Late winner nets first away win for Raith
A late winner from Grant Anderson gave Raith their first away points of the season with victory at Love Street. Anderson flicked home Jon Daly’s header in the 87th minute for a 2-1 win, after goals from James Craigen and the Buddies’ Lawrence Shankland had seen the teams go in level at the half.
Raith were well on top in a first half lit up by James Craigen’s superb early opener, with St Mirren only coming to life in the minutes before half-time, and getting an unlikely equaliser following a clinical finish from Shankland. Much like last year’s late-season away victory against Falkirk at Brockville, Raith had to sustain much pressure from the home side in the second-half with St Mirren creating several chances, before Raith escaped for their late winner.
This evening renewed a rivalry last kindled ten years previously. While Raith’s visits to Love Street during the Jimmy Nicholl era were captivating high-quality affairs, Raith’s last goal away against St Mirren dates back to May 2004 (the scorer? Celta Vigo loanee Sebastian Ferrero). Manager Ray McKinnon, wearing a dark-blue and white striped tie, left Craig Wighton on the bench, with Mark Stewart recalled seeking to stretch St Mirren’s two sitting midfielders. A 4-4-2 formation had a familiar look, with McCord Davidson Anderson and Craigen looking a settled midfield line-up. Much would turn upon the outcome of Jon Daly’s physical duel with centre-half Andy Webster – a battle between two Goliaths if ever there was one.
For St Mirren, last season’s relegation still hangs over a squad well into this season’s Championship campaign. An opening-day loss at Ibrox was followed by dropped points to Dumbarton, Livingston and derby rivals Morton. Familiar Scottish footballing faces such as captain Jim Goodwin, former Aberdeen keeper Jamie Langfield, and substantial defender Andy Webster have been bolstered this season by some eye-catching signings – not least New Zealand international twenty-one year old Cameron Howieson, released by Burnley last season.
Both sides started reasonably brightly – McCord swinging in an early Raith corner, while the Buddies’ Howieson looked to get involved on the home side’s left flank, cutting inside at every opportunity.
St Mirren’s captain Jim Goodwin, from whom controversy has never been far, clashed early with Ian Davidson, leading with his shoulder and with a hefty follow-through. While referee Anderson awarded a free-kick, the impact on the visitors deserved greater punishment. Davidson’s scowl when leaving the pitch for treatment suggested that particular midfield battle was in its early stages; however, the Raith man would be substituted later in the half, unable to shake of the effects of the challenge.
On ten minutes, a goal for the away support to cherish. Webster nodded a deep free-kick clear but only as far as Craigen; the Raith midfielder took a step to his right before curling a lovely drive over Langfield. The home keeper looked to have misjudged the shot, while Craigen judged it perfectly. The net bulged as Craigen’s chip clipped the bar on its way in; joy for the Raith man, and furious repercussions within the St Mirren rearguard and the home support.
Within moments, Raith almost conceded an equaliser. Gallagher swept down the right, cut an inviting ball back for Mallan, who steadied himself before lashing a shot toward goal – Thomson slid in with a heroic block.
With seventeen minutes gone, a lovely turn by the Raith captain nearly created a second – Toshney bought down a high ball, beat his man, and slipped a ball forward, offering Thomson the chance to turn; Daly was crowded out and couldn’t get power into his header. Moments later, McCord crossed with Stewart’s angled glancing header pushed wide by Langfield. Benedictus just failed to connect with another inviting McCord centre. With twenty minutes gone, Raith were deservedly a goal up, and pushing for more.
The home crowd were becoming restless – some misplaced passing and two woeful clearances from Langfield contributed to the Paisley support’s disquiet. Substitute Ross Matthews – introduced for Davidson – performed well in his first skirmishes with the more streetwise home midfield.
Another Thomson cross slipped agonisingly between Langfield and his defences – both McCord and Daly sliding in but unable to connect. St Mirren’s defence was slow to close Thomson down, and slow to defend the captain’s cross. Another great chance had gone begging.
