TEN MAN RAITH MADE TO PAY FOR MISSED CHANCES AS BAIRNS TAKE THE POINTS
Falkirk 1 Raith Rovers 0
Raith headed to the Falkirk Stadium on the back of a terrific week with three home wins in a row which had given them renewed hope of making the promotion play offs. A repeat of the fine win here back in December, would have seen Raith go just 4 points behind Falkirk with a game in hand. With QOS away at Hibs, could this have been a day that would have put the Rovers right back in the playoff hunt or effectively finish our season?
Rovers had been undefeated against Falkirk so far this season with 2 draws at Stark’s Park and winning away at Falkirk at the end of December, thanks to a late Ryan Conroy goal. If Raith could extend their sequence to four consecutive wins, it would have been their best run of wins in the league since the start of the 2010-11 season, when they started the campaign with four straight victories. The recent head-to-head record suggests it could be a tight affair, with five draws from the last ten league meetings. Falkirk having had three wins to Raith’s two in that time.
The Rovers made one change to the starting line up from last week’s win over Hibs with Barrie McKay coming in to replace Grant Anderson who dropped to the bench. Kevin Moon and Martin Scott also returned to the squad and took their place on the subs bench.
In the Falkirk team, David McCracken, the scorer of the winning goal over Cowdenbeath in midweek dropped out due to suspension. Almost a year to the day after he scored the winning goal for Raith against Rangers in the Ramsdens Cup Final, John Baird lined up
John Baird, almost a year to the day after his glorious strike in the Ramsdens Cup Final finds himself starting against his former team wearing the number 35 shirt.
Referee Don Robertson blew his whistle to start the match with Falkirk kicking off and Raith playing from left to right attacking towards the Falkirk support.
Falkirk started the brightest and had the bulk of the early possession without creating any opportunities to shoot at Davie McGurn’s goal. However in the 9th minute, the Bairns created the first chance of the game. Good build up play by Kerr & Biabi led to a shot by Kerr but was comfortably saved by McGurn in the Raith goal. John Baird then dribbled his way into the Rovers penalty area, but was well marshalled out by Jason Thomson. Shortly after that Botti Biabi shot over the bar from 15 yards out. Falkirk had bossed the first 15 minutes without really creating a clear cut chance.
It was the Rovers who then created the best chance of the game, Vaughan played through a neat ball to Stewart who beat the offside trap and he raced clear through one on one with the Falkirk keeper McDonald. Stewart tried to place the ball to the keeper’s far post, but the shot lacked pace and the keeper saved well.
This chance catapulted Raith right back into this game, Stewart almost went through on the keeper again, but for a last ditch block from Falkirk’s Grant. Ryan Conroy then played a bit of keepie uppie in the Falkirk box, setting himself up for a volley at goal, but it went over the bar. Jason Thomson then got involved in the attack and was fouled in the Falkirk box but the referee blew away his claims for a penalty kick. Then in the 25th minute Conroy, McKeown & McKay all prepared for a free kick 30 yards from goal, Conroy took it and his shot beat the Falkirk wall and was on target but his shot was held by McDonald.
Falkirk then came back into the game with an Alston cross that was picked up by Biabi but the Raith defence cleared the danger. John Baird then fired in a dangerous looking cross but the ball was easily claimed by David McGurn.
This was a game full of needle with lots of petty off the ball incidents the first major one when Mark Stewart was shoved to the ground off the ball in the Falkirk penalty area by Vaulks and went unnoticed by the officials. A few minutes later Biabi tangled with Craig Barr and led to a bit of afters. Biabi was spoken to by the referee and was fortunate not to be booked. Then Leahy tried to grab the ball from Jason Thomson’s hands for a throw in which led to another confrontation. You could feel the tension building as these duals continued throughout the game.
In the midst of this, there was a bit of football still being played and Falkirk again had most of the possession and a couple of half chances with Baird heading over from a Leahy cross and Biabi shot well over the bar and Mark Kerr firing well wide.
In the 44th minute the game changed completely. Fox and Leahy both went in aggressively for a 50/50 ball at the nearside touchline with Leahy coming off second best. The Falkirk player stayed down and his teammates immediately appealed for a sending off and no surprise that Don Robertson showed a straight red card to Liam Fox to reduce Raith to ten men. The sending off seemed harsh as it was a genuine 50/50 ball between two competitive players, but the ref had made his decision.
Falkirk had the bigger share of possession on the first half and more chances, but crucially Raith had the best chance of the half but unfortunately Stewart couldn’t convert the chance. A tough game had been made even tougher as Raith faced playing the next 45 minutes with only ten men.
HALF TIME: Falkirk 0 Raith Rovers 0
The second half began with Grant Murray making a change to reorganize the side, Jimmy Scott replacing Barrie McKay whom had an ineffectual first half. Scott took his place in central midfield and Vaughan moved into the right midfield position leaving Mark Stewart alone up front.
Rovers started the second half with a superb double chance as Martin Scott had a tremendous shot saved by the Falkirk keeper, the ball was played out by the defence but only as far as Ryan Conroy who sent a fierce shot which smacked off the crossbar.
For the next 15 minutes Raith traded chances with Falkirk and did not look like a team down to ten men. Ross Callachan was fouled 35 yards out giving Rovers a free kick. Conroy blasted it off the Falkirk defence, the ball fell to Martin Scott who dribbled straight through the packed Falkirk defence but was gathered by MacDonald in the Falkirk goal.
