Raith Rovers 0 - 1 Hamilton Academical

Hamilton are up and running in the Championship after James Keatings supplied the goal that gave them an opening-day win at Raith Rovers.

Hamilton's James Keating celebrates after scoring the winning goal at Stark's Park. Picture: SNS
Hamilton's James Keating celebrates after scoring the winning goal at Stark's Park. Picture: SNS

In front of a modest crowd of 1,652, the former Celtic trainee pounced on a loose ball inside the area in the 68th minute to find the net in a tight contest.

“We’re delighted because it’s a difficult place to come,” said Accies player-manager Alex Neil, who produced a midfield masterclass. “I’m not so sure if we can be considered dark horses for the league. We have a lot of young players and with that you can be inconsistent.

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“There’s a new excitement about this league with the play-offs and I think it’s a great thing.”

Grant Murray, the Raith Rovers manager, has spent the summer assembling a squad that, on paper, looks capable of challenging for a play-off place. Seasoned players with top-flight experience form the spine of the Stark’s Park side and the early signs had been promising after wins in the Ramsdens and League cups.

But it was a young Accies side, marshalled by Neil in the middle of the park, that emerged with the takings in Kirkcaldy.

Hamilton looked the more likely to score during the opening stages with an aesthetically-pleasing brand of football. Hamilton midfielder Darian MacKinnon’s turn and shot inside the area after three minutes was well saved by David McGurn.

As Rovers began to get to grips with Accies’ swift passing game, the chances began to fall their way. Kevin Moon’s half-volley from outside the area caused concern before drifting over the bar. Callum Elliot then drove a fierce shot straight at goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert.

The best opportunity of the half fell to Ali Crawford after Raith got themselves into a mess at the back, but his drive flew wide of McGurn’s right-hand post.

Both sides continued to probe after the break. MacKinnon lacked composure when he rifled a Keatings pass over the bar before Grant Anderson missed the target at the back post following a delightful delivery by Joe Cardle.

Hamilton’s persistence paid off in the 68th minute when Crawford’s corner was not dealt with and Keatings lashed the ball in from close range.

After the defeat, Raith manager Murray said: “We’re disappointed to lose the first game of the season, especially when we lost a goal from a set-piece.”