Rovers Bounce Back in Brechin
The Rovers looked to get back going after last week’s humbling by high flying Ross County at Glebe Park. The trip north through the Angus countryside was showing just a hint of autumns rich palette with some trees beginning to alter their colouring under the cloudy sky.
The team sheet showed that Kevin Cuthbert had rung the changes which lead to some debate about the shape of the side. Watson and McKay dropped to the bench with Davidson and Buchanan both coming into the starting eleven. Discussion ended at kick off when it became clear that it was a 3-5-2 with Wedderburn, Benedictus and Davidson at the back. Murray and Nisbet were the wide men with Gillespie, Matthews and Vaughan in the middle. Duggan and Buchanan were up front looking for goals. This was the most experienced line up available to the Interim Manager and seemed to match the shape of the home side who featured ex-Raith man Conor Brennan between the sticks. The home side also have a couple other kent faces in their squad but with only four players on the bench they weren’t available. Talking of kent faces Ignacio Javier Gomez Novo aka Nacho was in the Main Stand and no doubt dealt politely with the selfie seeking ‘superfan’ – you know who you are big man!
Duggan got wide early and crossed to no effect, in the third minute a home man found space at the edge of the Raith box. His shot was deflected by a closing Raith man and Wright did well to push it away for a corner. The three corners that followed were not dealt with nor capitalised before the ball was sent down the hill away from the Raith support behind the goal. Wedderburn missed a decent pass but Benedictus moved over quickly to mop up. In the sixth minute the home side sent in a good free kick towards four red shirts converging on the goal with a yellow clad defender in their wake. Pleasingly and accurately the linesman had his flag up for offside. Next Vaughan weaved past a couple of home men but was crowded out before being able to take advantage of having pulled the hosts out of shape.
Neither side had really taken control of the game and that continued as the Rovers men played passes or expected team mates to be in different places due to the formation change. This was unsurprising and frustrating in equal measure for all concerned.
In the 15th minute a ball back to Wright from Wedderburn was closed down by Tapping. Going for it they tangled and the ball seemed to spin on the spot just inside the box as both players tried to work out where it had gone. Kieran was pleased to grab it from beside him. Ex-St Johnstone man Jackson then got to the by-line before scuffing his centre at Wright. Another free kick into the Raith box had the defence scrambling as City tried to take advantage of the Rovers unfamiliar set up, Davidson did just enough against the big centre half McGeever.
In the 22nd minute the Rovers had their first real chance. Duggan – who was busy throughout – drew Brennan out of position and the ball fell to Buchanan in space twenty-five yards out facing an empty goal. Unaccountably, Liam decided to play the ball back towards Duggan who was flagged for offside rather than try and put the ball in the unguarded net…
Andy Jackson combined with loanee Callum Hendry well forcing Wright to save again blocking the effort away for another corner. Hendry is son of ex-Scotland Captain Colin Hendry while on the home bench was Harvey, Christian Dailly’s lad. Their Dad’s amassed nearly a hundred and twenty international caps between them.
Kalvin Orsi was next to try and cause problems but Wright took his good cross well. Despite the number of half chances the home side were creating the play was pretty even though the Rovers were not achieving as much in the final third. Vaughan and Duggan combined and the referee ignored a two handed save by a red shirt in the middle of the park which reduced the threat before Nesbit’s cross from the other side was mopped up.
Grant Gillespie got into the hosts box and his looping cross was headed goal wards by a yellow shirt who was adjudged to have fouled a defender. Ewan Murray limped off injured four minutes after going down and receiving treatment, unable despite his best efforts to continue. He was replaced by Nathan Flanagan in what appeared to be a like for like move.
Orsei again did well before a period of stalemate. The big centre half McGeever who had begun to think he could play a bit found himself in the Rovers half and rumbled forward past three men and at the edge of the box played a one-two with Sinclair before touching the ball through to the offside Jackson. It was a move that frankly deserved better. The last action of the first half saw the same man get on the end of a long throw but to no effect.
As the players left the field the Rovers fans saw two yellow shirts follow their hosts towards their dressing room as the rest of the visitors went the other way to the away one. This only added to the discussion at the break about the unfamiliar shape of the side.
Brechin tried to catch the Rovers on the hop sending a dipping shot towards goal straight from the kick off but Kieran Wright back peddled to claim the audacious on-target effort from Tapping. In the home box Duggan skied a difficult chance on the turn having done well to get anything on it. Moments later Chris seemed to be struggling and Lewis Milne got ready to come on. Wright dealt with a header from McGeever following a free kick as Duggan began moving more freely again. In the 50th minute Vaughan lined up a free kick after he was fouled and sent a vicious dipping shot goalward which Brennan did well tip fingertip over. From the corner Matthews played a deft touch to Nisbet but Kevin’s curling effort was too close to the keeper.
Despite not being 100% Duggan almost got on the end of a cross just being denied by Brennan after good work from Vaughan and Nisbet. Jordan Sinclair – who had a good game for the hosts – fired a free kick into the wall before a moment of controversy. Nisbet did well wide and sent a very inviting ball through the legs of a defender into the box which Duggan volleyed home leaving Brennan with absolutely no chance. As the Rovers fans and players started to celebrate the outstretched arm and flag of the linesman stopped them in their tracks. From the stand it didn’t look offside but if it was it was a very close call.
