Raith’s turn to taste late disappointment in festive derby

Calum Elliot just misses the target - Raith Rovers v Cowdenbeath. Pic: Neil Doig
Calum Elliot just misses the target - Raith Rovers v Cowdenbeath. Pic: Neil Doig

Two penalties, six goals, and late drama - just a typical derby match between Raith Rovers and Cowdenbeath.

Recent games between these Fife rivals have been anything but dull with a 4-4 draw last season followed by a 4-3 win for Raith in the first month of the current campaign.

Rovers have benefited most from the dramatic finishes in recent meetings with last minute equalisers and winners earning them crucial points.

But the Kirkcaldy men got a taste of their own medicine on Saturday as it was the Blue Brazil’s turn to strike late to deny Rovers a sixth straight home win at Stark’s Park.

It was a devastating blow for Grant Murray’s side as they missed a glorious chance to move joint second with Hamilton, as well as strengthen their top four position.

The absence of wingers Joe Cardle and Grant Anderson, and the lack of natural replacements in the squad, forced Rovers into a change of tactics.

Murray lined his team up in a 4-3-1-2 formation with young Lewis Vaughan playing in the hole between midfield and attack - a role perfectly suited to the teen’s creative talents.

But the home side took some time to adjust to the new shape as Cowdenbeath, full of confidence after their win at Dens Park the previous week, made a stronger start.

That culminated in the opening goal after 10 minutes as Ross Laidlaw spilled a Kyle Miller shot at the feet of Greg Stewart who had a simple tap-in. Laidlaw’s handling error was out of keeping with his general performances since replacing the injured David McGurn and overall this was a day to forget for the normally assured stopper.

With Rovers starved of their usual width, they were struggling to get into the game when a superb leap from Dougie Hill saw him head Vaughan’s corner over the line in the 32nd minute. That seemed to settle the team down as they started to use the ball better, bringing Vaughan into the game, and the result was a dominant second half that ought to have delivered all three points.

Rovers took the lead on the hour mark when Vaughan’s sublime back heel released Booth down the left, and his cut-back was side-footed home by Calum Elliot. Great stuff.

Cowdenbeath were hanging on - until out of the blue they got a penalty with 15 minutes left. A rush of blood from Laidlaw saw him charge from his line to dive at the feet of Miller and although the pair appeared to touch the ball at virtually the same time, referee Greig Aitken awarded a penalty. Hemmings stepped up to level things at 2-2.

Rovers have shown they are capable of winning games in the final 15 minutes and they looked set to do so again when the ref evened up the penalty count by penalising Thomas O’Brien for pulling Hill to the ground as he challenged for a Vaughan free-kick.

Callum Booth was the surprise penalty taker but he smashed the ball straight down the middle to put Rovers 3-2 up with eight minutes left.

But when a 90th minute punt from Cowden ‘keeper Grant Adam carried through the static Raith defence to sub Jamie Stevenson, he sent a low ball across the six-yard line that saw goalkeeper, defender and striker all go for the same ball.

From amidst the melee the ball emerged, trickling goalwards before trundling over the line at a snail’s pace - just to add to Raith’s sickening feeling.

Raith: Laidlaw, Thomson, Booth, Ellis (McCann 63), Hill, Fox, Callachan, Moon, Spence (Smith 50), Elliot, Vaughan. Not used: Stewart (GK), Watson, Matthews, Bates.

Cowdenbeath: Adam, Cowan (Morton 69), Adamson, Milne, O’Brien, Armstrong, Brett, Robertson (Stevenson 61), Stewart (Russell 81), Miller, Hemmings. Not used: Flynn (GK), Anthony, Lynas, Pyper.

Referee: Greg Aitken

Attendance: 1597