Falkirk Fightback Leaves Raith Empty Handed
It may have been the start of a new month but there was no change in Raith’s fortunes today as they went down 4-2 to a Falkirk side who rallied well after trailing 2-1 at the interval.
Raith made two changes from the midweek draw with Alloa. Kevin Moon dropped out through injury and was replaced by Liam Fox,while Gordon Smith was dropped to the bench, allowing Lewis Vaughan to partner John Baird up-front.
Falkirk manager Gary Holt had suggested beforehand that injuries would force him into changes and he started with what, at first glance, appeared to be a 3-4-3, with Rory Loy and the giant-like Mark Beck up front, with Philip Roberts given licence to roam behind them.
Falkirk’s attacking line-up appeared to unsettle Raith in the early stages and, with Roberts looking lively down the left-hand side in the opening few minutes, initial impressions were that the Raith back-four were going to have their hands full.
Unsurprisingly then, the first chance was created by the away side but Rory Loy’s 22-yard snapshot was easily held by Robinson in the Raith goals.
Raith were eager to attack too, however, and none more so than Jason Thomson, who looked to get forward at every opportunity in the opening stages. An early forray forward ended up with a space opening up in front of him but he stabbed his shot wide of Michael McGovern’s post.
Thomson was, again, the architect of Raith’s attack after 13 minutes, picking out Grant Anderson, whose inviting ball into the box found no Raith takers and was ushered out of play by Vaulks.
Five minutes later, Raith found themselves a goal behind, after an untidy goal from a Mark Millar corner. His set-piece was won in the air by Beck, who nodded it down to Loy. He attempted to turn it in with his head but, despite a number of defenders between him and the goal, their furious attempts to clear only succeeded in the ball rebounding back over the line via Dougie Hill.
Despite the set-back, Rovers seemed undaunted and responded almost immediately. A Joe Cardle free-kick from wide on the right found Lewis Vaughan and his downward header looked goal-bound after taking a deflection but McGovern managed to stop it with his foot.
McGovern also denied Rovers a minute later, when he smothered at the feet of Baird, after a great run-and-cross from Thomson.
Time-and-time again, Raith were being presented with opportunities down the right flank and it was no surprise when they equalised from that area in the 23rd minute. Anderson was the supplier, crossing a great ball to the back post for John Baird, who powered in a header from close range.
The match tilted Raith’s way even further in the 27th minute when Anderson went down after a challenge from Millar. The Falkirk players felt Millar had played the ball first but Callum Booth stepped up to take the penalty, sending it straight down the middle as McGovern dived to his left.
Despite Rovers having the bit between their teeth, they were almost pegged back straight away when Vaulks fired a volley just past the post from inside the box.
Gary Holt then made a tactical change after just 38 minutes, replacing Joe Chalmers, who had clearly been struggling to deal with the potency of Raith’s attacks, with Luke Leahy.
Lee Robinson was then forced into a good save from a Beck header and, at the other end, the final action of the half saw McGovern deny Baird at the back post, after a well-worked move involving Vaughan and Fox.
The second half was had barely started when Falkirk got themselves level and again it was poor defending that led to the goal. A quick throw in was flicked on by Beck and David McCracken was afforded all the time he needed to prod the ball home from close range.
The Falkirk manager’s change had certainly had the desired effect and Rovers looked far less dangerous down the right, now that Chalmers had been removed from the fray. Vaulks was starting to create openings on the other flank, whist Loy was proving a constant thorn to the Raith defence.
Roberts was the next to try his luck after 55 minutes, running half the length of the park after a Raith attack broke down, before sending his shot just past the right-hand post.
Two minutes later, Roberts was the creator, teeing up Leahy, but his volley was excellently kept out by Robinson who gathered it at the second attempt.
With the match looking like it could very well hinge on the next goal, there was dismay amongst the home fans as Falkirk moved ahead in the 70th minute.
Lewis Vaughan was in possession in the Falkirk half but, after pirouetting away from one challenge, he lost the ball a moment later. Within seconds, the ball was being played along the Raith penalty area and Millar teed up Loy, who controlled the pass and sent a shot crashing past Robinson.
A minute later, Vaughan made way for Gordon Smith.
The confidence that Raith appeared to have in abundance in the first period had visibly ebbed from the players as the third goal went in and Falkirk almost added a fourth, when Kingsley sent a shot just past.
With 8 minutes remaining, Grant Murray made his second change, replacing Joe Cardle with Greig Spence.
There would be no grandstand finish. however, as Falkirk wrapped up all three points with five minutes remaining.
Grant Anderson was penalised for hand-ball just outside the box and Mark Millar stepped up to sweep the ball over the wall and beyond Robinson to make the score 4-2 to the Bairns.
Callachan came close in the closing stages with a 22-yard drive, whilst Baird was even closer from a similar range, forcing McGovern into a good save, just before the full-time whistle.
With eleven goals scored in their last five games, it appears that finding the net is no longer a problem for this Raith side. However, those matches have also seen fourteen conceded, an issue that Grant Murray and his players will have to address, and quickly, if they are to halt the current malaise.
Words: Shaughan McGuigan Pictures: Tony Fimister
Photographs copyright Tony Fimister 2014
Davie spoke to Grant after the match