STALEMATE AS RAITH DRAW A BLANK
Raith were unable to break down a disciplined and determined Alloa side at the Indodrill today, falling to second in the League following Ayr’s win over Queens Park. Despite holding possession for long spells, Alloa’s four-man defence stood firm, and could even have stolen all three points with a late header flying narrowly over keeper Lennox’s bar. Rovers generated numerous half-chances – new signing Willis Furtado prominent with a bustling energetic performance – but couldn’t break down an obdurate home defence, marshalled by the excellent Gary Fleming.
Raith lined up in attacking formation – with Furtado and Barr wide left and right respectively, and Lewis Vaughan breaking from midfield, Spence and Buchanan would not suffer from lack of support. Scott Robertson had been ruled out earlier in the week with a hamstring pull, with Kevin McHattie starting in defence. In a welcome boost to his manager, Bobby Barr completed the full ninety minutes, and looked full of running through-out. Aaron Lennox started in goal.
In the early skirmishes, Furtado saw most of the ball, putting the home full back Taggart under constant pressure. The Frenchman’s lovely cross-field pass to Barr, stroked thirty yards with the outside of his left foot, was an early indication of quality.
For the home side, Renton and Kirkpatrick formed a rugged partnership upfront. Taking up position against Davidson from the off, Renton was the target for most forward sorties. In the fifth minute, Flanagan’s corner was knocked goalwards by Crane, up from left-back – with the ball holding up in the blustery conditions, Raith cleared well. Moments later, Kirkpatrick twisted away from two challenges, releasing Flanagan to fire a cross through Lennox’s six-yard box. With the game’s first clear chance, Stewart headed straight at the Raith keeper, who gathered well in a crowded area.
After exchanging passes with Stewart on twelve minutes, Kirkpatrick’s curling drive was well tipped wide by Lennox. With their next attack, a deflection robbed Stewart’s shot of its pace and precision – Lennox tidied up comfortably.
Over the first quarter of an hour, Raith had had the better of the possession and made most of the running, however it was the home side who had generated the only clear chances on goal.
With twenty minutes gone, a chance for the Rovers – Murray’s thumping header was well saved by Parry in the Alloa goal. With Davidson drawing cover to the near post, McHattie’s corner found Murray at full height. The packed Alloa defence repelled the danger.
Minutes later, another dreadful injury blow for Kevin McHattie. Clashing with Kirkpatrick as the Alloa man shaped to shoot, the Raith full-back twisted awkwardly, fell, and immediately looked in real discomfort. The match was stopped for several minutes while the prone Raith man was attended to. As McHattie was stretchered from the field, McKay was brought on – Murray moving out to left-back with McKay partnering Davidson at centre-half.
With the match restarted, Rovers were first to press – a full-blooded volley by Buchanan from a great knock-down from Furtado was bobbled by Parry, recovering his ground at the second attempt. While Alloa’s two centre-halves Graham and McCart – the latter the son of ex-Motherwell defender Chris MCart – looked to have the edge in aerial combat, both Spence and Buchanan looked lively on the floor. The question over the 90 minutes would be whether Raith could muster sufficient guile in and around the box to break the deadlock.
On the half-hour, Renton released Kirkpatrick behind Davidson – Lennox was quickly off his line to claim the through ball.
Raith’s enforced change changed the dynamic of the midfield – with McKay impressive stepping out from the back, Vaughan pressed further forward, orchestrating some neat passing movements. Barr and Furtado swapped flanks, keeping both Taggart and Crane on their toes.
The home side, while less fluid than their visitors, attacked directly and caused Raith problems. Kirkpatrick and Renton asked questions of McKay and Davidson, with Fleming running from deep to join his front two. Full back Crane also appeared in forward positions, giving an extra man.
Before half-time Vaughan struck powerfully at Parry’s goal following a corner – the Alloa keeper showed a lack of composure under the high ball. As the half-time whistle blew, neither side could say they had done enough to prise an advantage from their opponents. Managers Barry Smith and Jim Goodwin had plenty to ponder over the interval.
The second half started brightly – Kirkpatrick headed firmly at Lennox, Davidson thumped clear. McCart, up from the back, flicked on another centre – a Raith boot clearing the danger. With the ball holding in the stiff breeze, Davidson and McKay worked hard to win their headers.
Gary Fleming had a fine match for the home side, sitting in front of his back four, patrolling the central third and sweeping up errant Raith passes. The midfielder somehow escaped yellow for a clumsy challenge on Furtado soon after the break, but overall, Alloa’s lynchpin was key in holding Raith at bay. With Rovers regularly committing numbers to the attack, Fleming was called into action regularly and often.
It was an hour before the match really opened up as a spectacle. Stewart’s run allowed Flanagan to cross, Renton’s deflected shot forced one of a string of Alloa corners in the second half.
