Raith Draw Blank In Cappielow Defeat
Raith Rovers stuttering form continued at Cappielow today, with a frustrating 1-0 defeat to Greenock Morton. The loss kept them in fourth place in the table, albeit with teams around them having a game in hand.
Raith Rovers were unchanged from last weekend’s 3-2 win over Dumbarton, which meant another up-top combination of Declan McManus and Rudi Skacel, whilst on-loan Liam Smith, so impressive on his debut against the Sons, again deputised for the injured Jason Thomson.
Morton boss, Jim Duffy fielded former Raith stopper Andy McNeil between the posts, while recent acquisition Gavin Gunning took his place in the centre of defence, after impressing since signing a fortnight ago.
Ex-Cowdenbeath and Queen of the South midfielder Andy Murdoch, whom Duffy signed in midweek, had to make do with a place on the bench.
Rovers started off in the same manner as they did last week, almost immediately catching their opponent on the hop, creating a good goal scoring chance in the first minute.
Ross Callachan was slipped through excellently by McManus 30-yards from goal, and while he initially seemed to have the beating of Michael Doyle for pace, a fine sliding challenge from the right-back denied the midfielder as he shaped to shoot inside the area.
It was no pre-cursor of what was to follow though, as while the early part of the match was frenetic, neither side could conjure up a chance in a game which was higgledy-piggledy, with both teams trying to get the ball forward quickly.
With the protagonists featuring pacey forwards, McManus for Raith and Jai Quitongo for the Ton, that made sense, but it made for a harum-scarum opening with composure in short supply, and neither side settling into a rhythm.
However, that all changed in the 18th minute, when Morton took the lead with the game’s first real shot at goal.
Callachan fouled Quitongo 25-yards from goal, and from the right of centre, Ross Forbes curled a wonderful free-kick up and over the wall and beyond Kevin Cuthbert’s despairing dive.
Raith attempted to respond immediately, and from a corner-kick, Barr’s delivery to the back-post was returned into the middle of the penalty box via Jean-Yves M’Voto’s forehead, only for McManus to volley over the bar.
The goal had imbued Morton with a greater sense of purpose, and a Quitongo cross-come-shot was headed off the line, before the visitors had a huge let-off in the 22nd minute, as a stramash in the six-yard-box was eventually cleared as Doyle attempted to prod home from close range.
There was absolutely no respite though, with Cuthbert having to produce two good stops within a minute, firstly from Gary Oliver, then from Mark Russell, as the Greenock club tightened the screw.
Morton come close again, when a raking cross-field pass from Forbes found Oliver in bags of space, but after cutting inside from the left-hand side of the box, he blazed over from 12-yards out.
The home side had the bit between their teeth, but Rovers were still creating moments, albeit fleeting ones that weren’t being capitalised on.
With ten minutes of the half left, Bobby Barr skipped down the right, and while his cross to the near post was hacked away from McManus’ toe, Iain Davidson probably should have done better with a half volley from the edge of the area, which he thumped over the crossbar.
Two minutes later, Morton’s plans were rocked, when Gunning was forced off on a stretcher, after seeming to pull something whilst turning.
With no direct replacement on the bench, Andy Murdoch replaced the stricken Gunning, with Doyle moving to centre-half. Jamie McDonagh moved to right-back, whilst the freshly introduced Murdoch made his debut at right-midfield.
With the home side now featuring a somewhat lopsided look, the hope from a Raith perspective was that they could exploit the changes in the second period.
There were no changes in personnel at the interval, although Callachan re-emerged with a bandage wrapped round his head, giving him the faint air of a late 70’s era tennis player.
The game did start in an encouraging manner for the visitors, with Callachan’s shot blocked, while from the corner, Jean-Yves M’Voto’s header met the ball full-pelt, but it was sent a yard or two wide.
Back came Morton though, and after good keep-ball on the edge of the box from Quitongo, who had kept the Raith defence almost single-handedly tied up, the ball eventually fell to Oliver. Despite the narrow angle, Cuthbert was forced to pull off a fine save to deny his rasping, angled finish.
