Midweek Reverse in Forfar
In the week that Ken Dodd died your intrepid reporter remembered on the way north that some of our fellow fans had seen the comedy legend play Dunfermline last year. He apparently took them to extra time… Those same fans and others will have been looking for something to tickle them after the disappointing result in Ayr.
Arriving on a clear, calm evening with only the slightest breeze, the plastic pitch was clear of the snow still visible in patches to all on the drive to Angus. Just before kick off a group of geese honked noisily by overhead. The Rovers line up saw McHattie, Barr and Zanatta go to the bench with Davidson, Spence and Buchanan coming in. Ex-Rover Scott McBride was on the bench for the Loons.
Forfar had the first effort from outside the box before Spence’s characteristic enthusiasm closed down a defender and the Raith man was unlucky to not win a corner. Another longer range effort from the home side preceded a free kick into the Raith box that was defended and a quick break broke down in the final third.
The first real chance fell to Aitken who got onto a good ball into a channel and his angled shot went across Lennox and past the far post. Then Buchanan and Spence combined well with Greig’s driven cross blocked away.
In the thirteenth minute Lennox mishit a pass to Hilson who was polite enough to fire his shot straight back at the big keeper. The game by now was settling with both sides trying to gain the upper hand, Furtado was being watched closely by both Bain the right back and Mackintosh the right midfielder. The Rovers midfield was (when not in possession) looking like they were sitting a little deeper than they could be. Regan Hendry was showing some good touches and control in the middle of the park and Murray looking to get forward.
Thomson broke well overlapping and his centre was hit first time by Spence on the volley just inside the box. The rising effort fizzed up and over the bar. Buchanan then received the ball in the box and turned well winning a corner that was followed soon after by a free kick neither of which were taken advantage of. Willis swapped sides soon after with Vaughan who was perhaps surprisingly given less close attention on the Forfar right.
Midway through the half Travis, the Forfar captain, rolled a wayward pass back to keeper McCallum who had to scamper across to knock it away from just inside the post. Much to the relief of the big stopper and the home fans… Moments later the big skipper got on the end of a free kick at the other end heading wide.
Regan made a good run through the middle and Thomson’s cross was too strong for those arriving in the box. The Rovers were on top and Vaughan and Murray combined well with a near post driven cross forcing McCallum to take the difficult ball under pressure. A run from Vaughan was stopped by a foul but advantage played before he was fouled again seconds later. Lewis curled in the free kick towards the near top corner and McCallum just managed to prevent it hitting the net.
The referee was given no option when Bain the right back fouled Vaughan again moments later and was unsurprisingly booked. In the 36th minute the Rovers fans on the terracing side thought the ball was in when Murray rose heading a cross hard and just past with the keeper no-where. The last action of the half from a free kick saw a Forfar man follow up an initial header to hit the net but the linesman’s flag was up.
At the half the visiting fans seemed of the view that more of the same would see the Rovers take the points.
The Rovers pushed on first and Spence survived a late, late foul that wasn’t spotted before Buchanan was penalised for handling a ball hit only a couple of feet from him. Liam was booked for dissent. More play failed to see a shot from the Rovers. Forfar seemed not be keen to have the Rovers continue as they had finished the half and a short corner from them led to a shot wide from outside the box.
Around the hour Spence and Buchanan were withdrawn with Barr and Zanatta coming on, Vaughan and Furtado moving up top. There was a shout for something as the ball went in the Raith box and from the resulting corner a Forfar header hit another home man and went over. As the home side pushed on a scramble in the Rovers box fell kindly and was cleared. Matthews was booked before a short pass found a home man one on one and Lennox did very, very well to take the ball at his feet.
Another ball in saw a header ruled out by a linesman’s flag as the home side seemed happier to have a go at goal than the Rovers. At the other end Bain the booked number 2 was penalised for a foul on Zanatta which must have been his last chance. Lennox however had to be alert again taking the ball well a second time from a striker’s feet in a move that saw Davidson booked for a foul in the build up.
Forfar took the lead when a high ball into the box saw Lennox come to claim it. He didn’t get full possession and the ball fell to a home man – Matthew Aitken – who poked it home. 1-0
The next action saw McCallum fail to claim a Rovers corner in similar fashion but without the ball ending up in the net this time. A Hendry shot didn’t threaten before another Forfar corner was scrambled away. The next chance fell to Forfar and frankly it was good move with slick passing carving open the Rovers and the final ball across left Matthew Aitken with the simple task in the six yard box of doubling the lead. 2-0
Suddenly enlivened, the Rovers won a corner and Furtado’s second ball in saw Lewis Vaughan turn and drive the ball home at the far post. 2-1
Jonny Court came on for Matthews and within a minute he was booked for his second foul. The Rovers efforts to get back into the game were being hampered by fouls that broke up the flow and gave the home side the chance to put the ball into dangerous areas… The Loons had another half chance before Munro was booked for a foul on Court.
The last incident of note saw Zanatta do well wide but his great ball across was away before anyone could take advantage. Easton was replaced by Hurst before the final whistle brought proceedings to an end.
This game was taxing for the travelling Rovers support however the season like a famously long Ken Dodd performance ain’t over till the toothy guy with the tickling sticks sings. There’s still a way to go yet.
Barry spoke to RaithTV after the defeat to Forfar
After the entire SPFL League card was wiped out by the snow when the original fixture was scheduled on 3rd March, and again last Tuesday; it’s third time lucky as Raith Rovers head to Station Park tomorrow evening, to take on Jim Weir’s improving Forfar Athletic team.
After taking over a Loons side which was marooned at the bottom of the league in October, the former Elgin boss has helped steer them out of the drop zone, and into eighth place, two points clear of Albion Rovers, and three ahead of bottom side Queen’s Park.
The two sides have met three times this season, with Rovers taking seven of the nine points on offer.
Mark Millar gave the away side the lead at Stark’s Park back in August, but goals from Lewis Vaughan, Liam Buchanan and Greig Spence turned the game around as Rovers won their second home fixture of the campaign.
It was a different story at Station Park in October, when John Heron gave Raith a second-half lead, only for Mark Millar to rescue a point for the Angus side from the penalty spot.
Rovers returned to winning ways the last time the two met though, with goals from Greig Spence and an own goal from enough in a tight 2-1 win, with Josh Peters grabbing Forfar’s effort.
Raith have six wins and three draws from the last ten meetings, with their solitary defeat coming in a Challenge Cup tie at Station Park last season.
Tuesday’s match referee will be Mike Roncone.
Head-to-Head League Record at Forfar:
Forfar Wins: 15 | Raith Rovers Wins: 11 | Draws: 10
Forfar Goals: 62 | Raith Rovers Goals: 51
Forfar Athletic: W-L-L-W-D-L
Raith Rovers: W-W-W-D-D-L
Top Goal Scorers:
Forfar Athletic: Mark Millar 8 | Matthew Aitken 5
Raith Rovers: Lewis Vaughan 20 | Greig Spence 13 | Liam Buchanan 12
Forfar Athletic: 10/3 | Raith Rovers: 4/5 | Draw: 14/5