Morgyn Neill was the last gasp Cove hero as the side twice came from behind to snatch their first point of the new Paul Hartley era. The big central defender’s back post header sparked scenes of celebration at the end of a game which had looked lost. Vaughan and Easton had given Raith the lead, Leighton McIntosh restoring parity in the first half with a coolly taken penalty.
Illness and injury had shaped the manager’s selection. Fraser Fyvie joined Shay Logan and Gerry McDonagh on the sidelines, and captain Mitch Megginson, who had been ill all week, was deemed fit enough only for a place on the bench.
McIntosh and Robbie Leitch were partnered up front, Kyle McClelland moved to right-back, Mark Reynolds returned from illness, and Brody Paterson was handed his Cove Rangers debut after international clearance finally came through late on Friday. Kyle Gourlay was recalled in goal at the expense of Stuart McKenzie.
It was the fourth meeting of the pair already this season, Cove having won the opener to kick-off the league campaign, with the Kirkcaldy outfit taking the spoils in the two subsequent encounters.
We had more of the ball in the very early stages, but it was Rovers who came close to opening the scoring when Dick’s cross found Vaughan free at the back post, but his looping header only just cleared the crossbar.
Cove responded when Scully – who would later be named man of the match – found Longstaff, and Luis quickly transferred the ball to Robbie Leitch, but his cross from the right was gathered at the front post by MacDonald.
After good interplay between Paterson and Dunne, Cieran delivered into the box. McIntosh’s header lacked pace, but Lang and MacDonald got themselves in a muddle, and the centre half had to hurriedly boot the ball clear.
Leitch had a shot from the edge of the box blocked, and a dangerous Longstaff cross just failed to find a team-mate before Luis fired in another effort which the away defence charged down.
Raith forced a free-kick on the left which Easton whipped in, Gourlay getting an important touch to punch it clear, then Gullan shot just wide from sixteen yards.
Minutes later, Rovers snatched the lead. Dick and Easton were blocked off on the left, but the ball was fed infield. Spencer controlled it and rolled an inch-perfect pass into the box which Lewis VAUGHAN ran on to and cleverly chipped over Gourlay.
The lead lasted just three minutes.
Connor Scully clipped in a free-kick from thirty-five yards which Morgyn Neill rose to meet with his head only for Ryan Nolan to intercept with his raised arm. Referee Wilson pointed immediately to the spot. After a lengthy delay, Leighton McINTOSH stepped up confidently, and with MacDonald diving to his left, the striker guided the ball into the other side of the net.
From another Cove free-kick, Longstaff swung in an inviting ball, Kyle McClelland nodded it back to the edge of the box and Leitch unleashed a volley which the keeper clutched on his line.
After a defensive mix-up, Raith had another big chance, but Vaughan’s volley was shut down. The respite was however brief, and almost immediately they regained the lead. When the ball came in from the right, Scully tried to get a toe on it, but Dylan EASTON juggled it over the midfielder’s boot, then volleyed home from the edge of the box.
We had another penalty shout early in the second half after a good move involving Longstaff, Scully and Dunne. The ball eventually broke to Neill who turned and shot, and it appeared to have been blocked by an arm, but the referee waved away the claims.
That was to be a rare foray into the Raith box in the second half.
The visitors might have extended their advantage in the fifty-ninth minute when Easton set Vaughan clear, but the striker’s low angled shot rolled wide of Gourlay’s right post.
Paul Hartley threw on Megginson and Glass for Longstaff and Leitch, but it was Rovers who continued to look more dangerous, and Vaughan threatened again with a curling cross/shot from twenty yards which Gourlay did well to tip on to the bar and over.
Jamie Masson then came on for Dunne, and Cove might have fashioned an opening, but after good link-up play between Yule and Scully, Paterson found Glass, and Declan’s cross was marginally too high, McIntosh only just failing direct the ball goalwards.
Megginson had a shot blocked, then with the game moving into stoppage time, the skipper forced a corner after a penetrating run down the right.
Declan Glass took it, the ball was half cleared, but Scully was quick to react and with another of his acrobatic overhead kicks, the midfielder returned the ball deep into the danger area. With the Raith defence scrambling to cover, Morgyn NEILL ran on to it and headed powerfully beyond MacDonald.
The big man – who less than two weeks ago seemed on his way out of the club – raced to the dugout in celebration, tumbling to the turf as he was engulfed by his jubilant team-mates.
After successive games in which the team had suffered so badly, the emotional release was entirely understandable.
COVE RANGERS (4-4-1-1): Gourlay; McClelland, Neill, Reynolds (c), Paterson; Longstaff (Glass 62), Yule, Scully, Dunne (Masson 74); Leitch (Megginson 62); McIntosh
Substitutes: McKenzie, Ross, Vigurs
Goalscorers: McIntosh (pen 32), Neill (90)
Booked: Megginson (75)
RAITH ROVERS (4-2-3-1): MacDonald; Millen, Nolan, Lang, Dick; Brown (c), Spencer; Connolly, Vaughan 84),Frederiksen, Easton (Mitchell 82); Gullan (McBride 78)
Substitutes: McNeil, Arnott, Young, Masson
Goalscorers: Vaughan (29), Easton (43)
Booked: Nolan (31), Easton (44)
Referee: Lloyd Wilson
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