Raith Rovers 1 St Johnstone 1
Raith Rovers produced a solid performance as they held Europa Leauge bound St Johnstone to a 1-1 draw in a pre-season friendly at Stark’s Park yesterday.
Rovers were once again without a number of first team players with Kevin Cuthbert, David McGurn, Craig Barr, Dougie Hill, Paul Watson, Martin Scott and Mark Stewart all posted missing.
The lengthy injury list, while described as ‘niggles’, is sure to be a worry with less than a fortnight to go until the first competitive game, but there were plenty positives for Raith to take from the game itself.
Christian Nade made it two goals from two preseason outings with a stunning eighth minute opener and he was a handful for the Saints defence throughout.
At the back, youngster David Bates played his second 90 minutes in a row and grew in stature as the match wore on, while there were a number of good performances throughout the side.
Raith manager Grant Murray was pleased with his side’s overall performance.
“It was a good workout both performance-wise and fitness-wise,” he said.
“St Johnstone are ahead of us at this moment in time as they’ve got a competitive game in Europe in midweek so we fared okay in the game.
“We’ve got a few players still carrying knocks but it’s credit to the squad of players that we finished the game with two 17-year-olds, an 18-year-old and a 20-year-old.
“At end of day if we’ve got players out we’re going to rely on the whole squad.”
Recently released Dundee winger Ryan Conroy also played the full 90 minutes after signing for the Kirkcaldy club on Thursday.
“Ryan became available and we felt it was the right decision to bring him in,” Murray added.
“He’s a quality player and he will give us something different - an an out-and-out wide left player that we’ve not had at the club for a long time.
“He slotted in well considering he’s only trained with us for one full day.”
Rovers upped the pace from their lacklustre midweek showing against Edinburgh City and took the game to Saints in the early stages.
In the fifth minute, good link-up play on the right ended with Thomson firing a volley narrowly over the bar.
Three minutes later, Rovers took the lead following another move down the right that saw Calum Elliot drill a cross into the path of Nade on the edge of the area.
The Frenchman chested the ball into the air before thundering the dropping ball past Alan Mannus - a stunning strike that provided further evidence of the reborn striker’s new-found confidence and form.
Rovers continued to set the pace for much of the opening 30 minutes, with a hard-working midfield often catching the opposition in possession.
There was a further injury concern for Rovers, however, when midfielder Kevin Moon was taken off after just 21 minutes following a heavy midfield collision.
The match started to swing in the visitors favour towards half-time and in the 40th minute Ross Laidlaw needed an outstretched leg to deflect Steven McLean’s effort behind after the striker had ghosted in behind the defence.
It was an excellent save but the big ‘keeper was left helpless a few minutes later when Lee Croft unleashed a powerful 20-yard effort that struck the post.
Saints took the momentum into the second half and equalised five minutes after the break through midfielder David Wotherspoon.
Rovers lost possession on the edge of their own box and Wotherspoon turned Bates inside-out before curling a top class effort inside the far post.
Saints almost took the lead 10 minutes later as Laidlaw fumbled Chris Millar’s long range drive, but the ‘keeper recovered superbly to deflect Chris Kane’s follow-up effort off target.
Rovers were now chasing shadows against a Perth side preparing for FC Luzern of Switzerland in midweek until a number of substitutions disrupted the flow of the game, which petered out with little further goalmouth action.
Overall, it was a good competitive friendly, exactly the type of game Rovers will need to get themselves ready for the season ahead.
However, with almost an entire team missing, they will certainly hope to have a few more players available for the visit of York City on Tuesday night.
Raith: Laidlaw, Thomson, Ellis, Bates, McKeown, Moon (Callachan 21), Anderson, Fox (Matthews 80), Nade (Vaughan 70), Elliot, Conroy.
St Johnstone: Mannus, Miller, Scobbie (Rodger 77), MacKay, Wright (B Easton 60), Croft, Caddis, Millar, Wotherspoon (Thomson 77), MacLean (Kane 45), O’Halloran (Brown 60).