Raith Rovers 1 Sheffield United 2

THOUGH Raith Rovers lost this opening friendly on Wednesday night, there were enough encouraging signs to send the home fans away with reason to be hopeful for the season ahead.

With four of their summer signings featuring in the starting line-up, or five if you include Joe Cardle, this was definitely a new-look Raith team, both in personnel and playing style.

Raith's Grant Anderson bursts clear against Sheffield United

Raith's Grant Anderson bursts clear against Sheffield United

It may take a few weeks to iron out the rough edges - and there were plenty on show! - but once the team has a more settled look, the potential is there for Rovers to have a better campaign than last season’s inauspicious mid-table finish.

New faces in midfield, Kevin Moon and Liam Fox, linked up well, while Cardle was lively on the wing and left back Callum Booth always eager to get forward.

Up front, Calum Elliot made a good target man and should pose a threat once gets his sharpness, while Greig Spence was his usual buzzbomb self.

There will be concerns over some of the sloppy play in their own half which led to United’s goals but overall, for a first runout, it will have pleased manager Grant Murray.

All the action and entertainment came in the first half, with Rovers starting the brighter against their illustrious opponents, now languishing in English League One.

The home side were sharp and crisp in their passing in the early stages and posed a threat to the United defence, although it was Raith keeper Ross Laidlaw who was first called into action, parrying away a firm drive from outside the box by Michael Doyle.

Rovers’ enterprise was rewarded in 14 minutes when they deservedly took the lead. A long ball out of defence saw Elliot beat the offside trap and he had time to square the ball across the box where Spence, under pressure from a defender, managed to bundle it just over the line from a yard out.

The goal seemed to wake United out of their stupor and they grew steadily stronger as the half wore on, subsequently, Rovers found it more difficult to get on the ball and started to get sloppy in possession.

On the half hour mark the visitors drew level when Calum McFadzean showed good skill to burst past two weak tackles into the box and had the time and presence to cut the ball back into the path of Kevin McDonald who sidefooted past Laidlaw from 12 yards.

United had stepped up the pace and with Rovers struggling to cope, they went in front five minutes later, Jamie Murphy being left with far too much time and space to stride into the box and rifle a drive into the bottom corner with Laidlaw helpless.

It had been an entertaining opening 45 minutes with Rovers a little unlucky to be behind but as is often the case in friendlies, the second half failed to live up to it.

Although both sides started with the same 11, the substitutions started soon after and this definitely disrupted the flow of the game, resulting in very few goalmouth incidents.

United continued to dominate without seriously threatening to score again, while Rovers chased and harried well but only had brief moments of possession in the visitor’s box.

There was a debut appearance for striker Gordon Smith, while a few of the younger players were also introduced, along with a trialist striker (believed to be former Alloa player Lewis Bonnar) who showed some good touches and came closest to equalising with a crisp volley which was well held by Mark Howard.

And so on to Hibs...