For Rovers, Buchanan’s clipped finish drifted wide of Parry’s goal; Spence and Graham were locked in combat under a high ball, each grappling for supremacy; and Furtado’s sliced twenty-yard drive was well held by Parry down to his right. Raith’s most fluent move of the match followed soon after – Buchanan collected the ball wide left from Murray’s well-placed pass from defence, Spence outmuscled his man and released Barr at full speed down the right. Barr’s low cross flew through the six-yard box, shepherded away by Fleming at full stretch.
Alloa top scorer Kevin Cawley was introduced on sixty-five minutes, with Renton withdrawn. His introduction heralded a change of emphasis from the hosts – buzzing with intent in the final third, Cawley’s activity threatened to undo the Raith defence in the closing stages.
With driving rain accompanying the cold wind, the last fifteen minutes saw chances at both ends. Cawley drove inside looking to shoot, Kirkpatrick eventually being crowded out; Furtado turned inside, exchanging a neat one-two with Vaughan, but couldn’t create room to shoot; and Ross Matthews’ drive from distance flew high and wide, Alloa’s massed ranks untroubled.
With the match in its final ten minutes, Raith generated some pressure on the Alloa defence, urged on by the travelling support, huddled in the far corner. Vaughan shot at goal, blocked away by Graham; a Furtado strike didn’t clear the forest of legs in the penalty area; both Thomson and Barr fired searching crosses into the Alloa box. Notwithstanding Raith’s dominance of possession in the latter stages, Alloa’s defence survived intact.
Cawley’s free-kick whizzed past Lennox’s far-post after Vaughan was penalised, and a Hetherington free-kick flighted across goal saw Flanagan rise the highest, the Alloa man unable to keep his header on target.
For Raith, there was one final chance – after a Vaughan cross had flown through Parry’s airspace, and centre-half Graham had steered another cross away from danger, substitute John Herron was released with a fine through-ball from Bobby Barr – with Graham struggling to make up the ground, keeper Parry saved well at Herron’s feet, the chance gone.
With the League’s two most stringent defences on show, a nil-nil draw was perhaps no surprise. The sense of inevitability which football fans inwardly dread – the knowledge that there will be no goals, no matter what – began sneaking into the mind from the early stages; Alloa’s defensive numbers repelling Raith, who despite some fine midfield play, couldn’t find sufficient attacking nous to break down the home barricades. Raith drew a blank for the second week running, and fall again to second in this year’s League One campaign.
Photo Gallery will appear here shortly
The manager spoke with RaithTV after the draw at Alloa
Raith Rovers travel to Clackmannanshire this Saturday, for the second of their three consecutive away matches.
They’ll be hoping for a far better result than the first though, as they squandered their chance to extend the lead at the top of the League One table, going down by a goal to nil at Stair Park against Stranraer.
They won’t find it east at the Indodrill Stadium however, against an Alloa Athletic side that’s lost just three from their last 11 league matches, a sequence that has taken them to fifth in the table, one point behind Stranraer, and two behind third place Arbroath.
Both sides defensive records suggest this may be a tight affair, with Raith conceding just 18 goals in 20 matches, the best record in the division, while Alloa have the next-best, with the concession of 26 in 21 games.
Both previous meetings this season have certainly been close, with Raith taking four points from the six points available.
It finished 1-1 on the opening day of the league campaign, with Alloa taking a first-half lead through Kevin Cawley, while Rovers relied on a last-minute Lewis Vaughan strike to take a point.
It was December before they met again, and despite Rovers taking a two-goal lead through Greig Spence and Liam Buchanan, they were holding on for the last couple of minutes, after that man Cawley bundled home from close range in the closing stages.
In team news, Scott Robertson will miss out after he picked up a hamstring injury last week, although Kevin McHattie may be in contention, after featuring in the Development match in midweek.
In other injury news, Kyle Benedictus has returned to the training field for the first time since picking up a serious injury against Ayr United in September.
Raith Rovers have a good record at the Indodrill, with no defeats in their last six visits, while their overall record against Alloa is also good, with four wins and four draws from the last ten meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Alan Muir.
Head-To-Head League Record at Alloa:
Alloa Athletic Wins: 17 | Raith Rovers Wins: 23 | Draws: 9
Alloa Athletic Goals: 74 | Raith Rovers Goals: 86
Alloa Athletic: W-W-D-W-L-L
Raith Rovers: W-W-W-W-D-L
Top Goal Scorers:
Alloa Athletic: Kris Renton 6 | Kevin Cawley 5 | Iain Flannigan 5
Raith Rovers: Lewis Vaughan 19 | Greig Spence 13 | Liam Buchanan 11
Alloa Athletic: 12/5 | Raith Rovers: 11/10 | Draw: 13/5