Ten Men Grab Three Points
Raith Rovers ground out an important 2-1 win over Stranraer this afternoon, but it was a hard fought victory, after Euan Murray was dismissed at the end of the first half.
Two goals from Kevin Nisbet, either side of a Luke Donnelly equaliser was enough to seal the points, but for long periods of the second 45, Raith were hemmed in by their hosts, although a superbly disciplined and obdurate performance kept the deficit to Arbroath to four points at the top of the table.
John McGlynn made two changes from the 1-1 draw with the Red Lichties, with the two Lewis’, Milne and Vaughan dropping out through injury, and Ryan Stevenson and Ross Matthews coming in in their stead.
With Raith shorn of attacking options, different players were going to have to grasp the nettle, and Murray was the first to step up to the mark, gallivanting down the right flank before aiming a useful cross into the box which Nisbet couldn’t quite get under control, with a defender touch tight behind him.
The in-form striker didn’t have too long to wait before getting on the scoresheet however, as he grabbed his now customary goal in the sixth minute.
Teed up on the left-hand side of the penalty area by Nathan Flanagan, Nisbet composed himself and picked his spot, curling a superb finish past Max Currie and into the right-hand top corner.
It was the ideal start for the home side, who have all too often this season struggled to break teams down.
Stranraer almost replied within 10 minutes however, when a low free-kick from Andrew McDonald whizzed under a jumping wall, but despite seeing it late, Robbie Thomson was able to smother the shot down to his right.
Stranraer had actually settled well since going behind, and while they weren’t exactly laying siege to Raith’s goal, the flow of the match was generally towards Thomson, although the Raith rear-guard were dealing with everything which came their way, while a few long distant efforts were proving ineffective.
That all changed in the 27th minute however, when they away side grabbed a deserved equaliser.
Jamie Hamill’s free-kick from the left flank was headed back into a crowd of players, and with no defender on hand to clear, Donnelly had time to smash an effort into the roof of the net from ten yards.
It was almost worse two minutes later, when PJ Crossan was able to cut in from the right and wriggle his way into the penalty area, before wrong footing Thomson, but sliding his shot just past the post.
Rovers had struggled to create very much since the opening goal, but they should have moved ahead again on the half-hour mark, when a Flanagan cross fell to Stevenson at the back post, but he delayed his shot a fraction too long, giving the defence time to get goal-side and block his close-range shot.
McGlynn’s men were starting to reassert themselves again, and they got their noses in front in the 39th minute, when a clever through pass from Flanagan allowed Nesbit a run in on goal, and the prolific forward needed no invitation to slot past Currie and into the bottom corner for his 12th goal of a productive season.
The celebrations had barely died down when Stranraer missed a gilt edged chance to equalise, when another set-piece into the area wasn’t dealt with by the home team, with David Brownlie reacting quickest, glancing a header just past the far post with Thomson again beaten.
The half ended on a sour note for Raith though, when Murray, who’d only just been booked, went down in the opposition penalty area, which referee, Steven Kirkland deemed theatrical, and brandished a second yellow card, and the inevitable red.
With the game finely balanced and Stranraer looking dangerous, it was a far from ideal end to the first period.
With Rovers reshuffled and a man down, it was key that they started the half well, but they almost got off to the worst possible one, when Thomson was forced into making a fine stop, scooping out a header from Grant Anderson which must have been inches away from crossing the line.
Perhaps realising that action needed taken, McGlynn made an instant substitution, swapping Stevenson for Jamie Watson.
As you’d perhaps expect with the numerical disadvantage, Rovers were struggling in the opening quarter-of-an-hour or so of the second period, with a Flanagan shot that was just too high their only attacking effort, in a half where Stranraer were looking increasingly dangerous.
Kyle Turner was next to try his luck, striking a bouncing ball on the volley from 25-yards which Thomson was thankful to watch bounce just wide.
With Arbroath and East Fife both winning, Rovers could have done with the comfort of a two goal cushion, but with their limited crosses into the area being wasted, it was frustrating, and nerve wracking second half for the home fans.
Stranraer were continuing to threaten though, and after Donnelly’s shot made its way past Thomson, Iain Davidson was on hand to block the shot on the line.
It was now very much a backs against the wall scenario for Raith, and with less than ten minutes remaining, the task was now to hold onto what they had.
It appeared the home side had survived the worst of it, but in the final minute, Mark Lamont’s cross found Innes Cameron unmarked at the back post, but he failed to find the target, and Stranraer’s final chance went begging.
Raith’s next match will be at Station Park, when they travel to face Jim Weir’s Forfar Athletic side.
Raith Rovers Manager John McGlynn spoke to RaithTV after the 2-1 win at Stark’s Park
Football returns after the international break this Saturday, with Rovers welcoming Stranraer to Stark’s Park.
John McGlynn’s side currently sit four points behind top-of-the-table Arbroath, and just a point ahead of in-form East Fife, with this weekend’s game signalling the start of the second quarter of the campaign.
Last time out saw Rovers draw 1-1 with Arbroath at Stark’s Park, with Kevin Nisbet grabbing his 10th goal of the season with a late equaliser, following Bobby Linn’s opener.
Stranraer go into the game on the back of a ding-dong victory over Dumbarton, with goals from Grant Anderson, David Brownlie and PJ Crossan eventually handing The Blues a 3-2 win, after Dumbarton had twice pegged them back through Ross Forbes and Dom Thomas.
It was a result which brough Steve Aitken’s tenure to a close at Dumbarton, with The Sons now on the lookout for a new boss, but for Stranraer, the result kept them just a point behind Brechin City, who occupy the final playoff position.
That fifth place has been acquired largely through their home form however, with 10 of their 12 points coming at Stair Park, although Rovers have already dropped more points at home this season than they did in the whole of last term.
The two sides have met once already this season, back on the opening day, with Grant Anderson cancelling out Liam Buchanan’s opener, in a 1-1 draw.
Rovers have a strong record in this match up, with seven wins and two draws from the last ten meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Steven Kirkland.
Head-To-Head Home League Record Versus Stranraer:
Raith Rovers Wins: 17 | Stranraer Wins: 3 | Draws: 7
Raith Rovers Goals: 54 | Stranraer Goals: 26
Raith Rovers: W-L-D-D-W-D
Top Goal Scorers:
Raith Rovers: Kevin Nisbet 10 | Liam Buchanan 4 | Lewis Vaughan 3
Stranraer: Grant Anderson 3 | David Brownlie 2 | Luke Donnelly 2
Raith Rovers: 4/6 | Stranraer: 4/1 | Draw: 3/1