They had to work hard for it and it was tough on a Cowdenbeath side who thought they had a precious point in their grasp, but Christian Nade’s winner two minutes from time ultimately gave Raith a deserved win in this low-key Fife derby.
Scorer: Raith Rovers - Nade 88
This second successive single-goal victory for the Kirckaldy side represents what has been a welcome festive period boost, given their poor run of form before Christmas, and despite this season’s struggles they have now notched up three wins out of three over their near neighbours.
“Sometimes that’s what it takes in derbies,” said Rovers manager Grant Murray of their late winner, “but I’ll take a 1-0 win here any time. I thought we thoroughly deserved it and was disappointed at half-time that we didn’t come in ahead.
“I told Christian when he went on, ‘get yourself in the box, that’s the way you’ll score goals, by being in the box’. We get a delivery in the box and he’s there and finishes it. That’s what good strikers do.”
It was Nade’s fifth goal of the campaign for Raith and the second time he had notched a winner against Cowdenbeath. It illustrates his worth to the Stark’s Park side who have hardly been prolific in front of goal this season, and this game provided some pointers as to why.
Jimmy Nicholl made a decent effort at being philosophical about the cruel finale to this encounter from the home side’s perspective. “It’s a sore one,” he admitted. “It wasn’t a classic today, but the way the game was going we tried with a couple of substitutions to get the winner and then an individual mistake’s cost us the game. It’s sore because it’s another three points we’ve dropped at home and especially since it’s against our rivals.
“But we just have to get them sorted out and freshened up for the next game against Livingston. All the teams around us were beaten today, which is a little bit of consolation”.
Nicholl’s men actually enjoyed the better start to the game, bringing some pressure to bear on the Raith defence without creating much in the way of clear-cut openings. Jordan Halsman had a well-struck effort blocked at close range whilst Sean Higgins found a bit of space for himself with a neat chest down but his follow-through shot was straight at Dave McGurn.
It took until midway through the first half for the visitors to begin to build some momentum, with Grant Anderson making foraging runs down the right and Calum Elliot leading the line with some clever lay-offs. However, it was a couple of blistering shots from defenders Rory McKeown and Dougie Hill that came closest to giving the Kirkcaldy side the advantage before the interval, the former’s attempt requiring a strong one-handed save by Cowdenbeath goalkeeper Robbie Thomson.
Mark Stewart did put the ball in the net following a delightful exchange between Anderson and Jason Thomson but the Raith striker had strayed offside as the ball was slotted into his path.
The momentum stayed with the visitors after the break with some concerted probing resulting in them winning a series of corners. They came to nothing, however, with Thomson only required to make a couple of blocks on further efforts by Elliot and Ross Callachan.
The inability of the Kirkcaldy men to engineer a breakthrough drew the ire of their support and their frustrations were hardly assuaged by a couple of breaks by Cowdenbeath which saw Jon Robertson and Craig Sutherland test McGurn’s concentration with stinging drives.
The Raith fans implored Murray to introduce Nade as the game seemed set to peter out as an unsatisfying stalemate and eventually he heeded their pleas, bringing on the ex-Hearts and Dundee striker for Elliot with just over ten minutes left. They were proven to be spot-on in their assessment when Stewart burst down the left flank and crossed into the box, where the unmarked Nade directed a powerful header low into the net with Thomson beaten at last.
“We just can’t get a home win and that’s the really worrying thing,” remarked the rueful Nicholl. “The game was in the balance without us playing really well, yet to lose it the way we did was really disheartening.”
Cowdenbeath: R Thomson; Miller, Brownlie, Wedderburn, Campbell (Sutherland 84); Marshall, O’Brien, Halsman; Robertson, Milne (Hughes 84); Higgins.
Raith: McGurn; J Thomson, Watson, Hill, McKeown; Anderson, Callachan, Scott, Conroy; Stewart; Elliot (Nade 79).
Referee: D Robertson. Attendance: 1,265.