Double injury blow for Raith in Forfar friendly defeat
Forfar Athletic 2 Raith Rovers 0
Gary Locke’s first friendly match in charge of Raith Rovers didn’t go quite according to plan with a 2-0 defeat away to Forfar Athletic compounded by a double injury blow.
Both Mark Stewart and Kevin McHattie were forced off with the latter leaving Station Park on crutches after appearing to twist his knee midway through the second half.
Stewart lasted just 28 minutes before picking up a thigh strain - the last thing a team currently short on strikers needed - although it gave youngster Jonny Court a chance to impress the new boss in attack.
With Scott Robertson also battling an infection and yet to feature in preseason, Craig Barr still on honeymoon and Lewis Toshney sold to Dundee United, the squad looked somewhat threadbare, with 20-year-old Ross Matthews the most experienced first team player on a very young bench.
That will be of more concern to the Raith boss than the result - we’re still in June after all and the team has only trained for a week - but there are certainly things to work on in the coming weeks.
The big plus for Raith was Lewis Vaughan coming through the full 90 minutes in his first top team match since suffering a cruciate ligament injury last August.
It will take the 20-year-old a few weeks to regain his match sharpness, but the striker showed that he has lost none of his natural talent with some neat turns and touches.
Raith’s starting 11 featured three new signings with McHattie slotting into left back and wingers Chris Johnston and Bobby Barr lining up on opposite flanks.
It was apparent that both teams were playing their first fixture of preseason in a first half low on quality.
Raith produced a decent move in the 15th minute as Johnston cut in from the right to tee up Stewart on the edge the box, who turned and shot well wide.
Five minutes later, McHattie, who isn’t afraid to get forward, won a free-kick two yards outside the Forfar box and Vaughan’s dipping effort brushed the top of the net on its way over.
Raith were forced to replace Stewart in the 28th minute as the striker limped off with youngster Court taking his place in attack.
Forfar had barely troubled Kevin Cuthbert but they took the lead on 35 minutes from a corner when David Cox was first to react to a knockdown from a trialist centre-half to stab the ball home from six yards.
A much more positive Rovers emerged after the break with four efforts on goal in the opening six miinutes.
First, Ross Callachan tested Grant Adam with a curling effort from 25 yards which the former Scotland U21 ‘keeper did well to hold low to his left.
Barr then found space in the Forfar box but his angled drive bounced off the outside of the post.
Vaughan fired narrowly wide from 20 yards before Court forced Adam to tip over from a dipping strike from the edge of the area as Raith kept up the pressure.
Forfar doubled the lead however against the run of play when Danny Denholm breezed past Jason Thomson to tee up unnmarked substitute Kerr Hay to guide an effort beyond on loan Aberdeen ‘keeper Aaron Lennox, who had replaced Cuthbert at the interval.
Rovers struck the post for a second time late on as Ross Callachan’s close range header bounced back off the upright, then Kyle Benedictus found himself unmarked at the back post from a Johnston corner but he was unable to force the ball past Adam as Rovers drew a blank.
No one at Stark’s Park will be losing any sleep over the result, but the failure to make second half pressure count only puts further emphasis on Locke’s search for strikers.
Forfar Athletic: Adam, Yates, Kennedy, Trialist, O’Brien (Hay 45), MacKintosh, Bain, Swankie, Aitken, Cox (Devine 81), Denholm. Not used: Mailer, Hill.
Raith Rovers: Cuthbert (Lennox 45), Thomson, McHattie (Matthews 68), Callachan, Benedictus, Johnston, Stewart (Court 28), Vaughan, B.Barr, Davidson, Bates. Not used: Berry, McKay.