RAITH ROVERS 6–1 COVE RANGERS
For the second time this season, a Kirkcaldy horror show led to a comprehensive defeat against Raith Rovers as the home side plundered goals at will, Cove conceding six in a league match for the third time in less than three months.
The big team news was the absence of goalkeeper Scott Fox who had injured his ankle in training on Thursday night. That meant a return for Kyle Gourlay for his first outing since the sides last met at Balmoral Stadium. It also led to an emergency recall for Balint Demus from his loan spell at Buckie Thistle as cover on the bench.
The only other change from last week saw captain Mitch Megginson back from his hamstring problem to replace Luis Longstaff.
Other than long-term absentees Fraser Fyvie and Brody Paterson, Blair Yule (heel) and Scott Ross (illness) were also missing from the squad.
Cove were first to threaten with just sixty seconds on the clock. Megginson gathered in midfield and fed Cieran Dunne down the left. His low cross bounced dangerously across the six yard box where Dick scooped it behind for what proved to be a fruitless corner.
In the third minute, Vaughan shot well wide from twenty yards, but the home side took the lead from the resultant goal kick. Gourlay scuffed his clearance and with our defence pushed up, Isma GONCALVES raced on to the ball and confidently chipped it over the advancing keeper.
The boys looked to hit back quickly and came agonisingly close soon after the self-inflicted loss of the goal. Megginson and Dunne again linked-up, Mitch played a pass inside the box and Cieran’s angled effort brought a fine one-handed save out of Jamie MacDonald.
McIntosh and O’Halloran then combined to play through the Raith defence, but Michael’s cross was cut out by Dick.
We then threatened down the left flank. Longridge and Dunne played a one-two before Cieran fired in another inviting cross, but sadly there were no takers at the back post.
With fifteen minutes gone, it was the home side back on the front foot with a menacing break down the left wing. Stanton’s cross fell at the feet of Scott Brown and the Raith skipper unleashed a powerful drive which Jackson Longridge threw his body in front of.
Despite the early setback, the team were putting together some decent combinations without being able to finish them off. In the latest, Megginson rolled the ball to O’Halloran who fed it out wide to Jason Naismith, but the full-back’s cross was headed clear by Nolan.
Paul Hartley was forced into making an early substitution, Michael O’Halloran limping off in the twenty-fifth minute to be replaced by Luis Longstaff.
Almost immediately, Raith doubled their advantage. After a spell of possession for the home side, poor marking left both Dylan Easton and Lewis Vaughan in the clear. Easton made the most of it, feeding a pass into the box and VAUGHAN drilled a low shot beyond Gourlay.
The game then entered a scrappy phase, with neither side making any great headway. We probed down both wings, but again the final delivery lacked quality with both Dunne and Naismith seeing crosses cut out.
As the first half drew to a close, there seemed a marked lack of confidence in our play, the home side comfortably holding on to their two-goal cushion.
The second half began more brightly as Dunne raced to the bye-line and attempted a low cutback which was turned behind by Nolan. Longstaff’s corner failed to find a team-mate, but Mark Reynolds chased the ball down and sent in a cross which Morgyn Neill headed over.
Longstaff then won a free-kick midway inside the Raith half, and from his resultant delivery, Nolan headed over his own bar with Reynolds in close attendance.
The side forced two more corners in quick succession, but once again failed to make them count, then Longstaff fired in an angled shot which, typical of the afternoon, was blocked by the unsuspecting Reynolds.
Having failed to capitalise on their second half superiority, Cove then fell further behind to the simplest of goals.
Neill conceded a corner on the Raith left, Vaughan fired it in, and Ryan NOLAN rose unchallenged to power a header past Gourlay.
Three minutes later it was 4-0. Another corner for the home side was cleared to the edge of the box where Dylan EASTON met it with the sweetest of volleys, his powerful drive crashing off the underside of the bar and into the net. It was the sixtieth goal conceded in our cinch Championship campaign.
Raith were rampant now and cutting through us with ease, Vaughan coming close to a fifth when his low angled shot deflected into the near side-netting.
Out of nothing, we got a goal back. Jackson LONGRIDGE did well initially to make contact with an awkward bouncing ball in the box, and when it ran back into his path the full-back slotted it low past MacDonald.
The manager made a double switch immediately afterwards, Tony Weston and Declan Glass replacing Dunne and Virtanen, and we might have got a quick second goal, Naismith firing in a twenty yard volley which forced a fine diving save out of the home keeper.
Back came Raith, and when Vaughan played an inviting pass into the box, Longridge looked to have made clean contact as he slid into deny Easton, but referee Wilson pointed to the spot. After a protracted argument between the two home players, it was Lewis VAUGHAN who stepped up to blast the penalty down the middle of the goal.
By this stage it was one way traffic, and the sixth came with eleven minutes remaining. Easton was given the freedom to cross from the left of the box and Scott McGILL pounced to hammer the ball beyond Gourlay from close range.
In a rare foray upfield, Leighton McIntosh carved out a shooting chance, but his twenty yard effort flew over the bar.
Our plight might have worsened with six minutes to go. Vaughan skipped away from Megginson into the box and fired in an angled shot which Gourlay tipped on to the bar and over. Soon after, substitute Ethan Ross danced his way into the area, Naismith deflecting his shot to safety.
Thankfully, there was no more scoring, but there could be no complaints about the final result, the players getting exactly what they deserved from what was, overall, an abysmal showing.
RAITH ROVERS: (4-2-3-1) MacDonald; McGill, Lang (Ngwenya 46), Nolan, Dick; Brown (c), Spencer; Stanton, Vaughan (Masson 90), Easton (Ross 87); Goncalves (Akio 71)
Substitutes: Thomson, Young
Goalscorers: Goncalves (4), Vaughan (27, pen 50), Nolan (54), Easton (57), McGill (80)
COVE RANGERS: (4-2-3-1) Gourlay; Naismith, Neill, Reynolds, Longridge; Virtanen (Glass 67), Scully; O’Halloran (Longstaff 25), Megginson (c), Dunne (Weston 67); McIntosh
Substitutes: Demus, Logan, Vigurs, Bangala, Toure
Goalscorers: Longridge (66)
Booked: Reynolds (12), McIntosh (31), Longridge (79), Naismith (90)
Referee: Lloyd Wilson
Article Copyright © 2023. Permission to use quotations from this article online is only granted subject to appropriate source credit and to www.coverangersfc.com