Raith Run Champions Close
Raith Rovers were beaten 2-1 at Tynecastle by champions Hearts yesterday afternoon. On a gloriously sun-kissed afternoon, Rovers’ efforts went unrewarded, extending their losing run to four matches in the process.
Manager Grant Murray altered his line-up following the heavy loss at Ibrox last week, with Barry McKay and Ross Callachan replacing Martin Scott and Grant Anderson. Calum Elliot started up front against his former club, in place of Lewis Vaughan.
The opening minutes were played out at a leisurely pace with neither goalkeeper extended, although Kevin Cuthbert in the Rovers goal had to carefully pluck a floated McHattie cross from under his crossbar after five minutes. Shortly afterwards, a corner found the head of Hearts captain Danny Wilson’s but the defender’s effort cleared the crossbar.
With little to play for except halting losing streaks – like Rovers, Hearts haven’t fared well lately, their defeat against Hibs last week coming on the back of another loss, against Rangers – the pace of the game was relatively slow and the first shot at goal took fifteen minutes, although Kenny Anderson’s effort from 25 yards after quarter of an hour dribbled well wide of Cuthbert’s goal. Team-mate El-Hassnaoui fared no better when attempting a shot from a similar position five minutes later, his shot scuffed past the post.
Rovers then showed attacking intent for the first time, a looping Elliot header forcing a comfortable save from Hearts keeper Gallacher, before McKay’s floated free-kick met the head of Barr, but the defender’s knock-down evaded any of his lurking team-mates inside the box.
With twenty minutes played, referee Willie Collum incurred the wrath of the home fans when he waved away claims for a penalty kick when Barr tackled Sow, although it would have been a soft award as the Rovers defender appeared to cleanly play the ball. Five minutes later it was the Rovers fans on their feet, when a Thompson cut-back from the by-line fell invitingly for Elliot, but the Rovers striker blazed his shot high over the bar from a promising position.
The home side then came close to opening the scoring, with only a magnificent challenge by Barr followed by a blocking save by Cuthbert denying the Gorgie side. However, with 35 minutes on the clock, the home side broke the deadlock. Sam Nicholson picked the ball up outside the box, and dribbled across the front of the Rovers defence, seeking an opening. The defenders backed off the young midfielder, who had no hesitation in sweeping a low left-foot shot beyond Cuthbert into the corner of the net from twelve yards out.
Five minutes later, Rovers had a chance to equalise, but Gallacher was the equal of Ryan Conroy’s sweetly struck free-kick, diving to push the ball away from just inside his left-hand post. Shortly afterwards, the same player had another chance, when Mark Stewart’s cross fell invitingly for the winger, although he scooped his shot over the top from eight yards out.
The Rovers defence clearly hadn’t learned their lesson from the goal, as, with half-time approaching, Nicholson was once again afforded acres of space on the edge of the box, although this time his shot was hit straight at Cuthbert, who gathered with ease. A Conroy corner was then met by Paul Watson, although he couldn’t direct his header through the mass of bodies between him and the goal and the chance was cleared.
Like the opening exchanges of the first half, the second period started tentatively, although ten minutes in Hearts doubled their advantage. Good work down the right flank by Callum Paterson led to the ball eventually landing at the feet of El-Hassnaoui, and the forward drilled a low shot into the net from 18 yards with aplomb.
At this point, Hearts’ tails were up, and, with over half an hour to play, Rovers were in danger of being on the wrong end of a heavy scoreline given how freely Robbie Neilson’s men have plundered goals this season. The fans, clearly buoyed by Hibs’ cup loss earlier in the day, roared their team on, and Grant Murray made his first change, Kevin Moon replaced by Liam Fox.
McHattie had a close-range shot smothered by Cuthbert, before Rovers hauled themselves back into the match with a well-worked goal with 65 minutes played. McKay picked up a loose ball inside his own half, and darted forward, evading challenges before finding Elliot in space out on the left wing. The Rovers striker cut inside Paterson, and lashed a superb shot past Gallacher at his near post.
