Rovers Close Gap
Raith Rovers made it nine home wins from nine this afternoon, with a comfortable 3-0 win over Stranraer, and in the process, reduced the gap between themselves and Ayr United at the top of the table to two points.
Raith may have been awarded their first league penalty since April 2016, and like Harry Panayitou’s against Rangers, Lewis Vaughan was unsuccessful from the spot-kick, but Raith were already three goals to the good, thanks to strikes from Greig Spence, Liam Buchanan and Vaughan.
Raith manager, Barry Smith went with the same starting XI which began the 2-1 win over Arbroath, while Stranraer were reeling from the news that three of their players, including top-scorer, Ryan Wallace had been let go due to financial reasons.
Rovers had taken 10 from a possible 12 points going into this one, and they were on the front foot in the opening minutes.
Vaughan’s corner from the left-hand-side was played into the six-yard-area, and although Buchanan had managed to shake aside his marker to plant a header on goal which was stopped by Cameron Belford, referee, Craig Charleston had already blown for an infringement.
Rovers were on top, but a mix-up at the back almost saw the visitors take the lead.
Graeme Smith mishit a clearance straight to Paul Woods, and although he had an opportunity to finish into an empty net, albeit from outside the area, and from a wide area, his finish was collapsed upon by Smith, who repelled it with his legs.
Rovers took the lead after 12 minutes, and when it arrived, it owed as much to Stranraer’s misstep as it did Raith’s incisiveness.
A stray pass from midfield to defence played in Buchanan, and his run to the bye-line and cutback was perfect for Spence, who opened up his body and played a first time finish past Belford to open the scoring.
Stranraer were obviously keen to get back into the game as soon as possible, and they were presented with it just two minutes later.
A corner from their right was palmed away by Smith, although only as far as Kyle Turner on the edge of the area, whose shot was easily gathered up by the Raith custodian.
Rovers were two to the good in the 27th minute however, with an excellently created an executed strike.
Scott Robertson played the ball into Spence’s feet, and his gather and turn played in Buchanan, who thumped his finish high and strong past Belford to put the home side two up.
The home side should have made it three soon after, when a large hook up the park was pounced upon by Spence, but despite picking out Buchanan in the opponent’s penalty box, his first touch took the ball behind him, meaning Belford was able to get down to his tame effort.
Even at this reasonably early stage, you felt a third goal would seal things from a Rovers point of view, and Spence had the opportunity after being played in by his strike partner Buchanan, but after dizzying Jamie Hamill with a turn, his finish could only bother the side rigging.
Stranraer needed an early goal if they were going to turn matters around in the second period, and they were presented with a reasonable opportunity in the opening moments, when Turner picked up possession on the right-angle of the penalty area, but with players to aim a cross at, his slashed effort was met with disdain by his colleagues.
Robertson was the next to try his luck, driving forward from midfield and playing an eventual one-two with Vaughan, but his effort from just inside the area was too powder puff to beat Belford.
The Stranraer ‘keeper was having a busy afternoon, and he came to his side’s rescue again, after a free-kick was sent straight into the wall by Vaughan, he eventually gathered on the edge of the box and teed up Dario Zanatta, whose side-foot finish was easily gathered.
Grant Anderson’s heading ability had been a key attribute to Raith during his time at Kirkcaldy, and while he rose well to reach a cross from the left, his nutted attempt drifted well wide.
Rovers then should have put the game beyond doubt in the 63rd minute.
Buchanan did well to play a first-time ball around the corner to Spence, and despite doing everything right, and shimmying around a defender, he got his hot all wrong and placed it over the bar.
Rovers would seal matters in the 68th minute though.
A cross from Robertson was somehow turned onto their own bar by Liam Dick and Morgyn Neill, and from the rebound, Vaughan touched home to seal the points.
The forward had an opportunity to add to his tally in the final minute, when Zanatta was clattered by Paul Woods, but Vaughan was unable to capitalise, with Belford keeping his attempt out with shins.
The win, coupled with Ayr’s 3-2 loss to Forfar Athletic, means Rovers are now two pints behind The Honest Men, having played two games fewer.
RaithTV chatted with Barry after the 3-0 win against Stranraer
After Rovers made it 10 points from their last 12 with a hard-fought victory over Arbroath, they’ll look to extend their unbeaten sequence this Saturday, when Stranraer are the visitors to Starks Park.
It should be the two clubs third meeting this term, but the middle fixture was abandoned in the first half with the scores tied at 1-1, due to monsoon like conditions swamping the Stair Park turf.
The meeting which did get played to a finish was back in August, when a Lewis Vaughan double and a solitary strike from Greig Spence, saw Rovers take all three points with a comfortable 3-0 win.
Despite that early setback, Stranraer have been in good form of late, and are one of a clutch of sides with their eyes on a playoff spot come the end of the season. They currently sit fourth, two points behind Alloa, while a similar gap separates themselves from fifth placed Arbroath.
It’s been some time since Rovers lost to Stranraer, the 2004/05 season in fact, when The Blues won a League Cup First Round tie 3-2 at Stair Park. You have to go back to 1997 since they last recorded a win at Stark’s Park, a 2-1 result in a Challenge Cup Second Round fixture, but it’s even longer since they won a league match in Kirkcaldy, with a 2-1 win back in November 1984, a sequence of 14 games without defeat for Raith.
Rovers have been the dominant side in general in this fixture though, with seven wins and two draws from their last ten meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Craig Charleston.
Home League Record Versus Stranraer:
Raith Rovers Wins: 16 | Stranraer Wins: 3 | Draws: 7
Raith Rovers Goals: 51 |Stranraer Goals: 26
Raith Rovers: L-L-W-W-D-W
Top Goal Scorers:
Raith Rovers: Lewis Vaughan 18 | Greig Spence 10 | Liam Buchanan 9
Stranraer: Ryan Wallace 10 | Scott Agnew 8 | Grant Anderson 4
Raith Rovers: 7/10 | Stranraer: 19/5 | Draw: 3/1