Raith give Smith the perfect leaving present

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Cowdenbeath 1 Raith Rovers 3

Raith Rovers gave departing assistant manager Paul Smith the perfect leaving present with a convincing derby win over Cowdenbeath at Central Park.

Smith informed the club of his decision to stand down due to work commitments before the match, although the players were not informed until after the game.

Raith boss Grant Murray dedicated the win to his number two and thanked him for his contribution to the club over the past six and a half years.

“I can only dedicate the win to Paul for what he’s done for me since I came to the club as a player, and then as my assistant,” he said.

“He was part of the club that gave me an opportunity to be the manager so I’m very thankful. Without Paul, things might have been different.

“I understand and respect his decision but he’ll always be on the end of the phone. I can only thank him for what he’s done.

“A big part of my managerial career was winning the Challenge Cup last year and I wouldn’t have done it without him.”

Murray was also pleased with his team’s spirited response to the back-to-back 4-0 defeats suffered against Hearts and Dundee.

“The players were hurting but to get that response is fantastic,” he said.

“We had to make a change in the warm-up, then another after five minutes, so it’s credit to the squad of players to produce that performance and willingness to win.

“I could’t ask for any more.”

Raith had to make a change before kick-off as goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert injured himself in the warm-up and Ross Laidlaw was promoted to the number one position, with David McGurn drafted onto the bench.

There was another enforced change for Raith after five minutes when defender Ross Perry limped off to be replaced by Laurie Ellis.

Despite the upheaval, Raith took a firm grip on the game and, shooting into a strong wind, grabbed the lead after 29 minutes through Mark Stewart’s first goal for the club.

The forward out-paced Nat Wedderburn to latch onto Ryan Conroy’s through ball before firing an exquisite left foot shot over goalkeeper Thomas Flynn and in off the bar.

The strength of the wind was evident during half-time break as the home dug-out was blown over, and bodies were required to hold it in place.

There was no holding back Rovers however as they continued to dominate after the break, with only a terrific last ditch block from Chris Kane preventing Lewis Vaughan from extending Rovers lead.

There was a brief scare for Raith when Liadlaw misjudged a high ball in the wind and Ellis was forced to make a goalmouth block as the home side tried to force the ball over the line.

The wind then carried one of Laidlaw’s huge goal kicks the length of the park and Flynn was forced to tip over to prevent the bounce carrying the ball into the net.

Laidlaw saved at his near post from sub Craig Johnston but Raith scored the crucial second goal in the 70th minute.

Martin Scott started the move with a quickly taken free-kick that saw Stewart cross for the unmarked Lewis Vaughan to head home at the back post.

Conroy then sealed the point with a stunning free-kick - his fourth goal of the season - to put Rovers 3-0 up with 13 minutes left.

The winger used the wind to his advantage by letting fly from fully 40 yards and although Flynn got a hand to his strike, he couldn’t keep it out.

Cowdenbeath had rarely threatened the Rovers goal but they did manage a consolation in the 93rd minute as Lewis Milne’s 20-yard effort sailed over the head of Laidlaw and into the net via the underside of the bar.

Cowden boss Jimmy NIcholl was highly criticial of his team’s performance.

“We were just horrific,” he said. “That was nowhere near what we’re capable of producing.

“Credit to Raith Rovers, they deserved it, but we gave them confidence by letting them play football.

“We’ve got two weeks to sort it out and get bodies in who are willing to give us everything on the park.”