Xmas Cheers for the Rovers
Your intrepid match reporter set off nice and early for the game in Greenock with two fellow fans. I was equipped with a Xmas hat and had plotted turning on the lights on said when Raith were winning. I had kept quiet about it – not enough people wear hats – fearful I may be forcibly ejected from the car in darkest Glasgow…
As is currently the case for all Fifers escaping the Kingdom is more complex than normal and we were progressing well until we stopped… Due to issues beyond anyone’s control and aided by a nice bloke from the AA the three of us headed carefully home after an hour plus at the roadside the far side of Saline. Accordingly this match report is written via the BBC Alba coverage with apologies for this being the case.
Having begun the week with eleven injured players the Rovers line up saw fewer changes than most feared. Grant Anderson didn’t make it with Daly coming in, others were playing hurt most notably Davidson who’s nose was broken last week by the flailing arm of an unpunished Queen.
Morton have been on a good run and will have hoped to continue that form and started brightly. A McKee free kick from long range went wide then Forbes shot at Cuthbert when in a position to test the keeper more. Samuel pleasing for the Rovers fans who got to Greenock also fired at the Raith keeper appearing horrified at how easy he made it for the ex Accies man.
As the game settled down the wind was making play a little more difficult as both teams sough a breakthrough. The hosts had the ascendancy and a good ball out to the far side saw a man jink into the box, tackled the ball broke to a home man who’s shot Cuthbert did well to block away. Helpfully for the hosts it fell to Samuel in enough space to fire the ball low and hard past a Rover on the line. 1:0
Trying to respond to going behind Callachan shot after a Daly chest down from 18 yards but Adam in the home goal collected the ball easily. Kilday was rightly booked for a lunge at McCord’s feet but the free kick came to nothing. Denny Johnston has been dangerous all season for the Ton and he somehow managed a fresh air shot in the box which was a let off. After conceding a perhaps unfortunate goal things evened out in the 33rd minute when a corner led to a stramash in the Raith box. Cuthbert blocked an effort then a Rovers clearance pinged off the man in yellow in the 6 yard box thankfully falling to another in green and black who removed the danger.
In the 34th minute Toshney was replaced by Bates hinting that the clubs medical staff will be getting little time off over the festive period. Craigen who was playing out wide put in a dangerous cross which Adam claimed at the second attempt before Stewart who was played in by Daly did well shooting low on the angle but Adam saved low. The last action of the half saw a looping free kick drop dangerously from the night’s sky but Cuthbert rose and claimed it.
The Rovers pushed on straight from kickoff but the move broke down at the edge of the box. Pleasingly for the more fortunate travelling fans than I, their efforts on a dark cold December night were rewarded in the 47th minute. Daly flicked a header on near half way and Mark Stewart advanced then passed to the on running Ross Callachan who’s shot was half blocked by a diving Ton defender. Wrong footed Adam watched as the ball flew into the Morton goal for the equaliser.
Barr was booked for a foolish dive in the middle of the park. The game was more even and a Rover blocked a shot at the edge of the box before Bates did well hitting the bye line only to see his cross arrive in a box devoid of Rovers men. In the 63rd minute Stewart had a shot blocked then headed wide in rapid succession from a corner. McCord skied an effort then the ball hit a Ton man’s arm in front of the Rovers support. It was in the box but would have been a penalty that the home fans would have been more than grumpy about. In the 68th minute McCord was replaced by Matthews in the middle of the park.
Stewart was justified in being annoyed when an effort from him was deflected over by a home man but no corner awarded. That was his last contribution of note as Megginson replaced him in the 78th minute. As time wound down the game was still up for grabs and it was the fresh legs of Megginson which swung it for the Rovers. He did well getting into the box where he was felled by the leg of a Morton man who won’t be including the lunge in his highlight reel. With McCord off James Craigen gift wrapped all three points putting the penalty low to the keepers left in the 89th minute. That would have given me an excuse to turn on the lights on my Xmas hat but I didn’t sat as I was in my living room.
Morton had a late free kick which was fired into the wall then the second attempt blocked for a corner which Cuthbert claimed. The Rovers came out of the game with all three points despite having had real injury problems over the last couple of weeks. The win puts them back into fourth place and will have given Rovers fans around the world cause for extra celebration at this time of year. Before you ask I plan to take my Xmas hat to the Alloa game – the advantage I have of having no credibility is I have nothing to lose…
Best wishes to you all for the festive period from the match reporting team.
The full game is available until 25th December on iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06srn01/scottish-championship-201516-morton-v-raith-rovers
Raith Rovers feature in another live televised game this Friday night, when they take on one of Scottish football’s form side’s in Greenock Morton at Cappielow.
Jim Duffy’s team have won five of their last eight fixtures and have lost just once in the same spell, to St. Johnstone in the League Cup back in October. They also boast a formidable home record, where they’ve lost just once all season, a 4-0 defeat to Rangers in September. Since then, they’ve been unbeaten in their last six home Championship matches, winning their last three without conceding a goal. Indeed, if Raith are to win on Friday night, they’ll need to breach one of the best home defences in the division, with only Falkirk conceding fewer goals at home this term.
That excellent defensive record has helped lift Morton to fourth in the table, and while no other side in the top-six has scored fewer goals than Duffy’s side, they do have one of the divisions most prolific goal-scorers in Denny Johnstone, with the on-loan forward scoring nine times to date.
A win for Raith would see them leapfrog their opponents in the table, with the two sides currently seperated only by goal-difference.
Raith came out on top in the first meeting between the sides this season, with a last-gasp Jason Thomson goal earning Rovers all three points with a 2-1 win at Stark’s Park in October. That sustained a fine record for Rovers against Morton, with the Kirkcaldy men last tasting defeat against the Ton in January 2013, when Michael Tidser scored the only goal in a 1-0 score-line.
As such, Raith Rovers recent record in this fixture stands at five wins and two draws from the last ten league meetings.
Friday night’s match referee will be John McKendrick.
Head-to-Head League Record at Cappielow:
Morton Wins: 32 | Raith Rovers Wins: 14 | Draws: 12
Morton Goals: 111 | Raith Rovers Goals: 55
Raith Rovers: L-L-D-D-W-D
Morton: Denny Johnstone 9 | Ross Forbes 3 | Stef McCluskey 3 | Alec Samuel 3 | Jon Scullion 3
Raith Rovers: Mark Stewart 6 | Kyle Benedictus 3 | Grant Anderson 3 | James Craigen 3
Morton: 5/4 | Raith Rovers: 21/10 | Draw: 13/5