Wrong Rovers Triumph
Visiting fans wandered the, erm, charmingly, rustic facilities at Cliftonhill swapping stories of rare previous visits over in some cases the last forty years. A healthy Raith support arrived to see Scott Robertson missing from the line-up with David McKay coming in at centre half. Dario Zanatta started in place of Greig Spence up front. The home side featured ex-Rover Ross Perry who lined up in central defence. On the back of two five nil away wins few will have hoped that there would be another result of that scale. The home side, who had struggled at home in the league, may have been concerned by the run the Kirkcaldy men were on.
Vaughan was the first to threaten with a snapshot from 18 yards following a free kick conceded by Perry for pulling a man back. Albion’s first foray forward ended with a foul on our Davidson, before Herron nearly kept a header from a Thomson cross down. Higgins did better at the other end with a front post header that was easy for Smith to hold.
Just after the quarter hour a Raith corner lead to a bit of 18 yard box pin ball then Vaughan put the ball back in and a stramash saw McKay volley narrowly over from the edge of the box. Next Vaughan cut inside and his low shot saw a good save from Bowman the home keeper.
Perry had his name taken when he was rightly booked for fouling Buchanan, this lead to a lengthy chat between the whistler and the home bench. The best move the home side had mustered saw Davidson put the ball out for a corner in the 25th minute. By then the pattern of play was clear, the home side were looking to get the ball beyond the Rovers back four aided by the wind up the pitch. This hadn’t caused much of a problem for Raith but they were having difficulty breaking down the home side to create chances of their own.
The Cliftonhill side won a free kick just outside the box but squandered the opportunity taking it quickly. Thomson at the other end saw Buchanan head his cross across to where Barr running in at the back post saw had an effort blocked away for a corner. Thomson tried himself from the set piece heading over. Vaughan nicked the ball and Zanatta did well to work space for a shot which Bowman did very well to tip wide at full stretch.
The turning point in the match came in the 37th minute when Smith in the Raith goal was closed down by Alan Trouten who as the keeper took an unnecessary extra touch nicked the ball off him and stroked it into the empty net. In an official match report we must remain loyal to our players but I am sure that the person most disappointed will be Smith himself. Before the half Matthews forced his way past a few challenges then sent the ball wide and Vaughan’s effort from the resulting cross was semi blocked away.
The home fans were much happier at the half having been handed the lead. Greig Spence warmed up hard then ran down the tunnel and came on for Zanatta as the half began. Herron almost teed the sub up with a great ball as Greig was clearly keen to make an impact. Albion had three corners in succession before Barr had an effort from twenty three yards go just wide. A dangerous free kick was then headed away with Rovers players set to pounce.
The next incident of note saw a home man booked for a dive in the Raith box by the well positioned referee. Murray lost out a footrace wide following a blocked pass but the centre was put away for a corner. Vaughan was cynically taken out just outside the box before the wind and corner flag combined to give the Rovers another corner that would normally have gone for a throw in. Holmes saw a good effort go wide of Smith’s goal before quick thinking from Barr on the by-line saw his overhead centre headed over by Herron when it looked easier to hit the target…
Still looking for an equaliser Buchanan moved forward and played a great pass into Spence’s path in the box. Greig’s low hard first time effort was blocked really well by Bowman before his second attempt was cleared. Another attack saw a lunging home defender block away a Barr cross into the box with part of him that didn’t appear to be his body but his bad technique was not punished. On the other side Buchanan did well along the bye line but again Bowman was quickest in the six yard box claiming his cross.
The home side forced a good save from Smith pushing away a shot destined for the top corner moments after Smith had claimed a second effort when the initial cross didn’t find a home man. Ross Davidson for the home side was booked before Jack Smith replaced Ross Matthews with the youngster going up front. The play had become more scrappy and Albion were increasingly happy to take their time when they could. The next opportunity saw a despairing yellow clad front man dive but fail to connect with a ball across the Raith six yard box.
