Cowdenbeath v Raith Rovers as it happened
Despite a two-division gulf between the teams, Cowdenbeath were always going to be difficult customers in this Group A Betfred Cup clash on the small, tight, Central Park pitch.
But Rovers largely dominated the first half with a string of attacking opportunities, while Gary Bollan’s men ensured their visitors would not have an easy ride with an improved second-half performance.
A thigh injury to Iain Davidson, suspension for Kyle Benedictus and injury to Kieran MacDonald meant assistant manager Paul Smith had to reshuffle the back line.
Dan Armstrong moved from the wing to full back, while Frankie Musonda switched to centre back and Robbie Thomson kept watch in goal, while the team captaincy was handed to Ross Matthews.
The boss said Rovers also had to adapt their game on the “bobbly” Central Park surface.
"We always thought it would be a difficult place to come,” said Smith. “We had to change our style a wee bit and dig in in the second half. We played more long balls that we normally do but we were pleased to get a clean sheet and three points.”
Praising his rearguard, Smith added: “We had near enough a whole new back four – you could call it a back five, with Robbie coming in. There was only one player who has played regularly this season in that back five, so credit to them as well.
“Robbie didn't have a lot of saves to make but I thought his distribution was really good when he was on the ball as well, so I was pleased for him.
“It keeps the winning run going for us and we have had a good start to the season.”
The main story of the first half was Raith’s general dominance in terms of advances made and chances created, although they did not flatten Cowdenbeath by any means.
Brad Spencer should probably have opened the scoring in the eighth minute for the visitors as he threaded his way through the middle, with good support from his team mates, but he shot over from fairly close range.
Spencer worked another fine 1-2 move with Regan Hendry for Raith after 13 minutes but Dylan Tait strayed into an offside position in the box just at the important moment.
Ethan Ross almost scored directly from a 16th minute corner kick for Rovers but the ball was vitally hooked off the line by an alert Cowdenbeath defence. Home keeper Ross Sinclair was down to smother the ball as Dan Armstrong fired it back into the penalty area.
The string of Raith attacks continued as Spencer lofted the ball through to Manny Duku on 19 minutes. He was forced wide in the box before Jacob Glass made an excellent tackle to dispossess him.
After 23 minutes, Cowdenbeath were presented with a half chance when the ball deflected off Fernandy Mendy and Brad Smith sent over a quick cross form the left, but Cian Kavanagh couldn't control it properly and his scuffed shot squirmed wide of the post.
Regan Tumilty of Raith shook off Cowden's Brad Smith on the right flank and sent in a dangerous low cross-cum shot which was heading dangerously near the far post before Sinclair palmed it away.
The goal Raith had been threatening finally arrived after 36 minutes. A high lob forward from deep in the Rovers half was collected by Manny Duku and he ran on to control the ball skilfully, evading the attentions of Jamie Todd, and finding space before shooting beyond Sinclair.
Todd was injured while trying to defend the goal and was replaced four minutes from half time. A move a few minutes later presented Duku with a similar opportunity but Sinclair saved and the Raith man needed off-field treatment after hurting himself in the cause.
Raith found it a bit more difficult to maintain the attacking momentum in the second half and Cowdenbeath began to make more forays into their box. A Mullen corner was headed wide a couple of minutes later by Kavanagh in 57 minutes.
A good chance for a second Raith goal, however, was thrown away in the 65th minute by Regan Tumilty, who sent a free header from close range over the bar. Kavanagh scooped the ball over from close range at the opposite end in the 72nd minute, from a cross by Glass, as Cowdenbeath created another chance.
Kavanagh again headed narrowly over from an 82nd minute free kick on the right by Mullen. The kick had been awarded for a foul on the Blue Brazil man by Armstrong, plus a little bit of jostling afterwards. Mullen, booked earlier, was perhaps lucky to stay on the field after a verbal volley towards the assistant referee.
Sinclair made a fine save from the last chance of the game - a left-foot shot by Matthews from a tight angle in the box, following good work on the flank by Raith’s skipper for the day.
Cowdenbeath – Ross Sinclair, Fraser Mullan, Ross Clarke (Jamie Pyper 55), Jamie Todd (Kyle Millar 41), Craig Barr, Jacob Glass, Oliver Hamilton (Graham Taylor 62), Mikey Herd (Harvey Swann 62), Iain Russell, Brad Smith, Cian Kavanagh. Subs not used – Macallan Whyte, Lewis Owens, Craig Easton.
Raith Rovers – Robbie Thomson, Regan Tumilty, Fernandy Mendy, Dan Armstrong, Regan Hendry, Manny Duku, Ross Matthews, Brad Spencer, Frankie Musonda, Dylan Tait, Ethan Ross (Quinn Coulson 76). Subs not used – Jamie MacDonald, Luke Mahady, Aaron Arnott.
Referee – David Lowe.