More Points Dropped As Raith Falter
For the second week in succession, Raith Rovers contrived to throw away a lead due to a last minute leveller.
Goals from Jason Thomson and Willis Furtado, either side of a Ryan Wallace penalty, appeared to be enough for all three points, but a late Leighton McIntosh goal saw Rovers lead at the top reduced to four points.
Rovers manager, Barry Smith made two changes from last week’s frustrating draw with Albion Rovers.
Out went Liam Buchanan and John Herron, and in came Ross Matthews and Scott Robertson, with the changes signalling a rejig of the Raith system of recent months.
Twenty-goal Lewis Vaughan moved from his central midfield position to up-top alongside Furtado, with Matthews and Robertson dovetailing each other in the middle of the park. Although unfortunately, this would only be a temporary measure, with Robertson hobbling off after quarter of an hour.
Perhaps buoyed by Vaughan playing in a more advanced position, there seemed a zip about the home side in the opening moments, with Zanatta doing well down the right, winning a corner from which Kyle Benedictus almost got his forehead to, while Vaughan’s 20-yard free-kick appeared to be registering on target, before being deflected over the bar.
Arbroath haven’t lost in the league since their last trip to Stark’s Park in December though, and they almost took the lead in the eighth minute, when a deep cross to the back post from Bobby Linn was diverted to safety by a great header away from Thomson, with an Arbroath forward waiting to pounce.
There was concern in the 13th minute, when Robertson was forced off with a knock, and was replaced with Buchanan. This forced Vaughan back into the centre, with Buchanan taking a place alongside Furtado.
That change appeared to diminish Raith’s potency, but there was drama in the 21st minute, when referee Mat Northcroft awarded Rovers an indirect free-kick twelve yards out, when goalkeeper, David Hutton picked up Tom O’Brien’s pass back.
However, as is so often the case, the phalanx of bodies stopped Vaughan’s effort after it was tapped to him by Buchanan.
Euan Murray then should have done better with his header from the corner, but he powered it wide, before Zanatta could only shoot straight at Hutton after evading three challenges and cutting in from the left, with the stopper repelling his effort with his boot.
Rovers were on top at this stage, and Furtado was the next to threaten, playing the ball past O’Brien and attempting to collect round the other side by using his pace, but while the defender was beaten for speed, his goalkeeper was alert enough to bail him out and collect at the striker’s feet.
Arbroath then had a huge let off in the 33rd minute.
Furtado’s cross from the left appeared slightly too close to the ‘keeper, but Buchanan’s lunge saw both he and Hutton collide, with the ball rebounding off the bar and being cleared away. Despite taking a sore one, the custodian was okay to continue after treatment.
Despite being the dominant side, it appeared Dick Campbell’s visitors were going to go into the interval with the score line blank, but Rovers got the goal their play deserved in the 42nd minute.
An in-swinging corner from Vaughan was played straight under the bar, allowing Thomson to head home from close range for his fifth goal of the campaign.
There was as much relief as joy at the goal, with the half becoming increasingly frustrating with Raith struggling to break down an obdurate Red Lichties defence.
Arbroath looked the quicker out the starting blocks in the second period, taking the game to Rovers from the restart, although their cause wasn’t helped by Denny Denholm finding himself in a great space to send in a cross, only to kick the turf and fall over instead.
Amusing stumble aside, it was a decent start to the second period for Arbroath, and a reminder to the home side if it was required, that their lead was an extremely precarious one.
Indeed, just how precarious was demonstrated in the 62nd minute, when Arbroath equalised.
Despite Aaron Lennox’s protestations, Northcroft adjudged the ‘keeper had pushed someone in the area, allowing Ryan Wallace to blast home from the spot, a moment which saw Barry Smith forced to watch the remainder of the game from the stands, after the referee dismissed him.
While the penalty award had come out the blue, Rovers had been poor in the second 45, and they almost went behind with 20 minutes remaining.
An Arbroath breakaway from a Rovers corner looked threatening, but a flick from a backtracking Zanatta appeared to clear the danger, however, coming in from the right, Wallace almost grabbed his second, only to be denied from a full-length stop from Lennox.
Rovers missed a gilt-edged chance to take the lead in the 73rd minute, when Furtado and Buchanan appeared to get in each other’s way, with the former rattling his chance from an acute angle well wide of target. However, he’d make amends just a moment later
From another Vaughan corner, the ball was initially headed towards goal and blocked, before Furtado came charging in and blasting home from close range.
Rovers should really have seen the game out at that point, but Arbroath should have equalised with five minutes remaining, when Linn’s low cross from the right was turned over the bar from substitute Leighton McIntosh from the edge of the six-yard-area.
However, the equaliser did come in the 90th minute.
A corner from the right wasn’t cleared well enough, and McIntosh’s effort from inside the area was deflected past Lennox for the equaliser.
The result leaves Rovers four points clear of Ayr at the top, although The Honest Men have played one game fewer.
Barry talked to RaithTV after the 2-2 draw with Arbroath
After having their lead reduced from eight points to six at the weekend, Raith Rovers will be looking to get back to winning ways this Saturday, with a home match against Arbroath.
Dick Campbell’s Red Lichtie side have been in excellent form in the league, and are currently on a run of eight League One games without defeat, a sequence which sees them sitting third in the table, two points ahead Alloa Athletic, and six ahead of playoff chasing Stranraer. Indeed, with eighteen points from their last eight games, the Gayfield outfit are the division’s most in-form team.
They go into the match on the back of a fine away win in midweek. Despite going a goal down to Stranraer on Tuesday evening, goals from Michael McKenna, Danny Denholm and a brace of penalties from Ryan Wallace, handed Arbroath a comfortable 4-1 win.
The bulk of Arbroath’s points have actually been won on the road, with 23 of their 41 points coming away from home. Their only away defeats have occurred in the Kingdom though, with the 2-0 loss at Stark’s Park in October, followed up with a 3-1 loss in Methil to East Fife.
Rovers do have a 100% record against Arbroath this term, although neither win was comfortable.
Lewis Vaughan and Jason Thomson were on target in the 2-0 home win, and it was a game of two halves at Gayfield, with a wind-assisted Rovers haring into a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Greig Spence and Liam Buchanan, but an unfortunate own-goal from Ross Matthews left Rovers hanging on for the three points.
You have to go back 25 years since Arbroath last won at Stark’s Park, with a 2-1 win on a second round League Cup tie back in August 1993.
Raith have a good record in this fixture, with five wins and four draws from the last ten meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Mat Northcroft.
Head-To-Head Home League Record Versus Arbroath:
Raith Rovers Wins: 20 | Arbroath Wins: 8 | Draws: 7
Raith Rovers Goals: 66 | Arbroath Goals: 37
Raith Rovers: L-D-W-W-W-D
Top Goal Scorers:
Raith Rovers: Lewis Vaughan 20 | Greig Spence 13 | Liam Buchanan 12
Arbroath: Ryan McCord 9 | Danny Denholm 9 | Bobby Linn 4
Raith Rovers: 3/4 | Arbroath: 18/5 | Draw: 14/5