A rare moment of quality looked like it had claimed the points for the home side when Connor Shields finished off a good move with a great strike firing high into the far corner with Smith helpless. The second goal was as sublime as the first was ridiculous. A triple substitution by the hosts was followed by Jonny Court coming on for McKay as Barry Smith tried to get something from the remaining eight minutes or so.
In the eighty fifth minute Jason Thomson head flicked on a free kick which Greig Spence stooped to head home from about four yards. As the home side still tried to hit on the counter Spence and Buchanan combined on the right but Liam’s cross found no-one in the danger zone to capitalise as the frustration in the visiting support grew. As time ran down the home side tried to keep the ball at the Raith end and the home captain Fisher was rightly booked for the worst foul of the match felling a Rovers man looking to get up the park. Smith did well to block away a low shot from Victoria making a good save with his legs. The last opportunity fell to the Rovers but the ball did not when Barr’s cross which Bowman attempted to punch away but missed went temptingly across the six yard box with no visitor there to capitalise.
Despite the well documented injury challenges the Rovers are facing at the moment the difference between the sides was minimal. Iain Davidson continued his run of excellent performances and McKay did a good job up against the very experienced Sean Higgins. The midfield didn’t get the opportunity to show its ability stifled as they were by the hosts and the front men found a home keeper on top of his game. Smith in the Raith goal made a couple of very good saves but sadly presented Trouten with the easiest goal he’ll score this season. I am sure that will not happen again and the players and management will already be looking forward to exacting some form of revenge in the remaining three Double Rovers games.
© Eddie Doig 2017
RaithTV spoke to the Gaffer after the 2-1 defeat against Albion Rovers
Goals should be all but guaranteed at Coatbridge this weekend when two of the divisions top-scorers meet at the Cliftonhill Stadium.
Between them, Albion Rovers and Raith Rovers have scored 39 times in just seven outings apiece, with Lewis Vaughan and Alan Trouten already scoring 28 times in all competitions.
Trouten is just one of the new faces who has arrived since the end of last season, with Brian Kerr rebuilding the squad following the departure of Darren Young and a swathe of players.
In all, 11 players have joined the Wee Rovers since last season, with some of the more notable being midfielder, Graeme Holmes, who joined from Alloa, while central defender, Jason Marr made the same switch from the Indodrill Stadium.
Possibly linking up with Marr in the central defensive area will be ex-Raith defender, Ross Perry, who signed for the Coatbridge club after leaving Clyde.
Brian Kerr’s side are exceeding expectations so far this term, and are sitting fourth in the table with 12 points, albeit their home and away form couldn’t be any more contrasting. Each of their dozen points have been accumulated on their travels, while they’re yet to pick up a single one at home, with three defeats from three so far.
It’s been 28 years since the two sides last shared a division, in fact, they haven’t met on league duty since Scotland moved to a four-tier system. 1989/90 saw the two lock horns in the old First Division, with Rovers winning two and drawing one of the three meetings Raith went on to finish fifth, while Albion Rovers were relegated back to the basement league in 13th position.
They have faced each other in cup competitions since though, with Rovers winning 3-0 in a first-round League Cup tie in 2015, with goals coming from Lewis Vaughan, Kyle Benedictus and Rory McKeown.
Raith has a good record against Albion Rovers, with seven wins and one draw from the last ten meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be David Lowe.
Head-to-Head Away League Record:
Albion Rovers Wins: 16 | Raith Rovers Wins: 14 | Draws: 8
Albion Rovers Goals: 59 | Raith Rovers Goals: 53
Albion Rovers: W-L-W-W-L-W
Raith Rovers: W-W-W-W-W-W
Top Goal Scorers:
Albion Rovers: Alan Trouten 13 | Connor Shields 9
Raith Rovers: Lewis Vaughan 15 | Liam Buchanan 7 | Greig Spence 4
Albion Rovers: 15/4 | Raith Rovers: 4/6 | Draw: 3/1