Rovers had certainly been better since the interval, and good work by McManus and Barr eventually saw Smith launch an excellent cross to McManus, but from close range, albeit tightly marked, the ex-Morton man headed over the bar.
That chance had been the exception rather than the norm though, with Gary Locke’s men struggling to create too many chances from open-play, whilst an abundance of corner kicks and free-kicks were wasted or spurned.
With that presumably at the forefront of his thinking, Locke made his first change after an hour, replacing Skacel with Mark Stewart.
Jordan Thomson then replaced the limping Liam Smith, while Craig Johnston came on for Scott Roberts. The injury to Smith forced Davidson to right-back, with Thompson heading to the middle.
The swaps weren’t providing too much inspiration however, although Rovers really should have restored parity with 20 minutes left.
Davidson sent a fine pass into the left-corner to Barr, and his cut-back found McManus inside the area, but with the ball just ahead of him, he couldn’t quite get enough purchase on his effort at goal, which rolled just wide.
Oliver could have put the game to bed when his shot from an angle rippled the side netting, but as the game approached injury-time, Rovers had one last chance to equalise.
Andy McNeil was forced off with an injury, and his replacement, Derek Gaston’s first task was to repel McManus’ free-kick, Rovers first attempt in the match. With M’Voto only a few yards out, it appeared he had the simple procedure of tapping in the rebound, but under pressure, he rolled the ball into Gaston’s grateful arms.
With next weekend a free week due to the international break, Raith’s next game will be a home match with Hibernian on the 15th of October.
The match highlights video will appear here shortly
© Eddie Doig 2016
Interviews will appear soon
Raith Rovers got back to winning ways last Saturday with a 3-2 win over Dumbarton, and they’ll be hoping to make it two wins from two this weekend, against a Morton team who they are unbeaten against in nine consecutive meetings.
However, Morton have picked up two impressive wins in their last three fixtures, with two 2-1 successes against Dunfermline and Dundee United, while Jm Duffy has recently supplemented his squad with two new signings in the last few weeks.
Centre-half, Gavin Gunning was picked up after he left Dundee United last term, while midfielder, Andy Murdoch was signed after his release from Rangers.
The duo are the newest recruits to a squad which didn’t see too many new additions over the summer, with right back Michael Doyle joining from Kilmarnock, midfielder Caolan McAleer from Airdrie, ex-Hearts and Queen of the South forward Gary Oliver as well as former Cowdenbeath striker, Kudus Oyenuga.
The Greenock club’s midfield was boosted though by the loan acquisitions of Celtic pairing, Jamie Lindsay and Aidan Nesbitt.
The Cappielow club have embarked on an excellent run in the League Cup, where they’ve disposed of Premiership sides Kilmarnock and Hamilton, as well as fellow Championship team Dundee United in the quarter-finals. That run has rewarded them with a semi-final trip to Hampden Park, where they’ll face Aberdeen on October 22nd.
That exceptional cup form hasn’t yet translated into league wins however, with just one to date, leaving the ‘Ton in eighth position in the Championship, one point ahead of Dumbarton, and three clear of bottom club St. Mirren.
Raith took twelve points from twelve against Morton last term, and all by a single goal, winning 3-2 and 2-1 at Stark’s Park, while 2-1 and 1-0 triumphs were posted in Greenock.
It was the first time Rovers had completed a clean sweep over Morton since the 1988/89 Division One campaign, which saw each team play each other just three times. Despite that fine record, Morton would finish fifth in the table, with Rovers two spots behind in seventh.
Rovers excellent recent record in this fixture sees them with seven wins and two draws from their last ten meetings between the pair.
Saturday’s match referee will be Craig Charleston.
Head-to-head League Record at Cappielow:
Morton Wins: 32 | Raith Rovers Wins: 16 | Draws: 12
Morton Goals: 112 | Raith Rovers Goals: 58
Raith Rovers: W-D-L-L-L-W
Top Goal Scorers:
Morton: Jai Quotongo 5 | Tom O’Ware 4
Raith Rovers: Ross Callachan 3 | Declan McManus 3
Morton: 9/5 | Raith Rovers: 11/8 | Draw: 13/5