Five minutes later another dangerous free-kick by Conroy picked out Watson lurking at the far post, but the defender’s header lacked conviction and was cleared. Former Rovers player Jamie Walker then almost extended Hearts’ lead with a cross-cum-shot from a corner kick which evaded everyone in the box and rebounded off the far post to safety.
With ten minutes remaining, Murray brought on Christian Nade for Stewart to greet cheers throughout the stadium – the big Frenchman is clearly still a favourite in Gorgie. However, it was the other former Jambo frontman, Elliot, who came closest to scoring a second goal for Rovers, his first-time shot from outside the box bringing a smart save from Gallacher, who tipped the ball over the bar.
Murray’s last throw of the dice was to send on Lewis Vaughan for the tiring McKay, and the substitution almost paid immediate dividends when the youngster’s through pass sent Nade clear, only for a late linesman’s flag to halt the striker as he bore down on goal.
In injury time, Ross Callachan found space deep inside the Hears half, but his rushed shot was blasted harmlessly over the bar.
That proved to be the final chance of the game, before Collum’s whistle signalled the end of what had been a relatively entertaining ninety minutes.
Rovers would be disappointed that the defeat means all four league encounters with the runaway champions were lost during this campaign. However, for long spells of this contest they matched their opponents, and with a little more creativity and composure in the final third could have taken something from the match.
Livingston arrive at Stark’s Park next weekend, and Rovers will be looking for more tangible reward from their final home league match of this season.
Welcome to Tyncastle Stadium, it's 12 degrees and the pitch is basked in sunshine.
This week we said farewell to Turbull Hutton who passed away on the fifth of April.
We also remember Ronnie Coyle who passed away four years ago on the 12th of April.
Congratulations to Ross Callachan who has extended his contract until the summer of 2017, Ross will play his 108th game for the Rovers today.
There are over one hundred Fifers going home with sunburn tonight as they take in the afternoon sun.
Hearts kick off to our right and are forced back into their own half.
Rovers playing in the home kit.
McHattie has the first shot on goal, a soft effort that was easily gathered by Cuthbert.
Callachan has been down to Len Dows this week, a new hairdoo to celebrate his new contract.
Wilson's glancing header go over from a corner.
Rovers midfield playing well inside the Hearts half.
Gomis gives Thomson a hard time on the far side.
A well worked move from Hearts puts El Hasnaoui through, alas for him Thomson and Cuthbert had other ideas.
Thomson crosses to Elliot whose looping header is clutched by Gallagher.
Kenny Anderson sees his attempt at goal fail as his left footer is sliced wide.
Excellent defending by McKeowan, playing to the whistle despite the attention of Sow.
El Hasnaoui succumbed to gravity in the box but Mr Collum waived away cries for a penalty.
Callum Elliot shoots over from the edge of the area.
The report for the first quarter is of an even encounter.
Conroy flights over a corner which came off Elliot and out for a bye.
Robust defending by the Rovers sees El Hasnaoui go down injured in the box.
Excellent sportsmanship shown byboth teams, returning the ball after minor injuries.
Nicholson and McKeowan visit the hoarding as they go in for a tackle.
Nicholson from 20 yards hits the ball low and in at the back post.
Sow hits the ball wide from 20 yards.
Bert changes play with McKay and Conroy swapping wings.
Conroy hits a 25 yard free kick low to Gallagher's left post forcing a diving save.
First Elliot is denied by Gallagher, then Conroy chips the rebound just over the bar.
Thomson heads from a corner but couldn't get direction and the ball is cleared.
El Hasnaoui tried to bullet the ball home but was blocked by the diving Thomson.
Early second half play with Elliot doing well, skipping past Wilson to win a throw, Thomson hitting the ball just over with the next play.
No half time substitutes.
Gomis sent in a tempting ball to El Hasnaoui but eve with his large frame, couldn't get to the ball.
Rovers with a spell of pressure, alas the final ball going wide twice.
Nicholson tormented the Rovers defence, the ball finally fell to El Hasnaoui whose low shot from 23 yards went in at the far post.
Kenny Anderson off, McKirdy on.
Hearts have got more gears in them but the party atmosphere is spreading onto the field.
Sow released McHattie his shot bizarrely being saved by Cuthbert going to ground and sitting on the ball, preventing it going under him.
