Raith claim friendly win over derby rivals

Raith right back Jamie Watson played the full 90 minutes against Dunfermline. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Raith right back Jamie Watson played the full 90 minutes against Dunfermline. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Raith Rovers 2 Dunfermline 1

You can never read too much into pre-season, but there was plenty to be encouraged with as Raith Rovers claimed a 2-1 victory over derby rivals Dunfermline.

The friendly encounter was played at Bayview Stadium due to the ongoing work to install an artificial surface at Stark's Park and, for the first half at least, it was a competitive affair.

Raith lined up with new goalkeeper Robbie Thomson between the sticks, behind a familiar defence that included teenager Jamie Watson at right back, who was assured throughout.

New signings Nat Wedderburn and Grant Gillespie started in midfield, with the latter turning in a particularly strong performance that bodes well for the season ahead, as well as notching the opening goal.

Up front, Raith gave 90 minutes to trialist striker Kevin Nisbet, formerly of Partick Thistle, and the 21-year-old did his hopes of earning a contract no harm at all with a lively display, setting up the first goal, and winning the penalty for Raith's second.

Perhaps most encouraging of all was the performance of 17-year-old Euan Valentine, who made a positive impression at left midfield, despite the youngster being more accustomed to the left back position. One to keep an eye as this season develops.

Missing from the line-up were last season's top scorer Lewis Vaughan, who has a groin problem and could miss the start of the season, and Lewis Milne, who picked up a minor ankle knock that is not expected to keep him out for long.

Also absent was trialist Nathan Flanagan, who was unable to play due to a back problem.

It meant Rovers named just five substitutes, while the Pars had a complete 11 on the bench, who were all introduced in one complete swoop in the second half.

MATCH BLOG: https://www.fifetoday.co.uk/sport/football/raith-rovers/live-raith-rovers-v-dunfermline-athletic-1-4764174
Raith almost took the lead in the first minute when Dunfermline were penalised for a handball on the edge of the area and Gillespie curled a free-kick inches wide.

Gillespie was stamping his authority on the game and the midfielder got his goal in the 14th minute when he arrived late in the box to fire past goalkeeper Cammy Gill at his near post after a sharp turn by Nisbet created the space.

The Pars equalised just six minutes later when a mistake by Wedderburn, who was short with a pass to Iain Davidson, allowed ex-Rover Louis Longridge to nip in and his pass found Lewis McCann who fired past Thomson from the edge of the box.

The goal was a poor one to lose, but if pre-season is for ironing out the kinks, then it will have served its purpose.

Despite the setback Raith were continuing to be more than a match for their Championship opponents, and they regained their lead 10 minutes before the break when Nisbet was tugged back by Mark Durnan in the box, and referee Andrew Dallas pointed to the spot.

Liam Buchanan took the spot kick and although his effort was saved by Gill, the loose ball was pounced on by Ross Matthews, who did brilliantly to arrive ahead of the defenders to fire the rebound into the roof of the net from a narrow angle.

Raith made one change at the break, replacing Buchanan with Chris Duggan, who returned to his old stomping ground having joined from East Fife during the summer.

The second half failed to regain the tempo of the first, particularly after a raft of changes that saw Raith bring on youngsters Ryan Stevenson, Dave McKay and James Berry, as well as Kevin McHattie, who has been utilising training facilities while he searches for a new club.

Despite the disruption to the line-ups, Raith continued to push forward and the substitute Dunfermline 'keeper was required to make good saves from Nesbit and Matthews to prevent a third Rovers goal.

Overall, Barry Smith can be pleased with his team's work, both in terms of the result and performance.