Raith cruise to comfortable derby victory

Liam Buchanan is congratulated by Euan Murray after putting Rovers 2-0 up against Cowdenbeath. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Liam Buchanan is congratulated by Euan Murray after putting Rovers 2-0 up against Cowdenbeath. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Raith Rovers 2 Cowdenbeath 0

Fife derby victories are rarely as comfortable as this.

Raith Rovers were in cruise control as they finished their Betfred Cup campaign with a 2-0 over Cowdenbeath at Stark's Park this afternoon.

The tie was effectively a dead rubber, with neither side able to qualify for the knock-out stage of the competition, but as a final warm-up match before the start of the league season, it was important for Rovers to maintain momentum following the midweek demolition of Buckie Thistle.

They did so with a thoroughly professional performance against a limited League Two side, with first half goals from Lewis Vaughan and Liam Buchanan ensuring it was effectively job done by half-time.

The standard of opposition will be higher in League One, but some of the football played by Rovers, particularly in the first 45, was hugely encouraging. They passed their way through the visitors with ease at times, with link-up play between midfield, attack, and overlapping full backs a joy to watch.

Rovers were nowhere near as fluent in the second half as the pace of the game died, however, with good performances despite an early exit in the Betfred Cup, the Kirkcaldy men look to be in decent shape ahead of their trip to Alloa next Saturday.

With Iain Davidson suspended for the league opener, manager Barry Smith made the wise decision to hand a competitive debut to teenage centre-back Dave McKay, a product of Craig Easton's development squad.

While Cowdenbeath offered little going forward, the 19-year-old did not put a foot wrong in a composed performance, playing his part in keeping a clean sheet, which will stand him in good stead for what will be a tougher afternoon in Alloa next week.

The confidence gained from scoring six in Buckie in midweek was evident in the early stages as Raith quickly got into a passing rhythm, and it took them just eight minutes to break the deadlock.

Ross Callachan, a driving force from midfield all afternoon, crossed from the right and a clever flick from Buchanan at the near post saw the ball bounce through to Vaughan, who took a touch to tee the ball up for himself, before guiding a volley inside the far post from 12 yards.

With four goals to his name already this season, Vaughan is the early leader in what is sure to be a close contest to be Raith's top scorer. He, Spence and Buchanan are all capable of hitting 20, or more, at this level.

Rovers went close to a second a few minutes later as Buchanan rounded the 'keeper but the angle was too tight and his ball across goal was hooked clear for a corner.

The home side continued to play some attractive stuff as Cowden goalkeeper Joe McGovern was called to save efforts from both Scott Robertson and Callachan.

However, he was beaten again on 31 minutes when Ross Matthews hung a cross to the far post for Greig Spence to nod back across to an unmarked Buchanan who smashed home his third goal of the campaign from 10 yards.

A pleasing feature of the early season action has been Matthews' shooting from distance, with two cracking goals already from outside the box, and he almost added another as half-time approached, sending a powerful 30-yarder that had McGovern at full stretch as it flew narrowly over the bar.

After such a slick first half, a scrappy second 45 was a bit of a disappointment.

It took Cowdenbeath 57 minutes to mount a serious goal threat and it came from a slack pass out of defence that allowed Cameron Muirhead to break into the box and only a last ditch tackle from Kyle Benedictus prevented a clear shot on goal.

Raith were still dominating the ball but without the cutting edge of the first half, and it wasn't until the latter stages when they threatened to add to their tally.

On 75 minutes, Spence barged a defender off the ball inside the box to create space for a shot, which McGovern saved with his legs.

Smith freshened up the attack for the final 10 minutes with the introduction of Yaw Osei and Jonny Court from the bench, and the former almost grabbed a goal with a well-struck volley on the turn that flashed across goal.

Only a superb save from McGovern denied Raith a third in the 90th minute as he dived full stretch to deny sub Bobby Barr from 20 yards, while Raith had to scramble the ball clear to retain their clean sheet as Cowdenbeath launched an injury-time attack.

There will be tougher tests to come, but with a clean sheet and strikers scoring, Raith can go into the league campaign in confidence.

Raith Rovers: Lennox, Thomson, Murray, McKay, Benedictus, Matthews, Robertson, Callachan, Vaughan (Court 84), Spence (Osei 83), Buchanan (B.Barr 60). Not used: Brian, Davidson, Barry, Valentine.

Cowdenbeath: McGovern, Pyper, Rutherford (Thomson 72), Mullen, Rumsby, Syme, McInally, Buchanan, Morris (Kellichan 67), Muirhead, Wann. Not used: Miller, Ovenstone, Thomson, Penman, Turnbull, Leslie.

Referee: Kevin Graham

Attendance: 1480