Late Court appearance gets Rovers out of jail

Jonny Court equalised for Raith Rovers with the final kick of the ball against Edinburgh City  (picture by Walter Neilson)
Jonny Court equalised for Raith Rovers with the final kick of the ball against Edinburgh City (picture by Walter Neilson)

Edinburgh City 1, Raith Rovers 1

Barry Smith’s tenure as Raith Rovers manager started with a 1-1 draw against Edinburgh City at Ainslie Park last night – but only by the finest of margins.

Jonny Court’s finish from close range was the final prod of a typically tepid pre-season encounter.

The new boss was still encouraged by what he saw from his squad though, and felt the fixture was a suitable one for the challenges which lie ahead,

“There was a lot of good stuff played, especially in that first half. The main reason we took this game on was to show the boys what the league we’re in is going to be like this season, and it certainly served that purpose.

“For as much as we did well, we didn’t create too many opportunities and, when you do that, you’re going to get punished. Opponents are going to sit in against us this year,and we have to be ready to break teams like that down.”

Smith added: “We want to win every game but the boys are going to have to understand the way the league will be next year, and how difficult it’ll be.

“It was only the first game, and we’ll have to be sharper, but that’ll come with games. We’ve created some opportunities that, on another day, I’d expect us to finish, especially in the first half, where I thought there were a lot of plus points.

“In the second, as much as they could have done a little better, they kept at it, so there was a lot to take from it.”

Smith began proceedings with three of his four new signings in the starting line-up, as well as two trialists down the left-hand-side.

Last season’s loanee, Aaron Lennox, started in goals, while Euan Murray appeared at centre-half alongside Iain Davidson, with the duo joined in defence by Kyle Benedictus on the right, and one of the aforementioned trialists on the opposite flank.

Liam Buchanan was paired with Lewis Vaughan up front, while in behind, there was the welcome return to the starting line-up of Scott Robertson, who missed virtually the entirety of last term through injury.

The final new signing, Greig Spence, took his place on the bench.

Smith had spoken in the build-up to the match of the importance of playing the game at a high tempo, and his players appeared to have taken him at his word, at least initially.

Vaughan exposed a gap in City’s left back position within the first 10 minutes and, while his cross into the box took a reasonably high bounce just inside the penalty area, Buchanan would have been disappointed not to have capitalised, with his shot careering over the crossbar.

The away side were having some joy down the right in the opening exchanges and Bobby Barr was the next to threaten, sending over a searching cross towards Vaughan, which the forward glanced just wide from the angle of the six-yard area.

The longer the half wore on, though, the more Edinburgh started to come into the game, with a Josh Walker effort from distance giving Lennox his first taste of action.

The Antipodean custodian had to look far sprightlier with 10 minutes of the half remaining though, when Lewis Allan cleverly set free Marc Laird. He was denied the opener by the advancing Lennox, who blocked with his legs.

It was the final piece of action in a half that Rovers had shaded but, despite that, had rarely threatened.

Calum Antell, in the Edinburgh goals, with former Scotland forward, Craig Beattie, looked assured and unruffled in his new position at the heart of the back four.

Edinburgh’s progression in the game did give Rovers fans a chance to gauge the effectiveness of the new-look back four, with the trialist left-back showing he may be worth another look, while Murray looked assured on his debut.

Smith made a trio of alterations at the interval, with Spence, Court and Ross Callachan replacing Buchanan, Vaughan and one of the trialists.

The introductions failed to instil too much impetus into the display though, with little creativity from the central areas, while too many crosses were failing to find their designated targets. In short, it was fairly standard pre-season fare.

City weren’t exactly producing chances galore either but, unfortunately, a blunder at the back presented one for them in the 54th minute.

Davidson found himself in something of a fankle, as an innocuous-looking ball ran away from him, allowing Allan to pounce on his error and run in unimpeded, before calmly slotting his opportunity past Lennox to open the scoring.

The onus was now on Rovers to try and prise apart an obdurate City defence, which was proving an onerous task, although Callachan did try his best in the 63rd minute, clipping a clever pass through to Spence, whose 20-yard attempt lacked sufficient pace or accuracy to cause Antell any angst.

As is the case with friendlies, the half became increasingly ragged as an array of substitutes joined the fray, although Court, who had looked strong and ebullient since coming on, was unlucky not to restore pparity with 15 minutes remaining, skipping away from his marker on the right angle of the penalty area before thrashing a shot narrowly passed the far post.

With the crowd drifting away as the full-time whistle approached, it appeared that Gary Jardine’s capital team had done enough to keep Raith at bay – but they were caught out with literally the final kick of the match, as Rovers drew level thanks to a reasonably fortuitous bounce.

Barr did well initially to gather in a cross from the right and, while he was unlucky to see his shot from outside of the area strike the post, Court was the thankful beneficiary, tapping home into an empty net to tie the match up.