Edinburgh City 2 Raith Rovers 2
The World Cup semi-final took second billing as Raith Rovers kick-started their pre-season fixture schedule with a 2-2 draw against Edinburgh City at a sun-bathed Meadowbank Stadium last night.
The Kirkcaldy side were missing several first team players and fielded an experimental defence that included young apprentices Ross Matthews (18), at right back, and David Bates (17), alongside player-coach Laurie Ellis at centre-back.
New signings Rory McKeown, Mark Stewart and Christian Nade all started, while out-of-contract Morton forward Archie Campbell was listed as a trialist and played the full 90 minutes, switching between right and left wing.
There was no place in the squad for new arrivals Kevin Cuthbert, Craig Barr and Martin Scott, or first team regulars Jason Thomson and Paul Watson, who were all nursing slight knocks.
Goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw, having recovered from a knee operation at the end of last season, also played the full game between the sticks.
The expected gulf between the sides was rarely evident as Rovers produced a low key performance against the hard-working and well-drilled Lowland League hosts.
However, manager Grant Murray insisted the match served its purpose.
“The first pre-season game is always just about getting back into the swing of things,” he told the Press.
“You want to win every game of football, but we had a young-ish team out because a few guys have niggles and we weren’t going to take any chances whatsoever.
“For some of the lads to get 90 minutes was good, but we realise that the games we’ve got coming up next will be totally different ball games and we’re going to have to up things.”
Rovers took the lead on 26 minutes, benefiting from a soft penalty decision as the lively Stewart, who played 45 minutes on the left wing, was given a slight nudge in the back as he waited for a high ball to drop in the box.
Calum Elliot took the spot-kick and sent a crisp low effort inside the keeper’s right hand post.
The referee evened up the dodgy penalty count in the 34th minute when Laurie Ellis was caught in possession in his own area and was then deemed to have tripped Gordon Donaldson despite minimal contact.
Former Aberdeen youth striker Nico Gibson fired a well-struck spot-kick past the diving Ross Laidlaw.
City then shocked the visitors by taking the lead on the stroke of half-time through impressive forward Ross Allum.
The former Hill of Beath man broke through a shoddy offside trap, rounded Laidlaw, and curled an effort past defender McKeown on the line.
It has been a less than impressive first 45 minutes of action from Raith, but they got themselves level 10 minutes into the second half with a goal from new signing Nade.
The French striker was a strong physical presence throughout his time on the pitch and he was quickest to react after Ross Callachan’s 20-yard effort had been tipped onto the post by City’s trialist goalkeeper.
Nade was then subbed after becoming involved in an off-the-ball flare-up with City trialist Joe Mbu, formerly of East Fife and Cowdenbeath.
Allum went close to restoring City’s lead on a couple of occasions, forcing Laidlaw into a good diving save from a powerful downward header, while a dipping side-foot volley was only inches off target.
Rovers struggled to create another opening until the 89th minute when substitute Grant Anderson’s cut-back presented Elliot with a glaring chance but the striker scuffed his effort allowing the ‘keeper to gather.
Plaudits go to Edinburgh City for matching the Championship visitors, but Raith will certainly need to improve for the visit of Europa League bound St Johnstone to Stark’s Park on Saturday.
Raith line-up: Laidlaw, Matthews, Bates, Ellis, McKeown, Campbell, Callachan, Fox (Moon 45), Stewart (Anderson 45), Nade (Vaughan 65), Elliot.