Rovers Stung by Wasps
The Rovers travelled to Alloa through showers and sun hoping for a better outcome than the draw on Saturday past. Knowing the hosts would be likely to play a more expansive game the visitors lined up with only one change from the first of what is now a treble-header. Matthews came in for Zanatta as they Rovers lined up 4-4-2 with Buchanan wearing the armband up top alongside Vaughan.
Lewis had a go from 24 yards in the 4th minute at Parry the home keeper who’d been so busy on Saturday. From the first corner an Alloa centre bounced in the box twice before it was cleared. McHattie and Buchanan combined well on the left before the cross was claimed by the stretching custodian. This was followed up by Jason Thomson playing out of defence before he was unceremoniously felled – as everyone waited for a whistle – Cawley shot over from outside the box.
The Rovers had started brightly and were enjoying more space as the home side were less conservative than the previous match. Barr in particular wide was getting more space. After a free kick which was claimed by Smith the referee was right to ignore a foul by Stewart on Robertson in the Rovers box and let play continue. Next Barr scampered across the front of the 18 yard box and fired at low effort that Parry saved without much difficulty to his right.
In the 22nd minute Alloa scored. For the second time this season your correspondent has to describe a goal that was not easy to detail here. Graeme Smith moved unhindered to deal with an innocuous bouncing ball into the box, he was closed down by an eager Stewart who was right on him when the man in pink kicked it. Blocking the attempted clearance Ross Stewart on the angle popped the ball past the keeper to make it to give Alloa the lead. Even the most loyal and ardent Rovers fan would have difficulty not describing the goal as avoidable. 1:0
Four minutes later in a crowded box Smith tried to throw the ball under arm before the keeper reclaimed it. Rovers faced their second indirect free kick in the box in a handful of games. Thankfully the error was not compounded as the resulting shot was blocked by the wall and cleared.
Davidson was booked for a foul on Kirkpatrick who had gone past a couple of players less willing to tackle him. Despite going one down there wasn’t much of a reaction from the Rovers though Alloa seemed a little more lively looking to add to their advantage.
Hetherington received treatment before Robertson played in Vaughan who’s vicious shot went across goal and wide. The home number 8 succumbed to his injury being taken off in the 37th minute and replaced by Jon Robertson. The half’s last action saw Buchanan and Vaughan combine stretching the home defence but the men in hoops mopped up just in the box.
Neither side made any changes at the break and Alloa wasted a free kick before a couple of Raith corners didn’t threaten to create an equaliser. Barr ran towards goal well and oddly played the ball wide to Vaughan who despite his view along the line was offside. Parry then claimed a free kick before in a straight swap Spence replaced Buchanan who passed the armband to Davidson.
Barr was fouled and from the resulting free kick a clearance was put back into the box falling for Thomson who hit the half chance wide with his weaker foot. He did well to get anything on it. Alloa were continuing to try, and a ball flashed across the Rovers six yard box before going to safety.
In the 58th minute things got even harder for the Rovers but at least Alloa created the goal this time. Play out wide saw Cawley put a ball across for Iain Flannigan who needed no further encouragement sweeping it into the side netting first time to make it 2:0.
Ross Matthews was then replaced by Dario Zanatta in what looked like a straight swap.
On the hour Smith was alert hoofing a ball away foiling another Alloa attack, then saved after good work from the home front men. The influential midfielder Fleming was subbed due to injury but that didn’t seem to affect the home sides play much, as scrappy but effective Wasp defending was followed by another Smith save at the other end.
In the 72nd minute Barr was replaced by Furtado. Dario and Lewis did well earning a corner and moments later Dario fired a low shot wide. The next opportunity fell to the home side when a shot from outside the box had Smith diving one way only for a deflection to send it towards the centre of the goal where thankfully for the men in blue it hit Smiths trailing foot and was cleared.
A home man was booked rightly for a foul on Zanatta then a high ball to the corner of the Alloa box was contested by Davidson and Taggart. Being close to it there didn’t seem to be anything of note other than a rather surprising scream from the home man, which clearly helped prompt a whistle from the ref. Taggart went down and the referee, to the disbelief of the nearby Rovers fans, produced a second yellow card for the Rovers best player this season. Davo was as surprised as the rest of us and as he trudged off the home physio tended to his man who rose to booing from the Rovers support. The nearest fans continued booing of the home man lasted rather longer than any ill effects of whatever foul Davidson had been deemed to have committed.
Two goals down with ten men the Rovers tried to take something from the last ten minutes. Robertson slotted into the back four and despite even possession over the closing stages Raith couldn’t threaten Parry’s goal. Robertson was hurt defending an Alloa attack and had to hobble about in the middle for the last few moments.
It may only be ‘half time’ but the Rovers need goals on Saturday.
Photo Gallery will appear here shortly
After the crushing disappointment of failing to win the league on Saturday following the 0-0 draw with Alloa, Raith Rovers face the same opponent this Wednesday evening in the semi-final first leg of the Championship playoff.
Despite having the lion’s share of possession at the weekend, Rovers were perhaps fortunate to go in at the break level, with Alloa’s Jordan Kirkpatrick striking the bar and post in the first period, but despite late pressure, the closest Rovers came to grabbing the vital goal was when they struck the post in the final seconds, handing the title to Ayr United, who take with it the automatic promotion place.
If Rovers are to bounce back to the Championship at the first time of asking, they’ll now have to eliminate the Wasps over two legs, before facing the winner of Arbroath versus Dumbarton next week.
However, despite this being Raith’s fifth participation in a playoff competition, they’ve yet to win a tie from their four previous attempts.
Last season, they lost out to Brechin on penalties, after a 4-4 aggregate score-line, while the season previous, they stumbled at the first hurdle of the Premiership playoffs, losing 2-1 to Hibernian after a 1-0 win at Stark’s Park, thanks to a goal from Harry Panayiotou.
You have to go back to 2008 for their previous participation in them, with promotion to the second tier again their aim, but a 2-0 first leg defeat at Stark’s Park to Airdrie was followed up by a 2-2 draw at the Excelsior.
Their first attempt at going up via that route had come the previous season, with Rovers finishing third in the third tier, sandwiched between Stirling Albion and Brechin.
A 0-0 draw at Stark’s Park in the first leg against the Binos meant there was everything to play for in the second, but a 3-1 defeat at Forthbank put paid to Raith’s hopes.
Despite their poor playoff record, Rovers can take solace from their record at the Indodrill Stadium, which sees them unbeaten in their last seven visits.
Overall, they’ve a decent recent record against Jim Godwin’s side, winning four and drawing four of their last ten fixtures.
Wednesday evening’s match referee will be Don Robertson
Head-To-Head Away League Record:
Alloa Athletic Wins: 17 | Raith Rovers Wins: 23 | Draws: 10
Alloa Athletic Goals: 74 | Raith Rovers Goals: 86
Alloa Athletic: W-W-L-W-W-D
Raith Rovers: W-W-D-W-W-D
Top Goal Scorers:
Alloa Athletic: Iain Flannigan 8 | Ross Stewart 7
Raith Rovers: Lewis Vaughan 23 | Liam Buchanan 14 | Greig Spence 13
Alloa Athletic: 5/2 | Raith Rovers: 23/20 | Draw: 12/5