All Square In Crucial Clash
Raith Rovers left it late against Arbroath this afternoon, but they preserved their unbeaten start to the campaign, with a 1-1 draw in the top-of-the-table clash at Stark’s Park.
Bobby Linn had given Dick Campbell’s side the lead with just 12 minutes remaining, but a controversial equaliser from Kevin Nisbet with just four minutes remaining, sparked a dramatic end to proceedings.
Unsurprisingly, after the excellent 5-1 win over Dumbarton last Saturday, manager John McGlynn went with the same side which won so convincingly at the C&G Stadium.
While the opening exchanges in this one were intriguing, they were producing few clear cut chances, with Rovers looking comfortable in possession, but Arbroath looking dangerous on the break.
Rovers play was generally breaking down in the final third, but Vaughan fashioned his own chance in the 10th minute, pirouetting away from his marker next to the left-hand corner flag, but with options in the box and a decent sight at goal, he curled his effort from outside the area well over the bar.
Arbroath were proving the equal of their hosts though, with Ryan Wallace in particular proving a handful to the Rovers defence, and there was a fright for that rear-guard in the 12th minute, when Jason Thomson went down in the area, although the former Raith man was booked for simulation, a decision which Arbroath boss, Dick Campbell would berate in his post-game interview.
Rovers had another let off seven minutes later, when livewire Wallace was played through following a long ball, but after narrowing the angle, Robbie Thomson was able to block his effort. The rebound fell kindly for Mark Whatley, and while he initially looked certain to score, his effort was deflected for a corner.
Rovers then created their best chance till that point three minutes later, when Regan Hendry’s perfectly weighted pass found Flanagan on the left, and although his square pass to Nesbit found the prolific forward on his own, he elected to take a touch rather than strike first time, and the chance was squandered.
Linn was having a quiet game by his own high standards, but he was the next to threaten, skipping past Lewis Milne far too easily on the left-wing, before sending his cross-come-shot into the side netting.
The opening half hour had been a reasonably even event, but while Rovers had looked decent in possession, Arbroath were the side who were creating the far better opportunities.
Wallace was the next to go close, shaping to cross from the left touchline, but almost curling a pinpoint effort into the top-left-hand corner, which Thomson was just able to claw out at full stretch.
They came even closer a minute later, when Raith’s breakaway was stopped in its tracks on the half way line, allowing Linn to drive at the defence as part of a three-on-three.
Electing to go on his own, it appeared to be the correct decision with his shot initially looking like it was bending in, but while it beat Thompson, the ball drifted just wide of the post.
Arbroath started the brighter again in the second period, and McGlynn elected to switch it up, with Liam Buchanan replacing Vaughan in the 56th minute.
It had been a frustrating start to the second period, with Rovers again struggling to create anything in the final third, as Arbroath continued to look pacey on the front foot.
The home side were starting to get penned in, with the Red Lichties pressurising the home side via a flurry of corners on the hour mark, but while set-pieces have been Raith’s bete noire this term, they managed to stand firm.
Rovers chances were fairly thin on the ground, indeed, they had been for the majority of the match, with Hendry’s attempt from distance their first dig at goal in the second period, albeit it drifted harmlessly wide.
However, Rovers were presented with a great chance with 18 minutes remaining, when Buchanan perfectly teed up Flanagan who advanced in on goal, but after delaying his shot a fraction too long, Ricky Little was able to get back and stop his effort with a fantastic sliding challenge.
That was the exception rather than a trend though, as Rovers started to ride their luck, with Thomson having to be quick off his line to deny substitute Callum Smith, and he had to be at his best again a moment later, as he spread himself to block Gavin Swankie’s attempt from close range.
However, Arbroath got the goal their play deserved in the 78th minute, when that man Linn cut inside from the left-hand touchline and placed a shot inside Thomson’s left-hand post.
It was a goal that on the balance of play, Arbroath merited, but Raith grabbed an equaliser in the 86th minute, when Hendry wriggled to the bye-line and hit a low shot at goal, which was eventually bundled home by Nesbit.
With the Arbroath players insisting that Hendry had ran the ball over the touchline, temperatures were raised, and that was also visible in the dugout, with Dick Campbell being ordered off by referee Craig Napier, twice, with the veteran gaffer initially coming onto the park to remonstrate, then going back to the dugout, before slowly trooping off, laughing with the fans as he went, which also caused referee Craig Napier no little ire.
There was still one further chance to win the game, and it fell for the away side, with Ryan McCord chipping an effort just past the post in injury time.
The point meant both sides completed the first quarter without loss, in a title contest which appears could go the distance.
© Eddie Doig 2018
Raith Rovers Manager John McGlynn talked to RaithTV after the draw at Stark’s Park
It’s a top-of-the-table clash this Saturday, as Raith Rovers and Arbroath, both unbeaten in the league this term, come together at Stark’s Park.
The Red Lichties have been in superb form this season, dropping just four points to date, with draws against Dumbarton and Brechin in amongst their six league wins. That run of form sees them sit four points clear of Rovers at the top of the table, and a further three of third places East Fife.
Rovers go into the match on the back of an excellent 5-1 away win over Dumbarton, a match which was John McGlynn’s first in charge since returning to the club.
Whilst the margin of victory was surprisingly large, it wasn’t the most eye-catching element of the afternoon, with Raith putting in one of their best performances since they finished fourth in the Championship under Ray McKinnon in the 2015/16 season.
Goals from Lewis Vaughan, Kevin Nisbet, Liam Buchanan and a brace from Nathan Flanagan made the difference on the day, but there could easily have been more in a game which Rovers dominated.
However, they’ll almost certainly find it more difficult against an Arbroath team who have started the season exceptionally well under Dick Campbell.
The Gayfield side have scored the most goals and conceded the fewest in League One, and while Rovers had the upper hand against them last term, they certainly didn’t have it all their own way.
Jason Thomson and Lewis Vaughan were the scorers at Stark’s Park last October as Rovers ran out 2-0 winners, and Rovers took full points at Gayfield two days before Christmas, with Greig Spence and Buchanan on target in a 2-1 win.
The next two meetings would end in draws though, with a last minute Leighton McIntosh goal doing the damage after Thomson and Willis Furtado had handed the home side a 2-1 advantage in February.
McIntosh proved to be a thorn in Rovers flesh in the fourth and final meeting in April, as his late equaliser cancelled out Buchanan’s opener, and went some way to ensuring the title would be heading to Ayr rather than Kirkcaldy.
Raith do have a good recent record in this fixture, with five wins and four draws from their last ten meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Craig Napier.
Head-To-Head Home League Record Versus Arbroath:
Raith Rovers Wins: 20 | Arbroath Wins: 8 | Draws: 8
Raith Rovers Goals: 68 | Arbroath Goals: 39
Raith Rovers: W-W-L-D-D-W
Top Goal Scorers:
Raith Rovers: Kevin Nisbet 9 | Liam Buchanan 4 | Lewis Vaughan 3
Arbroath: Bobby Linn 7 | Ryan Wallace 5
Raith Rovers: 11/8 | Arbroath: 19/10 | Draw: 5/2