In the 58th minute Buchanan, not the rejuvenated Duggan, was replaced by Lewis Milne; soon after Chris was booked for a tug on a red shirt. This was followed by a booking for Sinclair for a foul on Matthews. Ross had the next opportunity moving into the box after a free kick but the ball to him from Nisbet was going so fast he wasn’t able to direct it goalwards. Brennan juggled but held a low drive from Duggan wide but his next touch was retrieving the ball from the back of the net. Matthews wide sent in a good cross and Duggan rose sandwiched between two defenders, the well positioned referee blew his whistle and awarded a penalty for the overly close attention from behind. Kevin Nisbet looked much more at home stepping up to take the penalty and fired it to Brennan’s left into the side netting. This was something Euan Spark the home number 6 didn’t seem to enjoy and he vented his anger at some of the Raith fans stood in front of Scottish Football’s finest topiary. 0:1
Brechin pushed for an instant equaliser at the far end but fired a corner into the side netting. Vaughan closed down McGeever who tripped over the ball but as in the first half it fell kindly to the defending player. Spark did very well to calmly take the ball off Duggan in the box as the game continued to be pretty even.
As the game entered the final quarter the Rovers midfield – especially Gillespie – seemed to be getting more of the ball and be more involved winning tackles and making an impact. Sinclair was replaced by the brilliantly named ex-Stade Brestois man Boris Melingui. Orsi tried to test Wright long range before Tapping shot wide. Duggan at the other end was unlucky not to win a corner having shown good skill at the flag. Moments later a fizzing drive from Chris saw Brennan dive to claim it. As the Rovers pushed on a miscontrol by Nisbet fell to Melingui who scampered off down the hill supported by Tapping, the later was robbed by Gillespie as the Rovers support held their breath.
In the 83rd minute a clear foul on Matthews was ignored and what became a rolling melee saw both the ball and players hacked, kicked and bundled from halfway to the edge of the Raith box. In the 86th minute Spark was booked for persistent fouling then Nisbet for the same thing. In the 87th minute a free kick to the Raith back post was headed home by Boris Melingui despite Wright getting a hand to it. I fear that whoever let a man of only moderate stature win a header there must have felt a bit of a Stade Brestois. 1:1
As time ran out and the Rovers tried to get the winner the ball bounced up into the mid-rift of McGeever hitting his arm but cries for a penalty were a little optimistic. Watson replaced Duggan before Flanagan was the victim of extreme closing down, four red shirts combining to get the ball off him as the Rovers failed to capitalise on the resulting space. The last half chance saw Brennan get to a Matthews centre just before Kevin Nisbet.
After last week’s performance and result there certainly were positives to ponder on the way home from Brechin. Many travelling back will have avoided Dundee as it was ‘gettin it’s culture oan’ at the new V&A wondering what the next couple of weeks will hold for Raith Rovers. Hoping that we make a managerial discovery that’ll unlock another period in the club’s history meriting a further exhibit or two in Kirkcaldy’s slightly older museum.
© Eddie Doig 2018
Interim Rovers manager Kevin Cuthbert talked to RaithTV after the 1-1 draw at Glebe Park
After a heavy defeat in Dingwall put paid to their Challenge Cup participation, Raith are back on their travels again this weekend, to face Darren Dods’ Brechin City team.
The Glebe Park side faced a torrid time in the Championship last term, ending the season without a win and with just four points for their efforts, but they’ve started the League One season in decent fettle, currently sitting fourth position in the table, four points behind second placed Rovers.
Brechin’s 1-0 win over East Fife in August was their first league victory since a 1-0 win over Albion Rovers back in April 2017, but they quickly followed that up with a come-from-behind win over Dumbarton, and a 2-2 draw with Arbroath.
It’s been ten years since these two teams met on league business, with Rovers winning two and drawing one of the four meetings in the 2008/09 Second Division.
Rovers would end up league champions that season, finishing two points ahead of Ayr United, while City finished third, but missed out on the chance of promotion after losing 5-2 on aggregate to Ayr United in the playoffs.
It was in the second tier promotion playoffs that these two teams last met in May 2017, but it wasn’t the happiest of experiences for those of a Raith persuasion.
Ross Caldwell gave Brechin the lead from the penalty spot in the first leg, although Declan McManus ensured the sides would return to Stark’s Park all square, with an equaliser 20 minutes from time.
Caldwell again handed the away side the advantage in the second leg, although Jean Yves M’voto restored parity, only for Alan Trouten to put Brechin back in front with seven minutes remaining.
McManus came to the rescue again in injury time to force the match into an additional half hour, and Ryan Hardie looked to have done enough to get Raith into the final, only for Liam Watt to force penalties with five minutes remaining.
Rovers looked to have the advantage in the shootout after two early misses from Brechin, but efforts from Hardie, Bobby Barr and Scott Robertson were all saved by Graeme Smith, condemning Rovers to relegation.
It’s not just in playoff matches that Rovers have struggled against Brechin though, as they’ve won just three of the last ten meetings between the clubs, with four ending all-square.
Saturday’s match referee will be Scott Millar.
Head-To-Head League Record At Brechin:
Brechin City Wins: 8 | Raith Rovers Wins: 17 | Draws: 7
Brechin City Goals: 39 | Raith Rovers Goals: 77
Brechin City: L-W-L-L-W-D
Raith Rovers: W-W-D-W-W-L
Top Goal Scorers:
Brechin City: Boris Melingui 3 | Andy Jackson 2
Raith Rovers: Kevin Nisbet 7 | Liam Buchanan 3 | Lewis Vaughan 2
Brechin City: 23/10 | Raith Rovers: 11/10 | Draw: 27/10