Graham Hat-Trick Seals Points
The Rovers fans arrived at Falkirk wondering if their side would play as they ended the game at Partick. Falkirk are hoping to chase down Dundee for second while the Rovers were wanting to get clear of Ayr and Queen of the South at the bottom.
There were changes to the Rovers line-up with Hamill and Jamie Walker returning to the midfield for McBride and Williamson. Up front Baird replaced Clarke. Davidson was involved in the warm-up – popping a few great strikes into the top corners – however he was suspended.
The game started with a ball into the box which Graham and the younger Walker rose together – McGovern collected easily. Falkirk’s first foray saw Fulton slip as he tried to get the ball at the edge of the 6 yard box. The opener was gifted to the hosts when Jamie Walker’s slack pass put Hill under needless pressure. Hill’s pass was cut out by El Alagui at the edge of the box the big Morrocan shot to McGurn’s left but didn’t get a good connection and Hill’s attempted block knocked the ball to McGurn’s right and into the net. 1:0 to the home side.
The Rovers pushed on and Hill’s cross found Baird but his header from 15 yards didn’t test the ex-County keeper. In the 13th minute Grant Murray was too slow at the back but Dyer removed the danger. Next, Brian Graham found himself in a good position but shot well wide, there looked to be better options in the middle. Allan Walker intercepted and moved forward but rather than shoot passed to the offside Graham. Neither defence had started brilliantly and the Falkirk back four were next in action when Hill’s header nearly got to Brian Graham near the line.
Aldo was played in dangerously but again the Bairn’s scrambled the ball away. The Rovers got the goal their pressure merited when a deep cross aimed at Graham saw Duffie all over the back of the ex-Morton man. Referee Madden maddened the home support awarding a penalty, booking the Falkirk number 2. Brian Graham stepped up and put the ball down the middle making it 1:1.
John Baird was a real handful for the Falkirk men all day having reacted well to being benched last week. Summing up his performance the number 9 did some keepie-uppies on the by-line winning a Rovers corner. The Rovers kept the pressure on Hamill was next to pass up the opportunity to shoot. Jamie Walker was looking lively and Millar was rightly booked for tripping him, the free kick was headed across goal to the offside Baird. The Rovers were flagged offside five times in total while their hosts were only once.
In the 32nd minute Ellis rose to head away a high ball El Alagui rose and went over the top of him catching him in the face. Laurie did not get up and after 7 minutes he was stretchered off after being tended to by the physios and Falkirk’s club doctor. His dad was called for on the PA as Stewart took his place. Murray went back to centre half and Johnny went into central midfield. The big Morrocan was booked but also clearly concerned for his fellow professional. Ellis and Hill had done well against him timing their headers better than the big striker.
The worrying delay did not alter the play – the Rovers continued where they left off and despite Dods trying to get forward Jamie Walker teed up Walker who dragged his effort wide. Falkirk managed their second attempt on goal in the 46th minute when Sibbald’s header was easy for McGurn to catch. Dave was trying to get in on the attacking action and his kick from hand looked like it was no threat however Baird outpaced the defender wide and got to the by-line he crossed low and Allan Walker dummied the ball so Graham could drive in a low shot which after a deflection nestled in the net.
Falkirk tried to get back into the game but El Alagui scuffed his effort from 18 yards. The last chance of the first half in the 7th added minute saw Baird combine with the younger Walker before Graham headed over.
The Rovers support had 2 topics at the half – the injury to Lawrie and the pleasing performance so far. Falkirk made two changes at the half withdrawing the ineffectual Gibson. The Bairn’s end must have been concerned when Sibbald received treatment having landed badly after another Rovers attack. The home side tried to get the equaliser and McGurn punched well twice. Millar fired in a free kick which was dipping but went over the bar – the Rovers were working hard as was typified by a Hill block on a long range effort. The home side had more of the play in the second half abut took until the mid point before equalising. El Algui crossed from the by-line and the in-rushing Alston fired into the net from about 8 yards.
Steven Pressley will have wanted his players to build from the equaliser. The Rovers however had other ideas, within a minute of the goal a good pass forward from Baird hit Dods arm and taking advantage of good refereeing Graham rifled the ball into the far corner of the net for his hat-trick. Stewart played a great pass to Thomson who got past a despairing defender and skipped along the by-line before his low cross was bundled away by the keeper and a defender as Hamill failed to pounce. The Raith support were singing the music played after home goals – probably to the annoyance of the home support.
Millar had another go from a free kick which McGurn did very well to get across goal and push away. McGovern moments later made a great save when Thomson’s cross to the back post was fired in low by that man again – Graham. The save prevented his tormentor scoring a fourth. The last action of the game saw El Algui’s tame header easily dealt with.
Having given Falkirk a one goal start the Rovers came home across the Forth with 3 points. There were great performances across the pitch with Dyer, Allan Walker and Hill doing really well. Baird and Graham were both excellent and the spirit of the players was commendable after the serious injury to Ellis. It was the opposite of last week’s performance and taken alongside the other results it wasn’t just sweets from the Links Market that had the Rovers fans smiling all the way home…
Falkirk: McGovern, Duffie, Dods, Wallace, Kingsley (White 83), Weatherston, Fulton (Alston 46), Sibbald, Gibson (Faulds 46), Millar, El Alagui.
Subs Not Used: Bowman, Bennett.
YC: Duffie, Mark Millar, El Alagui.
Raith Rovers: McGurn, Thomson, Ellis (Stewart 41), Hill, Dyer, Jamie Walker (Williamson 80), Murray, Allan Walker, Hamill, Baird (Casalinuovo 70), Graham.
Subs Not Used: Laidlaw, McBride.
YC: Murray, Stewart.
Report John Mainland, Pictures Eddie Doig
Live match updates by: Chris Hynd
Updates Chris Hynd
Photos by Eddie Doig
Interviews by David Hancock