Clyde 1, Raith Rovers 2
Raith Rovers grabbed their first win under new manager Barry Smith, with a narrow but thoroughly merited victory yesterday over Clyde.
A first-half strike from Liam Buchanan – who has now scored goals for all four senior Fife clubs, and an unfortunate own-goal from the Bully Wee’s Scott Ferguson in the second sealed the win for the Kirkcaldy side, after a penalty from David Goodwillie had briefly brought Clyde level.
The new manager was particularly pleased with the performance in the first period, with Lewis Vaughan a stand-out on the left-hand-side of midfield, as Raith created several chances in a dominant opening 45.
“It was a really good work out,” he said. “The boys worked hard and I thought in the first half, we played some really good stuff.
“We controlled the game and created some good chances. It was good to get the first win, for the boys more than anything else, to get back into that habit of winning, and we need to build on it in the season coming.”
Smith made four changes from the side which drew Wednesday evening’s game against Edinburgh City, with Jason Thomson returning to the right-back slot and James Berry paired with Ross Callachan in the middle of the park, with Scott Robertson and Ross Matthews making way.
Up front, the fans were given their first chance to see the exciting-looking pairing of Greig Spence and Buchanan together for the first time, a duo that scored 53 goals between them last term.
With Bobby Barr on the right, it was very much an attack-minded side, and the winger was almost the architect of an opening goal in the early moments when his whipped corner from the right was headed wide by Kyle Benedictus.
Although Vaughan was nominally wide left, he appeared to have a license to roam and, after picking up the ball in midfield, he released Buchanan in the inside left position. But, as Vaughan surged into the middle of the penalty area, Buchanan’s attempted cut-back was swooped upon by Martin McNiff, as Vaughan looked to capitalise.
Rovers were looking a yard sharper and slicker than in their opener against Edinburgh but, despite that, Clyde missed the best chance of the opening stages, when David Gormley thrashed wildly over when presented with a good opportunity from just inside the area.
While most pre-season encounters are matches that are endured rather than enjoyed, this one had started in a lively fashion, with Vaughan bursting through and lashing a shot against Currie, while Spence was unlucky to see his hheader blocked just a couple of yards off the line, as Barr’s corners continued to be something of a pest to Clyde’s defence.
The opener wasn’t long in coming and there was no surprise that the lively Vaughan was involved. After darting into the penalty area and confusing McNiff with umpteen twists and turns, he delayed his shot a shade too long and his strike was charged down. However, the rebound fell kindly to Buchanan, who side-footed it past Blair Currie and into the far corner.
It was an encouraging start to proceedings and, as Smith alluded to afterwards, the dynamic between the forward players could be a worry for opposition players this term.
“We want to play games on the front foot and we’ll certainly do that with these guys. We know what Lewis Vaughan is capable of, but we gave him a slightly different role, one which gives him a lot of freedom, which I think he’ll enjoy. With his quality and the experience and know-how of the other ones, they’ll start to bounce off each other and things will start to happen.”
Whether by accident or design, Rovers looked threatening from the vast majority of their set-pieces, with a short corner routine almost bringing about Buchanan’s second, as he made a beeline for the net after gathering the ball in the corner, but his clattered attempt was diverted over the bar.
Another set-play saw Rovers inches away from increasing their lead as the interval approached, when Vaughan took advantage of a disorganised looking Clyde backline, but while his shot didn’t lack any power, he pulled it fractionally wide of the far post.
As was the case with Wednesday’s match, Raith started the second half with some fresh legs, with a trialist coming on for Barr while David McKay replaced Thomson.
That wasn’t the only similarity to the Edinburgh match, though, with Rovers again starting slowly after the intermission, with Max Wright almost equalising in the 52nd minute when his header looped over Aaron Lennox’s crossbar. But Jim Chapman’s men did score just a moment later, with Goodwillie, who unsurprisingly had been Clyde’s biggest threat, the provider.
The former Scotland international took advantage of the space awarded to him in the box, and after shimmying away from Davidson, he saw his drive palmed down by the defender as he slid in, prompting David Lowe to point to the spot.
While Lennox elected to pick a side, Goodwillie cleverly sent the ball straight down the middle and the match was all square once again.
Despite the setback, Rovers almost went back ahead straight away, when Spence got on the end of a Vaughan corner that wasn’t properly cleared.But despite mis-hitting his shot, the effort bobbled and trundled through a melee of players, only to strike the base of the post before being desperately hacked clear.
Vaughan then went close when his direct free kick was tipped wide by Currie, but the goalkeeper was less decisive in the 67th minute, as his error led to the winner.
Again, Vaughan’s dead ball did the damage, as the goalkeeper’s meek punch cannoned off Ferguson and back into the net for a somewhat messy goal.
With his first win tucked under his belt though, Smith was keen for many more.
“There are a lot of positives to take, but we’ve got to build on what was a good performance,“ he said. Winning becomes a habit, and it’s a mentality. We have to get that mentality back into the club, and it started here.”