Sunday, August 2, 2009

Match Report: East Fife v Raith Rovers (CIS Cup First Round)

It was heartache for East Fife yesterday when they lost a two goal lead in the first round CIS Cup tie against hated local rivals Raith Rovers in front of a crowd of 1,390 at Bayview Stadium.

After last season's showings against Raith and the recent pre-season form, hopes weren't high amongst the Bayview faithful for taking anything from the match.

The Kirkcaldy side had the first chance when Michael Brown easily saved a long range shot from Graham Weir in the opening stages but then, to most people's surprise, East Fife took over and also took the lead.

A quick Fife break out from defence by Bobby Linn, from a Rovers corner, came back to Bobby Linn on the edge of the box and he fired a fierce effort into the top of the net after 5 minutes, with the possible aid of a deflection.

Raith had a couple of poorly taken half chances before East Fife made it two on 19 minutes. Paul McManus looked to be in an offisde position when he did well to collect a long through ball, but that didn't matter when his brilliant cross was met by David Muir who headed the Fife into a two goal lead.

With East Fife in the ascendancy and the Rovers fans getting on their players backs (loyal supporters eh?), things were looking good for the Fife. The Raith defence was all over the place and they were grateful for half time to come so that they could reorganise.

And reorganise they sadly did.

With East Fife deciding to bizarrely play really deep and sit on their two goal lead, in a game they were controlling and looked in no danger of losing, Raith were given acres of space to come forward and looked a different team in the second half.

It was really only a matter of time before last season's Second Division Champions got on the scoresheet and minutes after a penalty appeal was waved away, Allan Walker reduced the defecit when he slotted the ball low across the goal and past both Brown and a stretching Scott Thomson on 57 minutes.

The East Fife fans hoped that this would signal a change in tactics, and restore the attacking play of the first half, but the team were in a rut now.

Walker had a chance to double his, and his team's, tally but curled his effort just wide before the Fife had their first chance of the half but McManus fired well over when he should have done better.

Another Rovers handball penalty appeal was waved away and Brown was forced into a good save from a Weir effort before Raith levelled matters with quarter of an hour remaining. Of course it had to be the player that the Bayview faithful don't love to hate, just hate, Gregory Tade. The Frenchman swivveled on the edge of the six yard box and fired high into the net to tie it up at 2-2.

We've told Tade to swivvel a number of times but he must have misunderstood exactly what we meant.

With East Fife's front two of McManus and Linn visibly tiring after missing a lot of the pre season training, Raith pushed for the winner.

The dangerous Walker fired a free kick narrowly wide before Jonathan Smart cleared another effort from him off the Fife line.

The Rovers were clearly thinking that if they couldn't win the match by fair means then they'd try foul and Iain Williamson was booked for diving in the box. Same old Rovers, always cheating.

One thing that both sets of fans are probably in agreement with is that referee Stevie McLean had a shocker and as he found an inconceivable amount of injury time to add on instead of taking the game into extra time, the Rovers took advantage and scored the winner after 94 minutes.

Weir fired a cross to the back post and with Fife goalie Brown all at sea, Williamson took advantage to loop a header over him and into the net.

And that was it. 3-2 to the Rovers in the end. Full marks to Raith for a spirited fightback but East Fife only have themselves to blame for the defeat.

The start of August and already out of two Cups. On paper it might not be looking too rosy for Stevie Crawford and the boys but the first half performance yesterday at least gives some cheer to the Fife support. They played great in the first half and having Lloyd Young and Shaun Fagan back in the middle of the park helped no end. We're still badly needing a prolific goalscorer and Linn and McManus need to get up to match fitness quick, but it's at least promising that we seem to be heading in the right direction.

Now the real business starts with the League next Saturday. Let's see which East Fife side turn up for that one.

Final Score: East Fife 2 - 3 Raith Rovers

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