Falkirk then gained the momentum with Baird blasting the ball high over the bar after McGurn had parried a shot from Alston. Alex Cooper then replaced Tom Taiwo and he quickly influenced the game, with a shot saved by McGurn. Then in the 63rd minute Falkirk took the lead from a set piece. Alston took a free kick on the far side just outside the Raith 18 yard box, played the ball in and the ball was turned into the net at the near post by Will Vaulks. Raith were unfortunate to be behind but slack marking from a set piece cost them. Falkirk 1 Raith Rovers 0.
Ten man Raith then tried to get back into the game, Martin Scott had an ambitious shot from 40 yards out that went out for a Falkirk throw in. Rovers won the ball back though and continued to pressure Falkirk and Stewart had the ball in the Falkirk penalty area but just couldn’t get a shot away, the defence played the ball out but only as far as Ross Callachan who sent a rasper of a shot just past the post from 35 yards out.
The needle throughout this match continued as Biabi was all over Barr and the two players clashed and confronted each other and both players were booked. Biabi was substituted, clearly to avoid him being sent off as he was getting involved in all sorts of petty fouls. His replacement was ex Rovers loanee, David Smith.
Smith made an immediate impact on the game with his pace and in the 76th minute Falkirk had a great chance to seal their win. Falkirk broke away and with Alston in acres of space at the back post but the Rovers defence managed to clear.
Conroy then sent a free kick to the back post, Craig Bar won the header and sent the ball into the 6 yard box but MacDonald plucked the ball out of the air and the chance was gone.
In the 79th minute Grant Murray brought on Anderson to replace Conroy as Raith tried to get something out of this game with the Raith support chanting for the introduction of Christian Nade.
Alston then put in a horrible looking challenge on McKeown but was not booked by the referee. Martin Scott and Craig Sibbald then tussled for the ball and exchanged words and shoves. With the referee having sorted them out and play continuing, Vaulks then gave Scott an almighty shove in the back, again off the ball and unnoticed by the officials.
The game was now into the last ten minutes as Sibbald rifled a great low shot that beat McGurn but rattled off the post. Grant Murray then brought on Christian Nade for Lewis Vaughan with 5 minutes remaining and he almost made an immediate impact. McKeown backheeled the ball off Martin Scott who sent in a long diagonal cross into the box, Nade got his head to it and directed it toward goal but the header lacked power. A minute later Callachan sent a free kick into the Falkirk box, Nade again won the header but was judged to have fouled the keeper. Nade was clearly making an impact and again, Will Vaulks got involved in an off the ball clash, this time with Nade.
The game headed into injury time and John Baird, who had a quiet game, sent a stinging shot from just inside the box, but was palmed away by McGurn.
That was to be the last significant action of the game and the referee blew for full time.
FULL TIME: Falkirk 1 Raith Rovers 0
This was a brave effort from Raith, but ultimately playing with a man down for 45 minutes of the match made a real difference. Falkirk did have the edge on possession with 57% of the ball, and with chances, with 20 to Raith’s 8, but when it came to shots on target, Falkirk had 6 to Raith’s 5.
Falkirk gave the man of the match award to their number 11, Mark Kerr. For Raith, there were good performances from Barr, Stewart, Thomson & McGurn but not enough of the team were able to produce the form of the previous three games.
This defeat almost certainly ends any remaining hopes of Raith reaching the play offs as Rovers now need to use their last 5 games to plan ahead for next season.
Attendance 4,032 (away support 435)
©Eddie Doig 2015
Grant and Davie spoke after the game
Raith Rovers head to The Falkirk Stadium this Saturday, hoping to extend a winning run which has given themselves an outside chance of a play-off push.
Last weekend’s 2-1 win over Hibernian, was their third victory in a week, and leaves them seven points behind fourth placed Falkirk, who have played a game more. That extra match was played during the week, when Falkirk were 1-0 winners over Cowdenbeath, thanks to a goal from David McCracken, a result which saw them leapfrog Queen of the South in the quest to finish fourth.
Raith have had the upper hand in the meetings between the clubs this season, with one win and two draws from the three previous meetings. They played out a dour 0-0 draw at Stark’s Park back in September, but Rovers came out on top just after Christmas at the Falkirk Stadium, thanks to a goal from Ryan Conroy.
The two sides last meeting was on Valentines Day, and it was a far more open affair. John Baird put Falkirk ahead, before an own-goal from Will Vaulks brought the scores level on the hour mark. David McCracken put Falkirk in the lead again soon after, but a goal deep into stoppage time from Ross Callachan, earned Rovers a point.
If Raith can extend their sequence to four consecutive wins, it would be their best run of wins in the league since the start of the 2010-11 season, when they started the campaign with four straight victories.
The recent head-to-head record suggests it could be a tight affair, with five draws from the last ten league meetings. Falkirk have three wins to Raith’s two in that time.
Rovers also have a good record in games played on the April the fourth, with just one defeat from their last eleven fixtures on that date.
Saturday’s match referee will be Don Robertson.
Head-to-Head League Record at Falkirk:
Falkirk Wins: 42 | Raith Rovers Wins: 18 | Draws: 14
Falkirk Goals: 138 | Raith Rovers Goals: 85
Raith Rovers: L-L-L-W-W-W
Biggest Home Win: 03/11/1990 Division One Falkirk 7 Raith Rovers 1
Biggest Away Win: 22/12/1956 Division One Falkirk 0 Raith Rovers 4
Top Goalscorers In All Competitions:
Falkirk: Rory Loy 12 | Craig Sibbald 6 | Blair Alston 6
Raith Rovers: Ryan Conroy 9 | Mark Stewart 8 | Christian Nadé 7
Falkirk: 7/10 | Raith Rovers: 19/5 | Draw: 29/10