YOU DO not get a second chance to make a first impression and there is no better way to endear yourself to the Raith Rovers faithful than by claiming victory against one of their fierce Fife foes.
Ray McKinnon, in his maiden competitive outing as Rovers manager, saw his new-look side secure a tempestuous triumph over Cowdenbeath in the Petrofac Training Cup first round thanks to a first-half strike by Lewis Vaughan.
Lewis Toshney, Ryan McCord and James Craigen made their debuts for the visitors, while 18-year-old David Bates was handed his first-ever start for the Kirkcaldy men, thus they were somewhat lacking in fluency. Nevertheless, their victory could have been more handsome, with Vaughan and Craig Wighton coming close.
Chris Kane and Greig Spence came closest for Cowdenbeath, but ultimately Colin Nish’s own bow in management ended in defeat.
“It was your typical hard-fought derby match. ‘Competitive’ would be the nicest way to put it,” smiled McKinnon.
“It turned into a battle for long periods of the game and my players showed real character.
“I thought my players dealt admirably with the aerial battle with Cowdenbeath throwing bodies forward and I don’t think my goalkeeper had a save to make.
“I sometimes forget what a young team we have put together but they stood up to every aspect of a tough, physical derby match. There are things to work on, and I’d like us to pass the ball better, but I’m happy to get the result.”
Nish, choosing to restrict himself to a place on the bench, watched from the dugout as his side made a bright start to proceedings, with Kane flashing a header over the bar from a Sam Orritt corner.
Rovers’ response came by way of a Vaughan free kick, the talented young forward fizzing a low drive just wide of the post.
However, the 19-year-old would not be denied for long. He showed intelligent movement inside the box to latch onto a sharp cut-back from Mark Stewart and dispatch the ball beyond the helpless Michael Andrews.
Cowdenbeath debutant Spence, fondly remembered at Rovers for laying on the winning goal in the 2012 Challenge Cup final win over Rangers, sliced a shot wide as the Blue Brazil sought parity before the break.
Vaughan was withdrawn at the break after taking a few heavy challenges during the first half but was replaced by a similarly gifted teenager in Dundee loanee Wighton. The 17-year-old took just seven minutes of his maiden appearance in Rovers colours to threaten, shooting instinctively wide of the post from the edge of the box.
Luke Armstrong, son of former Middlesbrough striker Alun, shot wide in the closing stages but their attempts to find a way back into the contest were futile. Nish also entered the fray as a late substitute but was unable to inspire a comeback.
“We went into the game on Saturday not really knowing where we were,” added Nish.
“However, we’ve got a better idea now, especially in terms of where we need to improve.”