With their first real opportunity since moments after Raith’s goal, Gallagher flashed a header straight at Cuthbert following a Carswell cross. Shankland was released moments later with a smart ball from Goodwin; Toshney stuck in a good leg to clear. Perhaps anticipating a fiery home dressing-room at the break, St Mirren upped their tempo before half-time from their sluggish opening to the half, with much more purpose and vigour through the midfield.
Just before half-time, an equaliser. Watson collected a wide ball from deep, cut inside McKeown and freed Shankland in the inside right channel – the striker dashed beyond Toshney to slide a shot across Cuthbert into his right-hand corner. While on balance Raith had had by far the better of the first half, five minutes of quality and a clinical finish had brought the home side back on terms.
With Raith disappointed to be level at the half, the second half started well. A lovely move out from back saw Craigen exchanging passes with Toshney and McCord, and racing down the flank to collect a return ball marauding over half-way, only narrowly failing to play in Stewart between Webster and Watson. Daly sent a header into Langfield’s grateful grasp.
St Mirren’s undoubted quality began to tell over the hour, and the Buddies enjoyed by far their best spell of the match. Shankland’s shot was blocked by Benedictus, following a neat interchange between Howieson and Carswell. Cuthbert pulled off a fine save to deny another Shankland effort, curled in from distance, Mallan combining with Carswell to create the room for the shot. Raith’s midfield were struggling with the instinctive pass-and-move from St Mirren’s own attack.
From a corner on the hour-mark, Webster found room to shoot in cramped penalty box, again a Raith leg deflected the goal-bound effort to safety. Raith’s defensive were showing signs of pressure – Benedictus shinning a clearance out for corner from a position of safety.
As the match moved into its final quarter, another succession of St Mirren chances. Gallagher dispossessed Benedictus on the touchline with great tenacity; his cross was belted high into the stand by Toshney retreating at full steam. Soon after, full-back Watson’s great cross was headed clear; the St Mirren man opted to cut inside on his next sortie, alarm bells ringing in the Raith trenches.
On sixty-seven minutes, Goodwin won a competitive battle; Gallagher worked the ball inside to Howieson who swept a left-footed curler skimming past Cuthbert’s far post. A corner moments later was headed off the Raith line by McCord with Cuthbert caught in the congested skies around the Raith goal.
St Mirren’s next chance came from their gifted New Zealander – Howieson’s instant control of a bouncing ball set Kelly free; Thomson earning yellow for a flying challenge which cut the attack off in its prime.
While the home crowd were rightly critical of their charges at the half, St Mirren had responded with a half-hour spell of real quality, creating chance after chance, and generating quick pacy possession down both flanks and through the middle. Having said that, Raith’s defensive platform stood firm; while the massed ranks were pounded, reinforcements and weight of numbers had kept the Raith goal intact; one breach would arguably have led to more, but with St Mirren’s artillery unable to strike a direct hit, slowly the pressure eased, Raith beginning to launch raids of their own, testing the strength of the home side’s barricades leading up to full-time.
With ten minutes to go, Webster clattered Daly – not for the first time, these two heavyweights clashed with referee Anderson having to pick up the pieces. Craigen’s shot flew high across Langfield’s radar and to safety.
The home side’s last chances came at 1-1 with ten minutes to go; firstly McKeown let Watson in behind him, the full-back’s delightfully weighted drive across the six yard box was nicked off Gallagher’s toe by Toshney with a goal-saving intervention. With the crowd still on their feet, Carswell shot from distance through a forest of legs – a deflection would have sent Cuthbert scrambling, however the shot flew true but wide.
On 83 minutes, substitute Wighton nipped ahead of his marker to flick an Anderson cross just wide. A goal would have required a header of genuine quality – the Raith sub’s effort falling only inches away from an immediate impact. Moments before, the pressure on the home side had told – Goodwin earning himself deserved sanction for a high shoulder on Anderson, and an inexcusable outburst at both linesman and referee. Referee Anderson, braving the hot blast of invective, showed yellow.
