Raith bring first half fizz to Irn-Bru Cup win over Aberdeen Colts

Raith celebrate Nat Wedderburn's opener. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Raith celebrate Nat Wedderburn's opener. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Raith Rovers 3 Aberdeen Colts 1

The Irn-Bru Cup may be devalued in the eyes of some, but Raith Rovers showed the competition plenty respect as they accounted for Aberdeen Colts at Stark's Park last night.

A particularly low turn-out of just 479 fans - surely among Raith's lowest ever crowds for a competitive match - reflected the interest in the fixture, but Barry Smith sent out a strong starting XI and was rewarded with a professional performance and a place in the next round.

Despite the youthful opposition, there were certainly positives to build on for the home side, more so in the first half when Rovers scored three times in a 15-minute blitz to rack up a second successive victory since their return to Stark's Park.

Results elsewhere showed that the Colt teams can provide tricky opposition, and Aberdeen had more than enough pace, skill and energy about them to cause an upset if Rovers had not taken them seriously.

An efficient first half display took care of business, and while the second half was much less productive, with the Colts pushing forward and pulling one back, the home team perhaps took their foot off the gas with one eye on Saturday's derby against East Fife.

Unfortunately, they were still unable to avoid injuries to Nat Wedderburn and Euan Murray which will cast doubts over their availability.

Smith made two changes to the side that started the win over Stenhousemuir, dropping Liam Buchanan and Kyle Benedictus to the bench, with Lewis Milne, who made an impressive sub appearance on Saturday, coming into the side, along with Iain Davidson, whose current suspension is for league games only.

There was little to separate the teams in the early stages, but once Raith got their noses in front on 16 minutes the game really opened up for them, with some of the link-up play between midfield and attack among the best football the team has produced so far this season.

MATCH BLOG: Relive the action as it happened: https://www.fifetoday.co.uk/sport/football/raith-rovers/live-raith-rovers-v-aberdeen-colts-1-4784122

A Milne corner was cleared to Matthews near the halfway line, and the midfielder looked up and floated a delightful ball back over the outrushing Dons defence for Wedderburn, who controlled, turned and drilled an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net for his first Raith goal.

Aberdeen initially responded well to the setback, and Davidson had to throw his body in the way of an goal-bound Connor McLellan shot before defensive partner Dave McKay made a last man challenge to deny Bruce Anderson a clear run on goal.

But Raith's forward play was proving too much for the visitors to handle and, on 27 minutes, Nisbet bullied his marker out the way to chest a ball into the path of Matthews who sent a measured left-foot shot into the bottom corner from 18 yards for 2-0.

Rovers scored again two minutes later, with the age difference between the two teams really starting to show, as Nathan Flanagan burst into the box to tee up Nisbet, who showed great composure to sidestep a defender and pick his spot beyond Main.

With four goals to his name in seven matches, Nisbet is emerging as Raith's main goal threat, and the way he took his chance suggests that he is a striker playing with confidence, which can only bode well for both him and the team.

Aberdeen made it to have time without suffering further damage, and the youngsters came out for the second half with a renewed energy, while Raith struggled to regain their first half fluency.

Kieran Wright was called into action for the first time on 66 minutes, diving low to his right to hold a low drive from McLellan, who was giving left back Murray plenty to think about.

Raith rarely threatened to add to their tally but Flanagan forced Mair into a decent save with a snapshot from the right side of the penalty box after Milne's long range effort had deflected into his path. Sub Chris Duggan met the rebound but couldn't keep it down as the ball sailed into the South Stand.

Aberdeen pulled one back on 71 minutes with a goal of quality as Anderson - who recently scored against Rangers for the Dons first team - latched onto a through ball and fired into the top corner from 20 yards, a stunning finish even drawing applause from the home end.

The visitors had chances to set up an uncomfortable ending the best of which came on 88 minutes when Anderson's shot was parried by Wright and David Dangana, with the full goal to aim for, could only prod the rebound over the bar.

More concerning for Raith was a late tackle on Wedderburn which saw the midfielder hobble around the pitch for the final 10 minutes as all subs had been used. This was his best display in a Raith shirt as he starts to catch up on match fitness following injury, so the last thing he needs is another spell on the sidelines.

Raith will hope to make it three wins in a week when they host East Fife on Saturday. After a difficult start to the campaign, and with injuries starting to ease, there are certainly encouraging signs that this new-look team is starting to find its feet.

Raith Rovers: Wright, Watson, Davidson, Murray, Gillespie (Valentine 60), Milne, Matthews, Wedderburn, Nisbet (Duggan 60), Flanagan (Buchanan 70). Not used: Thomson, Berry, Stevenson.

Aberdeen Colts: Mair, Virtanen, Mackenzie, Campbell, Harrington, Roscoe, McLennan, Brown, Dangana, Anderson, Ross (Robertson 45). Not used: Craddock, Antoniazzi, Chesser, Duncan, Lingen, Barry.

Referee: Grant Irvine.

Attendance: 479 (52 away).