Poor Run Continues With Latest Defeat
This afternoon’s match with Arbroath may have been described as a must win in some quarters, but you wouldn’t have realised from Raith’s tepid showing against the champions in waiting.
Red Lichties ‘keeper, Darren Jamieson didn’t have a save of note, meaning Colin Hamilton’s first-half strike was enough to send Arbroath 16 points clear at the summit of the table, and they can already start to plan for life in the Championship next term.
For Raith however, it’s very much back to the drawing board, with a clutch of clubs now within touching distance if they can’t arrest the current slide in form.
John McGlynn made one change from last weekend’s 3-1 Scottish Cup defeat to Hibernian, with Dean Lyness replacing Robbie Thomson between the posts.
There was little in the opening skirmishes, as both teams attempted to feel their way into the match, but there was a scare for the visitors in the third minute, when an attempted clearance from Jamieson struck Jamie Barjonas as he closed the custodian down, but despite the ‘keeper appearing temporarily panicked, there wasn’t a Raith player in close enough vicinity to take advantage.
It was a tentatively encouraging opening for Rovers, and they almost took the lead in the eighth minute, when Callum Crane’s cutback found Tony Dingwall inside the area, but his first-time effort from close range was deflected over the crossbar.
It was one of the game’s few chances in its opening 20 minutes, but while it lacked goal scoring opportunities, it did feature a fair few meaty challenges, with neither side giving an inch in what was a tense first quarter.
Arbroath demonstrated that they don’t need a host of chances to score however, taking the lead with their first chance in the 27th minute.
Jason Thomson’s cross to the back post found Bobby Linn, and his shot from an acute angle was well saved by Lyness, however, with the Raith defenders standing stock still as the rebound rolled towards the edge of the area, Hamilton needed no further invitation to place the ball through a glut of players and into the net.
It should have been two just four minutes later, when Linn’s set piece from the right found Greig Spence in a worryingly large amount of space just a few yards out, but he got a poor connection on his finish, appearing to shin the ball over the crossbar.
Raith looked rattled at this point, and with their forward promptings being easily dealt with by the away defence, a second goal for Arbroath looked far likelier than an equaliser.
Linn in particular was proving too much for the Raith defence to handle, and his sprint to the bye-line and cut-back was only just cleared for a corner.
Rovers had completely fallen out of the game, and it took them until the 38th minute until their next attempt at goal, when Nathan Flanagan cut inside and sent a shot past an untroubled Jamieson’s left-hand post.
Rovers were starting to keep possession a little better, but it was all taking place in front of the Arbroath backline, with a Crane header which was straight at Jamieson from a Euan Murray cross the last piece of action in a half which Rovers lacked ideas and were second best.
McGlynn made one change at the interval, with Iain Davidson being replaced by winger, Craig McGuffie.
That meant Grant Gillespie moved to the right back position, with Murray moving infield to partner Kyle Benedictus.
With Rovers desperate to get back into the match, they started the second period with a little more zip and energy, forcing two corners in quick succession, but they were largely for nought, as the maroon backline easily dealt with the crosses.
They were at least on the front-foot at last though, and a pass into the area from Gillespie picked out Crane, but his cross-come-shot across the face of goal was a touch too heavy as it floated wide of target.
It was as close as Raith would come in the game, with the early urgency they’d shown ebbing away, with Arbroath easily keeping them at arm’s length, as the forward players struggled to make any impact on proceedings.
Liam Buchanan was introduced for Nathan Flanagan with 20 minutes remaining, but it made little difference to the momentum of the match, as Arbroath continued to look comfortable.
With a few minutes remaining, McGlynn made his last throw of the dice, bringing on Jack Smith for Kevin Nisbet, but there’d be no grandstand finish to the match, as Arbroath eased to the three points, and took the adulation of their large travelling support at full-time.
The match highlights video will appear here the day after the match
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It’s a top-of-the-table clash this weekend, as Raith Rovers welcome Dick Campbell’s Arbroath side to Stark’s Park.
The Red Lichties went 13 points clear during the week with a 1-1 draw against Stranraer, so if Rovers harbour any hopes of overturning the significant gap, a win is surely a must in this vital game.
Rovers can take some positives from the previous meetings this term, taking four points from a possible six, although they were fortunate to take a point in a 1-1 draw in October, with Kevin Nisbet scoring a late leveller after Bobby Linn had fired the visitors ahead with 10 minutes remaining.
There was no fortune in the next meeting in December though, with Rovers winning 2-0 at Gayfield.
Daniel Armstrong opened the scoring with a wonderful free kick after 20 minutes, while Liam Buchanan completed the scoring before the interval.
Since then, Arbroath have struggled for form, with just two wins in their five games since, but Rovers have failed to capitalise, with just one league win against Stenhousemuir since that 2-0 victory.
Arbroath have added to their forward line in the January transfer window, with Luke Donnelly joining from Stranraer, while ex-Rovers forward Greig Spence has also become a Lichtie after leaving Alloa Athletic.
Rovers will also be hoping to extend their excellent record in this fixture, with six wins and four draws from their last 10 meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be John McKendrick
Head-To-Head Home League Record Versus Arbroath:
Raith Rovers Wins: 20 | Arbroath Wins: 8 | Draws: 9
Raith Rovers Goals: 125 | Arbroath Goals: 95
Raith Rovers: W-D-W-L-D-L
Top Goal Scorers:
Raith Rovers: Kevin Nisbet 21 | Liam Buchanan 9 | Lewis Vaughan 9
Arbroath: Ryan Wallace 17 | Luke Donnelly 9
Raith Rovers: 13/10 | Arbroath: 15/8 | Draw: 13/5