Late Leveller Prevents Raith Victory
A wonderful, last-minute strike by Falkirk substitute, Kris Faulds denied Raith all three points today, in an entertaining 1-1 draw at Stark’s Park.
Rovers were unchanged from last weeks 4-2 win over Alloa, and they picked up from where they left off last Saturday, immediately taking the game to their visitors and pressurising the Falkirk back line.
Bairns defender, Stephen Kingsley attempted to shepherd the ball out for a goal-kick, but he wasn’t given the time to do so by Spence, who played the ball off him for a Raith corner after just 2 minutes.
From Cardle’s ensuing set-piece, the ball was only cleared to the right angle of Falkirk’s penalty area, where Grant Anderson picked it up, and drilled the ball from 16 yards, past Michael McGovern, to give Raith the ideal start.
Raith were looking sharp early on, and for the opening ten minutes, play was largely being directed towards the Falkirk goal. You sensed at this stage that Falkirk were there for the taking, especially after their heavy mid-week defeat to Aberdeen, but while Rovers were dictating events, they were doing so without fashioning too many clear chances.
While Cardle was putting in some crosses from the left hand side, it was the opposite flank that was proving the home teams best outlet.
Grant Anderson was playing with the confidence of a man who had scored 3 goals from his last 4 appearances, while behind him, Jason Thomson was gallivanting forward at every opportunity, putting in dangerous crosses that the home side weren’t able to capitalise on.
While Falkirk were starting to gain some headway in the match, it was fleeting at best. Some possession after quarter of an hour led to a corner and a half-hearted penalty shout, but it was never likely to gain favour from referee John McKendrick.
After that came a flurry of half chances from Rovers, but still the second goal wouldn’t come. Fox was teed up by Thomson but his volley ended up nearer the corner pole, than the goal. Elliot was next up with a half volley that went wide after he was set up by Anderson, and he turned provider a minute later, flicking the ball on to Kevin Moon, but his shot flashed across goal.
A few mistakes late in the half almost let Falkirk back into the game. A misplaced pass allowed Jay Fulton a glimpse at goal but his snap shot dipped well over, then some hesitation in the Raith defence allowed the impressive Fulton to find Rory Loy in the box, who went down under a challenge. Loy however was booked for his apparent simulation, while Connor McGrandles also had his name taken for berating the referee over his decision.
The last action of the half saw Elliot producing a great piece of skill, nutmegging Will Vaulks on the bye-line and running into the box. Unfortunately for Rovers, his perfectly weighted cut-back was misread by Spence, who had taken a step back, and the chance was lost.
The second period should have started in exactly the same vein as the first, but either due to a great save, or a piece of luck, the game stayed at 1-0.
In what was arguably the games best move, Elliot pirouetted in the middle of the park, before evading a challenge and supplying the ball to Cardle, who sidestepped one tackle and hurdled another, before giving possession to Moon. His ball out wide found Anderson, whose deep cross found Spence unmarked at the back post, but from five yards out, his effort was somehow knocked over the bar by McGovern.
Raith almost paid for their profligacy two minutes later, when McGurn was called into action for the first time, denying Blair Alston from 20 yards with a fine stop, low to his right. From the resulting corner, Rory Loy’s effort was cleared off the line by Paul Watson, in what was by some distance, Falkirk’s best spell in the game.
The second half was much more open than the first, and while Spence had an effort ruled out for off-side, the Raith defence were having a far harder task than they did in the first. Falkirk’s middle five were at last starting to exert their numerical superiority, but Kevin Moon almost seems to thrive in those situations, and despite being outnumbered, no-one in the blue of Falkirk was getting a seconds peace when he was nearby.
With 25 minutes remaining, Falkirk boss Gary Holt decided to give Rory Loy some assistance up-front, by swapping Blair Alston with Rakish Bingham, a decision that brought a cacophony of boos from the away end.
The on-loan Wigan man did show a good touch almost immediately and was clearly something different for Paul Watson and Dougie Hill to contend with.
He almost brought parity immediately, racing onto a ball over the top, he delayed his shot a smidgen too long, allowing Hill the opportunity to slide in with a great block.
His next attempt was similar, with everything done correctly until the finish. Bringing the ball down, he shrugged off a challenge, before missing his shot completely, sending himself into 270 degree spin as he did so.
Raith were visibly retreating at this point, and while McGurn wasn’t being tested, it was evident that Falkirk were in the ascendency.
There then followed a flurry of substitutions. Gordon Smith replaced Spence after 76 minutes, while Lewis Vaughan was swapped in for Joe Cardle with less than ten minutes remaining. It was the Falkirk change that was sandwiched in between those two that would be the decisive one however, with Kris Faulds coming on for Jay Fulton.
With 5 minutes left, Raith had a great chance to make the game safe. Calum Elliot came away with the ball on the break, and looked up to find Vaughan all on his own on the left-hand side. His pass couldn’t be gathered by the youngster though, and the chance was lost.
In the last-minute, it looked like Falkirk had squandered their last chance, when a Bingham shot was blocked by Hill and the rebound was skewed over the bar from 15 yards by Will Vaulks.
There was still time for the late sucker punch however, and in the third minute of added on time, a McGurn goal kick found its way to Faulds in the middle of the park. His run forward was unimpeded, and his finish was unstoppable, as he found the corner of McGurn’s net from 25 yards. It was an attempt that you knew was heading in as soon as it left his boot.
That last-minute equaliser meant that Raith were unable to significantly close the gap on table topping Hamilton, who lost 1-0 at Alloa, but the mere fact that fans were disappointed at not catching the league leaders is an indication of how well the team has started the season. Twelve points from seven games is a more than respectable return, and bar a last gasp strike today, it could have been even more.
Despite the late blow, there’s still plenty of positives for Grant Murray and his players to take into next weeks away trip to the Bet Butler Stadium, to play Dumbarton.
Words: Shaughan McGuigan / Images: Tony Fimister
Photographs copyright Tony Fimister 2013
Davie Hancock spoke to Grant after the 1-1 draw with Falkirk