Raith Win Keeps Pressure On
Raith Rovers made it three successive wins this afternoon, with a hard fought 2-0 victory over Airdrieonians.
First half goals from Kevin Nisbet and Liam Buchanan did the damage in a blistering spell for Rovers, but other than a 25-minute period of dominance in that opening 45, they were made to battle by an in-form Diamonds side.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, John McGlynn went with the same starting starting XI which ran out convincing 3-0 winners at Hamden last time out, with Grant Gillespie again starting on the right-hand-side of a back four.
Ian Murray’s side had been in good form of late, winning their three prior matches going into this one, and they looked in the mood to extend that record even further in the opening stages, with Dale Carrick getting on the end of a knock-down on the edge of the Raith penalty area, and sending a shot goalward, which Thomson was able to gather into his body.
However, despite that bright start, it was Raith who took the lead after just five minutes, and there were no huge shocks about the identity of the scorer.
Nisbet picked up the ball wide on the left, and after hitting the line and cutting inside, he skipped round one challenge and drove a low shot past David Hutton from an extremely acute angle, with appeared to catch the custodian wrongfooted.
It was virtually the first time Rovers had gained possession in the opponents half, but just as had been the case against Queen’s Park, Nisbet’s clinical nature in front of goal had handed them the advantage.
Airdrie continued to be a threat though, and Leighton McIntosh, who’d started the match well, managed to get on the end of a Kieran MacDonald cross, but the forward couldn’t steer it on target.
Raith were really struggling to get to grips with the visitors, and they had something of a let off in the 19th minute, when McIntosh appeared to get caught in the penalty area, although the referee saw no foul. The official may have been swayed by the fact the Airdrie man had over-run the ball, but at first glance, he seemed to have a fairly strong claim for a spot-kick.
Airdrie were continuing to chap at the door, and Darryl Duffy’s 25-yard free-kick made Thomson work again, although it was a comfortable save down to his left.
Rovers missed a gilt-edge chance just a minute later though, when Gillespie found himself with a free run in on goal after the Diamonds defence seemed to evaporate in front of him, but with with options in support, he elected to go on his own, but Hutton produced a fine stop to make up for his mistake with the first.
The match had become far more end-to-end during the middle part of the half, which for a side with as many attacking options as Rovers should have been a matter of concern for the visitors, and they found themselves two behind after half an hour.
Nathan Flanagan’s cross was touched on by Nisbet, which allowed Buchanan to take a touch to steady himself and blast home from just a few yards out.
The wind had been sucked out of Airdrie’s sails at this point, and Rovers were now producing some excellent stuff, and it almost produced a third in the 41st minute.
This time it came via Gillespie, who was getting forward to good effect down the right, and he managed to play in Buchanan, but his shot from an angle was beaten away by the legs of Hutton.
They came close again as the half-time whistle approached. More good play, this time between Daniel Armstrong and Flanagan, saw Euan Murray released on the overlap, and his cross found Flanagan in the middle, but his side foot effort slipped just past the post.
Despite a somewhat fraught opening 20 minutes, Rovers had produced some smashing stuff in that first period, which arguably warranted a greater than two goal lead.
The Airdrieonians manager made a swap at the interval, with Ryan Conroy replacing Kyle Wilkie, but Rovers almost raced into a three goal lead right at the start of the second half, when more good work from Nisbet played in Buchanan, but he was denied his second by a last gasp block from Sean Crighton.
As comfortable as Rovers looked at this stage, Airdrie had recently come back from a similar deficit to defeat East Fife 4-2, and the introduction of Conroy, with his excellent crossing ability, had given Rovers a few moments of concern in the second period’s first ten minutes.
A goal for the visitors would have changed the entire complexion of the match, and they almost grabbed one in the 58th minute.
Conroy’s corner-kick eventually found its way to McIntosh, but his effort was excellently kept out by Thomson, who spread himself to deny the forward from six-yards out. After coming close for the umpteenth time, McIntosh must have been at least starting to ponder if it just wasn’t going to be his day.
The match then settled into a fairly low-key event, with Rovers understandably happy to hold what they had, while Airdrie doggedly tried to work their way into the match, without making too many inroads against the home defence.
Rovers hadn’t really got going in the final third aince that chance for Buchanan, with Airdrie looking the more dangerous, and with 20 minutes remaining, Murray made his final switch, bringing off Duffy for top scorer, Joao Victoria.
It made little difference to the match however, with Rovers keeping Airdrie at arms length for the closing stages, to seal a win that keeps Arbroath just about in sight.
However, with the distance between them still stuck on 10 points, the pre-Christmas meeting at Gayfield is starting to look more and more vital.
John McGlynn talked to RaithTV after the 2-0 win over Airdrieonians
RaithTV talked to goalscorer Liam Buchanan after the 2-0 win over Airdrieonians
Raith Rovers welcome Airdrieonians to Stark’s Park this Saturday, and if the game’s anything like the last time these two sides met, then we’re in for a treat.
Trailing 3-1 back in August with just three minutes remaining, Rovers somehow managed to turn the game around, through goals from Kevin Nisbet and Liam Buchanan, to score an incredible 4-3 victory, despite being reduced to 10 men after the dismissal of Iain Davidson.
Rovers may find it a little tougher this Saturday though, against a Diamonds team which seem to have a little more about them since appointing Ian Murray as their manager in October.
His new charges have won four out of their six matches under his stewardship, and a win on Saturday, coupled with other results going their way, would see them take their place in the playoff positions.
They go into this one on a high too, with three successive victories under their belt, thanks to wins over Stranraer, East Fife, coming from two goals down in the process, and last week’s 3-0 Scottish Cup win over Dumbarton, with goals coming from Chris O’Neill and a brace from Kyle Wilkie.
Raith will also need to be wary of Airdrie’s away form, which is far superior to their form at The Penny Cars Stadium, with only Arbroath picking up more League One points on their travels this term.
Rovers have an excellent record in this fixture, with seven wins and three draws from the last ten meetings, with Airdrie’s last win coming back in 2011, with a 2-0 victory in the League Cup.
Saturday’s match referee will be David Lowe.
Head-To-Head Home League Record Versus Airdrie:
Raith Rovers Wins: 7 | Airdrie Wins: 3 | Draws: 2
Raith Rovers Goals: 13 | Airdrie Goals: 7
Raith Rovers: W-L-W-L-W-W
Raith Rovers: Kevin Nisbet 18 | Liam Buchanan 6
Airdrie: Joao Victoria 7 | Darryl Duffy 4
Raith Rovers: 3/4 | Airdrie: 7/2 | Draw: 29/10