Late Drama Snatches Point
An injury time own-goal from Jordan McGregor enabled Raith Rovers to salvage a 2-2 draw against Airdrieonians at freezing Excelsior stadium this evening.
The match was screened live on TV, and this in addition to the cold weather doubtless accounted for the low crowd inside the ground as the teams lined up. Rovers manager Barry Smith named an unchanged starting eleven following last week’s win against Alloa Athletic.
It was Rovers who displayed attacking intent early in the match, and indeed they came close to opening the scoring after two minutes. Good work by the ever-eager Dario Zanetta forced a corner kick, and Lewis Vaughan’s cross into the box was headed against the outside of the post by Euan Murray. Zanetta then sprinted down the left wing and sent a inviting low cross into the penalty area. Unfortunately, the young winger’s cross evaded the Rovers forwards.
Vaughan was then flattened in the middle of the park as he challenged for a high ball, though it was Rovers right-back Jamie Watson who received the first yellow card of the match for a late tackle shortly afterwards. The Diamonds then created a scoring opportunity following a break down the left flank, but Cammy Russell dragged his shot wide from a promising position in front of goal.
The home side were then made to pay for that miss when Rovers took the lead with 21 minutes on the clock. Greig Spence forced a good save from Airdrie keeper Ferguson, but Rovers quickly gathered the ball and a neat reverse pass from Vaughan fell invitingly for Spence on the edge of the box. The striker controlled the ball, eased into the box, and drove a low shot beyond the goalkeeper into the net.
However, any notion among the Rovers faithful that the side could build on such a positive start was quickly dispelled when the hosts equalised within two minutes. Hesitancy in defence allowed a deep cross to the far post to go unchallenged, and Jake Hastie was alert to drive a shot into the roof of the net from close range.
With half an hour played, Rovers came close to regaining the lead. A dangerous cross by Zanatta was met by McKay’s head, but the young defender’s effort sailed narrowly wide of the post with the keeper beaten.
The miss would prove costly, however, as Rovers found themselves 2-1 down after 37 minutes. Keeper Graeme Smith parried a shot, and Cammy Russell reacted quickest to send the loose ball beyond the stranded keeper into the far corner of the net.
As the fans indulged in a much-needed half-time Bovril, the fear among those of a Rovers persuasion was that another poor result on the road was on the cards. However, Smith’s men emerged for the second half on the front foot, and within two minutes a sweeping move down the left involving Zanatta and Jason Thomson led to a chance for Liam Buchanan, although the striker’s shot was blocked. Bobby Barr was then introduced in place of Ross Matthews as Rovers looked to take the game to their hosts.
Frustration then began to creep in, and Scott Robertson could count himself unlucky to be penalised for what looked a perfectly fair tackle outside the Rovers box, albeit the resultant free-kick sailed harmlessly over the bar. On the hour mark, it was Spence’s turn to show his frustration with referee Don Robertson when several Airdrie players took exception to the forward’s tackle on an opponent. Spence then made way for Jonny Court as Rovers continued to chase an equaliser.
The young Rovers striker quickly made his mark, drawing a foul from McGregor – the Airdrie centre-half was booked for his trouble. The subsequent free-kick was certainly within Lewis Vaughan territory, but the striker’s shot from 25 yards curled narrowly past the post.
With less than ten minutes remaining, Vaughan had another opportunity from the same position, but this time the shot flew harmlessly over the bar to Ferguson’s relief.
Rovers continued to push forward as the clock ticked down, but for all they enjoyed plenty of possession, scoring chances were few and far between. However, as the ninety-minute mark came and went, Rovers contrived to grab an equaliser in the first of two added-on minutes.
Following a quick throw-in, the ball fell to Thomson, who sent a cross into the box. Buchanan appeared to get a slight touch on the ball, and while his strike partner Court made for the ball, it appeared to make contact with the unfortunate McGregor, before nestling in the net. There was just time for Barr to pick up a yellow card before the referee blew for time-up.
Given Rovers’ poor away form of late, a point gained in such poor conditions – to say nothing of the suspect playing surface – represents a decent return, albeit Barry Smith’s side now trail leaders Ayr United by five points. Albion Rovers are the visitors to the Lang Toun next weekend, where Rovers will be looking to extend their fine home record. The contrast between results at Stark’s Park and on the road remains an issue to be addressed given Rovers’ title-winning aspirations this season.
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RaithTV spoke to Barry after the 2-2 draw at Airdrie
After two consecutive victories against Queen’s Park and Alloa Athletic, Raith Rovers are back on their travels this weekend, with a trip to the Excelsior Stadium to face Airdrieonians.
The results have kept Raith on the coat-tails of Ayr United, with Barry Smith’s side still three points behind, having played a game fewer.
Airdrie too go on the back of this one with a win under their belts, and whilst their form had been poor of late, that 2-1 win over Forfar Athletic has left them just three points outside the promotion playoff spots.
After a period of uncertainty surrounding the managerial situation at The Diamonds, the club appointed Stevie Findlay as first team coach at the end of September, and the new boss has won two of his eight games to date.
The two sides have met once already met this term, with Rovers winning 2-0 thanks to late goals from Jason Thomson and Dario Zanatta.
Raith have the upper hand over the course of the last ten meetings, with five wins and two draws from the most recent encounters.
Sunday’s match referee will be Don Robertson
Head-To-Head Away League Record:
Airdrie Wins: 37 | Raith Rovers Wins: 23 | Draws: 15
Airdrie Goals: 148 | Raith Rovers Goals: 102
Raith Rovers: W-L-L-L-W-W
Airdrie: Ryan Conroy 4 | Willis Furtado 4 | Scott Stewart 4
Raith Rovers: Lewis Vaughan 18 | Liam Buchanan 8 | Greig Spence 8
Airdrie: 9/2 | Raith Rovers: 8/13 | Draw: 3/1