleagues around him. His through-ball nearly released Swankie soon after the re-start; Watson heading back to a grateful Cuthbert.

For Raith, substitute Grant Anderson shot straight at Douglas, Jason Thomson scurried down his flank to fire over an inviting cross, and McKeown and Elliot fashioned a centre which Douglas did well to gather.

One of Raith’s few genuine moments of quality put the home side’s noses in front shortly before the interval in extra time. McKeown fed Nadé who cut inside, teasing and twisting, and creating space for Elliot. With little back-lift, Elliot smacked a stinging twenty-yard drive into the corner of Douglas’s net.

Forfar came again in the second period. Swankie volleyed straight at Cuthbert from a Kader cross, when a cleaner connection would have left the Raith keeper with much to do. The Forfar frontman held his head, realising a golden chance had been wasted. Moments later, Malin released Swankie, whose reverse-pass invited Denholm in on Cuthbert. The forward, on a hat-trick, somehow dragged his shot wide of the home keeper and his left-hand post – a real let-off for Raith and the last opportunity Forfar would have to take the tie to penalties.

In the final moments, a twisting run from substitute Lewis Vaughan gave rise to a frantic clearance from the Forfar rear-guard; and with right-back Dunlop beaten by a through-ball, Grant Anderson fired in an excellent driven cross that was thumped past his own goal-keeper by the retreating Young.

A disappointing end for Forfar, who contributed much to an entertaining cup-tie. For Raith, many of the relationships in key areas evidently still have to fully develop. Down both flanks and between the centre-halves, there were nervy moments which would have been exploited by higher-grade opposition. Much to ponder for manager Murray for Tuesday’s rearranged cup-tie at East End Park and next week’s commencement of the league campaign, at home to Dumbarton.


Photographs  © Tony Fimister 2014



Niall spoke to Grant Murray after the cup game win.

Ally Gourlay caught up with Grant Anderson after his 100th appearance.

Live Updates

It's a totally overcast San Starko. The rain has abated for the time being and the pitch looks in good nick
Match delayed slightly, teams now coming out
15:05 Forfar kick off towards the South Stand
Long ball to Templeman and it skids allowing a hesitant Cuthbert to block his shot
Conroy free, Nade heads, Douglas gets a hand to it and Watson hooks the ball out from an awkward height for a goal kick
Nice skill by Conroy in his half to outfox a few Forfar players and send Thomson on his way, James parries the cross and Douglas gathers
Nade released down the left, cuts in and shoots, it's blocked and lops up, Stewart can't get any purchase on the header
Forfar free in a dangerous position, blasted way over the bar by Hilson
Steeves cross misjudged by McKeown and Cuthbert parries a fierce Hilson drive for a corner.
Husband slaloms through and is foiled by Watson. Stewart then loses the ball and Cuthbert at full stretch to stop a Denholm shot
Scott slips in Stewart but his cross is too high and hard for the forwards to capitalise
A promising attack comes to nothing as Thomson sends his pass out for a goal kick
Husband has a wind-assisted pop from 30 yards out and it doesn't miss by much although Cuthbert had it covered
A Forfar mix up and it's 3 on 2 but Stewart takes the wrong option and Dodsgleefully clears.
Goal Forfar (Denholm) 0-1
From that clearance Young plays in DENHOLM and he scores
Elliot intercepts a clearance and plays in Conroy who shoots wide but the flag was up anyway
Denholm almost through, just stopped by a McKeown toe poke and Cuthbert collects
Swankie with an outrageous piece of skill to glide past Fox and it's looking dangerous....danger averted
Elliot and Nade combine, Nade left foot effort curls past the far post
The partnerships between McKeown/Conroy and Thomson/Stewart are not quite gelling
Goal Rovers (Conroy) 1-1
CONROY collects a loose ball and shoots past Douglas
Commentators curse...Thomson frees Stewart and Douglas makes a full stretch stop for a corner
Scott chases a long Watson through ball and his cross strikes Sheeves on the elbow and out for a corner
Fox mislays a pass and Swankie plays in Templeman but Watson gets enough of the ball and Perry clears
It's getting dark again
Forfar promising attack ends with Swankie ballooning his shot over
Thomson cross and Douglas is in the right position to stop Conroy's volley
Half Time
Elliot cutting in on the bye line forces a low save from Douglas
Perry runs back to halt a Swankie run.
Conroy injured going for the ball.
Conroy recovered to send in the resultant free kick.
Nade heads just over the bar from six yards.
Nade through, released by Elliot is denied by Douglas for a corner.
Nade and Stewart with a great 1-2 the last pass being to strong for Nade and the ball goes out of play.
Douglas with an uncharacteristically poor clearance is warmly applauded by the Raith support.
Conroy sends a twenty yard free kick well over the bar.
Penalty, Young kicked Nade in the head, dangerous play.
Elliot sends Douglas the wrong way with a side foot tap in to his right. GOAL ROVERS.
Nade heads towards goal, Douglas saves and clears.
Elliot, yellow.
Nade released Thomson on the overlap but the ball is to quick for the skipper.
First Elliot on the right then Conroy on the left come narrowly close to scoring.
Elliot off, Anderson on. Dunlop, Husband, Templeman off, Dale, Kader Malin on.
Goal Forfar, Denholm.
Elliot crosses too deep in the box, Douglas cleared with ease.
Swankie hooks the ball wide from twenty yards.
Scott tries to break into the box but is closed down by three defenders.
McKeowan at the back post slots the ball into Nade, a defender got a toe to the ball to deny a goal.
Nade forces Dods to concede a corner, from which Scott shoots just wide.
Elliot from the wing crosses to Nade, his glancing header going wide.
+2 Perry yellow. Full time, now extra time.
Rovers kick off towards the North Stand.
Raith survive a corner, Kader coming close at the near post.
Anderson yellow.
Swankie hits a soft shot for Cuthbert to gather.
Kader with a thirty yard pass to Swankie is denied by a quick thinking Watson.
Kader causing bother down the right.
Nade cut back to Scott who send a shot just past the post.
Forfar injury.
McKeowan and Nade tease the defence, Nade lays off to Elliot who scored a screamer from twenty five yards. GOAL ROVERS.
H T of extra time.
Fox off Vaughan on
Straight from restart Conroy swings in a cross and it's cleared
Kate and Hilson combine and an unmarked Swankie volleys the cross straight at a relieved Cuthbert
Kader and Hilson combining well on the right flank
Swankie reverse passes Denholm in and with Cuthbert to beat drags his shot wide. Should have been a hat trick
Hilson and Perry crash to the floor inside the box and Hilson appeals. Ref not interested. Corner and Dunlop heads wide
Forfar free. Malin takes and it goes out of play
Conroy cross out for a corner by James. Conroy takes and it's wasted by Nade trying to wind the clock down
Nade off with a head injury
He's back on....
Goal Rovers (Young o.g.) 4-2
Anderson receives a long ball, crosses with his left and YOUNG slices it past a startled Douglas
Callachan on for Nade
Scott tries a 60 yard lob but it's wayward
Full Time