With three minutes left, a Raith winner. While the second half was notable for some dashing and instinctive build-up play, the three points were won with a goal of simplicity and strength. McKeown’s howitzer from the touchline fell to Daly’s head – the muscular Raith striker winning his crucial battle with Webster. Anderson showed strength to secure the area in front of Langfield, touching home to put Raith into an unassailable lead.
Having spent their energy over the hour mark when truly on top, St Mirren were unable to respond to Raith’s late winner. While long balls were launched deep at the Raith defence, the Kirkcaldy beachhead remained resolute, the defensive fulcrum of Benedictus and Toshney repelling all incoming fire. Referee Anderson’s final whistle was met with a chorus of boos from the home support and huge cheers from the travelling faithful. The away support – who had sung and chanted for long spells while Raith’s defence came under sustained pressure – were a real twelfth man in a second half of adversity for Ray McKinnon’s men.
From a Raith perspective, despite being second best for long spells in the second half, and notwithstanding the missed chances in the first period, this was a battle to be won with strength both in attack and defence. St Mirren’s woes continue, rooted in the lower half of the table; and Raith earn a first away win of the season, heading to Parkhead on Cup duty this mid-week with a fine away win under their belts.
© Eddie Doig
Highlights for this match are available in the UK from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/scotland/34297569
The full game is also available until 25th September on iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06chpw7/scottish-championship-201516-st-mirren-v-raith-rovers
Ray spoke to RaithTV after the game
After sustaining their 100% home record against Queen of the South last weekend, Raith Rovers head to Paisley on Friday evening, looking to get their first point on their travels, against Ian Murray’s St. Mirren.
It was a weekend of contrasting fortunes for these two sides last Saturday. While Kyle Benedictus’ third goal of the season was enough to see Raith take all three points against the Doonhamers, St. Mirren let a two goal lead slip at home to Falkirk, eventually losing 3-2 after a last minute goal from John Baird. The result left St. Mirren without a home win in the Championship this season.
Ian Murray took charge of a young Buddies side in the summer, after they were relegated from the top-tier, but he added experience to the squad before and after the close of the transfer window.
Former Motherwell midfielder, Stuart Carswell joined fairly early in pre-season, as did fellow midfielder Scott Agnew from Dumbarton, who is currently the team’s top goalscorer with four strikes to his name. Murray also brought in right-back Keith Watson from Dundee United, goalkeeper Jamie Langfield, and centre-half, Andy Webster after he left Coventry City.
It’s eleven seasons since these two sides shared the same division, and ten years since they last played each other in a competitive fixture. Raith’s last win over the Paisley side was a 2-0 victory back in January 2005, one of only three games the Kirkcaldy side won that season, as they were relegated to the third tier. St. Mirren would go onto finish second in that season’s First Division, behind runaway champions, Falkirk.
If Raith Rovers avoid defeat on Friday it would lift the club at least temporarily into third place in the table, while a victory for the home side would see them move up to seventh.
The Paisley side have the edge over Rovers in the most recent meetings, with five wins from the last ten games, compared to Rovers three.
Friday evening’s match referee will be Euan Anderson.
Head-to-Head League Record in Paisley:
St. Mirren Wins: 29 | Raith Rovers Wins: 12
St. Mirren Goals: 108 | Raith Rovers Goals: 67
St. Mirren: W-D-L-D-W-L | Raith Rovers: L-W-W-L-L-W
St. Mirren: Scott Agnew 4, Steven Mallan 2, Steven Thompson 2
Raith Rovers: Kyle Benedictus 3, Mark Stewart 2, Lewis Vaughan 2
- St. Mirren: 10/11 | Raith Rovers: 3/1 | Draw: 13/5