Rare Moment of Quality Secures Draw
The Raith support converged on Glebe Park on a fine evening hoping that they would return with a decent result for the home leg on Saturday. Arriving at the ground with the finest topiary in Scottish football some headed for the pie shed, with the bravest sampling the local delicacies, as others took their seats in the large stand behind the goal. Many had their eyes caught by a couple of horses and a foal frolicking and gambolling joyfully in the field behind the old stand clearly enjoying the pleasant evening sunshine.
The Rovers side saw a change between the sticks with Brennan starting for the suspended Penksa but otherwise remained unchanged from the Ayr win. It should be noted that Scott Robertson made it to the bench – some reward for his long period out through injury. The hosts had kent faces Willie Dyer and Elliot Ford in their starting eleven and an injured Dougie Hill watching from the main stand. While the Rovers support were happy to be joined by Lewis Vaughan.
The first action saw Jonny Court unceremoniously shoved to the ground by a home man who was unpunished. This set the tone for much of the officiating, as on more than a few occasions the decisions of referee Don Robertson mystified the travelling support. The Rovers won an early corner then Court headed a free kick well over.
In the 14th minute Davidson lofted in an inviting cross and M’Voto rose with Smith the home keeper heading home despite the efforts of a couple of red shirted defenders on the line. No goal was given and the play restarted with a free kick, presumably the big French stopper had been deemed to have fouled the man in white.
By this point the narrow pitch had been exposed to be best described as bobbly, and the longer than normal grass wasn’t helping either side develop a passing game. Much of the time the ball was in the air as neither side retained possession long enough to really take control of the match. That pattern continued for much of the ninety minutes and though the Rovers had more of the ball in dangerous areas the hosts did little of note offensively in the first half.
Craig Barr won a header contested by Smith and again the visitor was penalised. Then McManus and Court almost combined nicely but it was blocked at the vital moment. In the 23rd minute City threatened for the first time of note when Dale played in Jackson but Jason Thomson did well to remove the danger. Skacel was booked in the 25th minute for a foul before a couple of Barr long throws caused some concern for the home fans.
Just after the half hour a long range lob from M’Voto arced majestically up and then down behind the Brechin goal. From rather nearer the big lad headed a Barr long throw wide before a great first time volley on the turn from McManus was blocked away by Smith. A great shot matched by and equally good reflex save. Another long throw saw a downward header collected by the busy Smith.
Craig Barr collected a clearance wide and skipped past a defender into the box falling when challenged by another home man but nothing was given even if any penalty would have been on the soft side.
As the half wound down a rare Brechin foray forward saw Jackson challenged by M’Voto. The home man went down and though from my angle there didn’t seem to be much to it the referee awarded the home side a penalty. The reaction of the majority of fans who had a better view made clear that few agreed with the man with the whistle. Ross Caldwell however didn’t seem bothered and put the ball low to Brennan’s right to make it 1:0.
The Rovers looked for an instant response and hit the back of the net for the second time, this time Court flicking a ball from the right home first time. As the Rovers support rose a second time the goal again was disallowed presumably for offside.
Raith started the second half with some rare decent football that saw a McManus shot blocked and M’Voto head over from the resulting corner. Barr then headed a free kick across goal before the pattern for the second half became clear. The home side were looking to get the ball down the slope quickly and try to pressure the Rovers back four. M’Voto was closed down and gave Brennan a poor pass which the keeper had to put out but the home side didn’t threaten from the corner.
Up the hill McManus closed down a home man, nicked the ball and his low ball was just behind the inrushing Court. A City corner eluded everyone before Rudi was replaced by Ryan Hardie. Benedictus who’d got into good positions throughout wide left but had either been ignored or given poor passes was apparently offside though your correspondent did not agree as the big number 6 had done well to get around his marker to head at goal…
Mid way through the half Chris Johnston replaced Court as the Rovers tried to push on. Dale was booked for a hefty foul on Matthews in the middle of the park about 35 yards out. Declan McManus lined up it up and curled a fantastic shot into the side netting leaving Smith helpless. It was a rare moment of real quality from a man who’s on a nice wee scoring run.
Still the Rovers had more of the play and a lot of head tennis was going on in and around the home box. The home side managed a wild long range effort but Brennan went through the whole match without having to make a save of any significance from open play. Johnston sent a great cross over to the back post where McManus somehow managed to avoid heading it goal ward, failing to head it at all.
In the 82nd minute there were two moments that really annoyed the large Rovers support and no-doubt disturbed the horses. Johnston was felled by a straight legged, studs – up lunge, the ball fell to Thomson who put it into the box where a shot was saved by the reflexes of a Brechin defender. It was not ball to hand which saw the Rovers face a penalty on Saturday but hand to ball but both transgressions went unpunished…
As time wound down the Rovers continued to press with M’Voto just failing to connect with a low ball into the box as Smith watched in horror then the home keeper did very well to block away a vicious volley from Benedictus following a corner.
Brechin’s equine neighbours are beasts that lack the burden of worrying about football… Which side will be saddled with a season in League 1 will be decided at the mane event on Saturday. Hopefully for the Rovers it’ll be nay bother.
Many Thanks to Jon Bergen at Brechin City FC for sharing match footage with RaithTV:
©Eddie Doig 2017
The gaffer talked to RaithTV immediately after the 1-1 draw up at Brechin
After the excitement, and ultimate disappointment of Saturday’s events, Raith Rovers head into the first-leg of their playoff semi-final with Brechin on Wednesday evening, knowing four games stand between them and playing in the Championship next term.
John Hughes’ men did what they had to do on Saturday, with a last minute 2-1 win securing the required three points, but St. Mirren’s draw with Hibernian, meant Rovers ended up on the same points as both the Buddies and Dumbarton, but ninth on goal-difference.
That meant a two-legged tie with Darren Dods’ team who finished fourth in League one, with the winners facing off against either Alloa or Airdrie, who face each other in the other semi.
It’s been over 8 years since the two sides met in a competitive fixture, with a 2-0 Rovers win in a Division Two fixture back in April 2009, a result which was a significant step on Raith’s journey to the third tier title.
Rovers would go onto win the league the next week against Queen’s Park, while Brechin would eventually finish third, before losing to Ayr United in the playoffs.
Rovers can take some encouragement from Brechin’s recent form, with only East Fife picking up fewer points from the last eight league games of the season.
Raith have a good record in this fixture, with five wins and three draws from the last ten league meetings.
Wednesday night’s match referee will be Don Robertson.
Head-To-Head Away Record:
Brechin City Wins: 8 | Raith Rovers Wins: 18 | Draws: 8
Brechin City Goals: 41 | Raith Rovers Goals: 80
Brechin City: L-L-L-D-W-D
Raith Rovers: L-L-W-L-L-W
Top Goal Scorers:
Brechin City: Andy Jackson 16 | Ally Love 10 | Alan Trouten 7
Raith Rovers: Ryan Hardie 7 | Declan McManus 7 | Mark Stewart 6
Brechin City: 11/5 | Raith Rovers: 12/5 | Draw: 5/4