Elliot grabs a goal for rovers with a n effort from 12 yards.
Rovers fa going back over the bridge with more than just sunburn.
Nicholson and Sow off, Oliver and Keatings on.
Stewart and Elliot double teamed Gallagher from a pass back the latter getting a touch but the ball rebounded up field.
Jamie Walker from a short corner hits the back post from 25 yards.
Craig Barr steadfast in defence seeing off several Hearts players much to the annoyance of the home support.
Oliver's shot is deflected for a corner by Cuthbert.
Walker sees a shot going wide from another short corner.
Elliot has his routine interview with the referee.
McKay off, Vaughan on.
Vaughan sent Nade through but was marginally offside.
Watson challenges Gallagher for a cross ball, the keeper clears.
+2 Callachan fires over from 30 yards.
Heart of Midlothian.
Gallagher, Paterson, McHattie, Wilson, Ozturk, Gomis, Walker, El Hasnaoui, Nicholson, Sow, Anderson.
Subs, Hamilton, Oliver, Keatings, McKay, Zeefuik, McGhee, McKirdy.
Cuthbert, Thomson, Watson, Moon, Stewart, Elliot, Callachan, Conroy, McKay, McKeowan, Barr.
Subs, McGurn, Hill, Fox, Anderson, Scott, Vaughan, Nade.
Raith Rovers face their second consecutive away match this weekend, and it’s a trip to Tynecastle, to face the the runaway Championship winners, Heart of Midlothian.
Robbie Neilson’s side have a formidable home record, with just four points dropped from 16 fixtures in Gorgie this season. They’ve scored 53 goals in the process, and only conceding nine, in a relentless campaign that has seen most opponents swept aside, both home and away.
Their only home loss this season was back in January, in a see-saw battle with Falkirk who won 3-2, after a late winner from Craig Sibbald.
Hearts have won all three encounters with Raith Rovers this season, and the first was the most convincing, with the Jambos easing to a 4-0 win at Stark’s Park back in August. The second meeting, this time at Tynecastle, was a tighter affair, and was settled by an Alim Ozturk goal after just five minutes.
The most recent fixture between the two was just last month, and saw Kevin McHattie put Hearts into the lead just before the half-hour mark. However, a Craig Barr header restored parity before the interval, however, after Christian Nadé was dismissed in the second period, Hearts went on to seal a late victory, with goals from Jamie Walker and Billy King cementing a 3-1 win.
If Hearts can win on Saturday, it’ll be the first time they’ve managed a clean sweep over Raith Rovers in the league since the 1981-82 season. Back then, the 14 team First Division saw each side play each other just three times, and Hearts would finish the campaign in third place, just one point behind Kilmarnock, who were promoted, and 11 behind champions Motherwell. Raith on the other hand finished twelfth, just one place above relegated East Stirlingshire, and bottom of the table Queen of the South.
The Midlothian club’s dominance over Raith this season is reflected in the most recent head-to-head record, with Hearts unbeaten against Rovers in 15 league and cup matches. Raith’s last win over Hearts was a 1-0 victory at Tynecastle on the 18th of December 1993, thanks to a Davie Sinclair strike after 25 minutes.
The match referee this weekend will be William Collum.
Head-to-Head League Record at Tynecastle:
Heart of Midlothian Wins: 32 | Raith Rovers Wins: 5 | Draws: 8
Heart of Midlothian Goals: 95 | Raith Rovers Goals: 37
Heart of Midlothian: W-W-W-L-W-L
Raith Rovers: W-W-W-L-L-L
Biggest Home Win:
06/09/1890 Scottish Cup First Round: Heart of Midlothian 7 Raith Rovers 2
28/04/1956 First Division: Heart of Midlothian 7 Raith Rovers 2
Biggest Away Win:
04/03/1968 First Division: Heart of Midlothian 0 Raith Rovers 2
Top Goalscorers in All Competitions:
Heart of Midlothian: Osman Sow 12 | Jamie Walker and James Keatings, both 11
Raith Rovers: Mark Stewart and Ryan Conroy, both 9 | Christian Nadé 7
Heart of Midlothian: 1/4 | Raith Rovers: 11/1 | Draw: 5/1