Raith Rovers 4 Forfar Athletic 2
Raith Rovers required extra-time to see off lower league Forfar Athletic in the League Cup first round at a sodden Stark’s Park on Saturday.
The teams could not be separated over 90 minutes but Rovers proved too strong for the League One visitors in the extra period, scoring twice to seal a 4-2 victory.
It was an unconvicing performance from the Championship side, but manager Grant Murray was satisfied to start the new season with a win, and maintain his remarkable record in cup competitions.
“Cup football is all about being in the next round,” he said.
“We got a wee fright when we went behind but at the end of the day we’re through, and that’s all the matters.
“The positives for us are scoring the four goals and creating lots of chances, although we’re disappointed to lose the goals.
“We can play better but I’ve told the players not to be disappointed, because we could’ve played a lot better and lost.”
Rovers, who handed seven players their competitive debuts, found the going tough against an attack-minded Forfar side.
There was a first minute scare for Raith when Chris Templeman got in behind the defence but Kevin Cuthbert raced from his line to save.
A minute later Rab Douglas was called into action to parry Christian Nade’s close range header from an inswinging Ryan Conroy free-kick, and Ross Perry fired the rebound across goal and wide.
Forfar were pushing plenty bodies forward with Cuthbert twice called into action to make saves, albeit comfortable ones, from Dale Hilson efforts in the 10th and 12th minute.
The Loons were rewarded for their positive start in the 25th minute as Gavin Swankie’s delightful turn and through pass sent Danny Denholm in behind a dozing Rory McKeown and he slotted a low effort past an exposed Raith ‘keeper.
Rovers stepped up a gear after falling behind and created a well worked equalised on 33 minutes as two ex-Dundee team mates combined.
Christian Nade held off defenders before drilling a pass into the feet of Conroy, who took a great first touch into the box, then slid the ball past Douglas for 1-1.
Three minutes later Douglas made a superb stop to deny the impressive Mark Stewart, pushing the winger’s powerful effort over the bar after he let fly from a narrow angle.
The veteran ‘keeper made another great stop 10 minutes after half-time - a brilliant tip wide preventing Nade from putting Rovers in front after Stewart’s measured pass put the Frenchman through on goal.
Rovers pressure paid off on 64 minutes when defender Darren Dods caught Nade in the face with a high boot, and referee Brian Colvin pointed to the spot.
Calum Elliot sent Douglas the wrong way with his penalty to put Rovers in front.
Conroy then went close to extending Rovers lead in the 71st minute but fired a half-volley over the bar from a Stewart cross.
Forfar were beginning to tire but two minutes after Dick Campbell made a triple substitution, the visitors pulled themselves level.
Rovers failed to clear their lines from a corner kick and when the ball was returned to the back post, Denholm climbed above his marker Conroy to head in off the post.
Neither side was able to find a winner in the remainder of the 90 minutes, although Martin Scott went close with a first-time volley from a Conroy corner in the 87th minute.
Scott was even closer midway through the first period of extra-time as his 18-yard side-foot effort from a Nade lay-off rolled inches wide.
It took a spectacular strike to get Rovers back in front in the 103rd minute as, following more superb hold up play by Nade, Scott laid the ball off to the hard-working Elliot who lashed a fierce 22-yard effort high past Douglas.
A nervy Rovers rode their luck in the second period of extra-time as Forfar failed to convert a couple of glorious opportunties to level.
Swankie was left unmarked eight yards out but fired straight at Cuthbert, while Denholm passed up a glorious chance for his hat-trick, firing wide when one-on-one with the Raith ‘keeper.
Raith were also fortunate when Nade appeared to barge into the back of sub Omar Kader in the box, but this time referee Colvin decided it wasn’t a penalty.
There was relief all round for Rovers when, with two minutes left to play, sub Grant Anderson hit the by-line and saw his left foot cross turned into the net by Forfar defender Derek Young for an unfortunate own goal.
Missions accomplished for the Kirkcaldy men, but thet will need to sharpen up their act for the Fife derby take two at East End Park on Tuesday.
Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Thomson, McKeown, Watson, Perry, Fox (Vaughan 105), Stewart (Anderson 73), Fox (Vaughan 105), Stewart, Nade (Callachan 119), Elliot, Conroy. Not used: Ellis, Matthews, Moon, Laidlaw.
Forfar Athletic: Douglas, Dunlop, Steeves (Dale 73), Dods, James, Young, Hilson, Hubsand (Kader 73), Denholm, Templeman (Malin 73), Swankie. Not used: Smith, Keiller, McLellan, Salmon.
Referee: Brian Covlin