Below par Rovers grind out derby victory

Lewis Vaughan (hidden) stabs home the only goal of the game. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Lewis Vaughan (hidden) stabs home the only goal of the game. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Raith Rovers 1 East Fife 0

They say you learn lessons in defeat, but there is plenty for Raith Rovers to ponder after this scrappy derby victory.

While the positives were the all-important three points and a sixth clean sheet of the season, the performance certainly left room for improvement.

Raith started positively enough, pinning the visitors back before taking a 28th minute lead through Lewis Vaughan, but things regressed thereafter as East Fife took control, dominating the last hour, and left Stark's Park feeling that they deserved something for their efforts.

That might well have done had they shown more creativity in the final third, however, for all their possession and pressure, the Methil men hardly created a chance of note, and that was down to the defensive organisation that remains the bedrock of this Raith team.

The clean sheet was certainly well earned, and was achieved without two of their most experienced centre-halves.

With Iain Davidson suspended and Kyle Benedictus still recovering from a broken leg, midfielder Scott Robertson was again asked to deputise as a makeshift centre-half, and he showed his value to the team with a flawless display alongside the equally effective Euan Murray.

Ross Matthews returned to the starting XI in the only change from the 1-1 draw in Forfar the previous week.

Raith made a purposeful start with Kevin McHattie chasing a lost cause, and brilliantly keeping the ball in play for Vaughan, who saw his shot deflected for a corner.

Vaughan then had two free-kick attempts, decent chances by his standards, hitting one over the bar from the edge of the D, before striking the wall with his next from slightly further out.

His next chance, however, was presented to him on a plate and was one he was not going to miss.

The forward set up the attack with a surging run into the Fife box, but after being crowded out the chance looked gone, only for the away defence to dither when presented with the chance to clear their lines, allowing McHattie to nip in and prod the ball back towards goal.

A few ricochets later, and the ball popped up perfectly in front of a gaping net for Vaughan to fire home the easiest of his 18 goals so far this season.

After the 5-0 victory in Methil earlier in the season, Raith fans may have been hoping to see their team go for the jugular, but the opposite happened.

Anxiety creeped into the Raith game, their play became disjointed, and East Fife seized the initiative.

Graeme Smith got a vital glove on a cross to prevent Chris Duggan tap-in as the visitors threatened to equalise before half-time.

The second half was played mostly in Raith's end, but with Fife unable to unlock Raith's watertight defence, and the home side equally unable to hit on the break with any effectiveness, there was virtually no threat to either goalkeeper.

The closest the visitors claiming the point was in the 86th minute when a Mark Docherty free-kick from wide flashed across the six-yard box, with Fife players throwing themselves at the ball but unable to make contact.

When it was returned to the danger area, substitute Kevin Smith's header was grabbed by Smith.

The second half had been a tough watch and the full-time whistle came as a huge relief.

This won't go down as Raith's most impressive win of the season, but with Ayr winning comfortably at Arbroath to go top of the table on goal difference, it was certainly important.

Raith Rovers: Smith, Thomson, McHattie, Robertson, Murray, Herron, Spence (Zanatta 63), Buchanan, Vaughan, Matthews, Barr. Not used: Brian, Watson, Berry, Osei, Court, McKay.

East Fife: Hurst, Docherty, Dunsmore, Piggott, Page, Willis (Mutch 81), Slattery, Millar, Lamont (Flanagan 83), Duggan, Reilly (Smith 70). Not used: Goodfellow, Wilson.

Referee: Stephen Finnie

Attendance: 2656 (562)