Raith overcome first half jitters to claim derby clean sweep
Raith Rovers 2 East Fife 0
Raith Rovers overcame a jittery first half to complete a derby clean sweep over East Fife with a 2-0 victory at Stark's Park this evening.
It was far from a classic, and the standard of football left a lot to be desired at times, but on a night where the result was all that mattered, goals from Bobby Barr and Iain Davidson made it 12 points from 12 against their Methil neighbours this season.
The victory enabled Raith to keep up the pressure on Ayr United by closing the gap to three points, although with a vastly inferior goal difference, Rovers need to win all five remaining games and hope the leaders slip up twice if they are to go up as champions. For now at least, hope remains.
It was an easy team selection for Barry Smith as he went with same starting 11 that produced a convincing display in Airdrie on Saturday, although he was forced to replace striker Willis Furtado after just 22 minutes due to injury, with Greig Spence taking his place.
Despite an unchanged team, the home side didn't get anywhere near the same level of performance in an absent-minded opening 45 where they struggled to exert any control over an East Fife side who were first to everything.
With any dropped points at this stage effectively handing the title to Ayr, the players seemed to stiffen up completely as they fought a losing battle against anxiety in a first half devoid of any composure. In contrast, Darren Young's men played with the freedom you might expect from a side that has all but sealed a mid-table finish.
If Raith tried to go short or long the outcome was the same - possession lost - but despite dominating territory, East Fife carried little threat from open play with their best chances falling from corner kicks, three of which bounced straight through the Raith six yard box with Aaron Lennox glued to his line.
Against the run of play though, it was the home side who took the lead on the 39th minute with a rare moment of quality.
Regan Hendry charged down a clearance, the ball spun to Lewis Vaughan, who picked out Bobby Barr and the winger finished superbly from 18 yards, drilling an effort low into the bottom corner beyond the reach of Ben Mackenzie.
It was a well-timed opener which took the tension out of the game before the break, although East Fife were close to levelling on the stroke of half-time as one of those poorly defended corners fell to Chris Duggan beyond the back post but fortunately the angle was too tight and his header struck the outside of the upright.
While still not at their best, Rovers ball retention improved after the break, allowing them to press more into the opposition half, while a strong performance at the back, particularly from Iain Davidson, a deserving man of the match, completely snuff out the away goal threat.
Raith almost went two up in the 74th minute when Vaughan jinked his way through the defence before forcing Mackenzie to tip his curling shot wide with one hand, but the game was put to bed with six minutes left when Murray headed Vaughan's corner back across goal for Davidson to climb above his marker and nod it over the line.
There were enough positives to send the fans home happy, none more so than the three points, which were the be-all and end-all, but cooler heads and sharper minds will be probably required in the remaining games if promotion is to be achieved, one way or another.
Raith Rovers: Lennox, Thomson, Murray, Benedictus, Robertson (Herron 72), Vaughan, Barr, Matthews, Davidson, Hendry, Furtado (Spence 11). Not used: Smith, McHattie, Buchanan, Zanatta, Court.
East Fife: Mackenzie, Page, Watson, Slattery (Wilkie 76), Duggan, McManus, Miller, Livingstone, Allardice, Thomson (Jones 78), Knox (Lamont 63). Not used: Goodfellow, Dunsmore, Kane, Smith, Jones.
Referee: Barry Cook