Late Drama Snatches Point At Stenny
Raith Rovers haven’t had their problems to seek on the road this season, and they endured another difficult afternoon at Ochilview today, where they were reliant on a late, late Liam Buchanan equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Stenhousemuir.
John McGlynn made three changes from last weekend’s last gasp victory over East Fife, with goal-scorer Iain Davidson dropping to the bench, and Dave McKay replacing him at the heart of the defence.
Buchanan and Ross Matthews also made way for Craig McGuffie and Nathan Flanagan after the duo played a large part in Rovers win last weekend, but the away side made a slow start to this one.
Stenhousemuir had the first attempt at goal, and it was to be a precursor to what Raith would struggle to deal with all game, with a cross into the area only partially cleared, allowing Greg Hurst to hit a shot on the spin which failed to trouble Robbie Thomson in the Rovers goal.
Rovers were enjoying the bulk of possession in the early stages, although they were failing to threaten Graeme Smith in the Stenny goal, although Euan Murray was unlucky not to get on the end of a cross into the area, which was just too far ahead of the defender.
Rovers had a real let-off in the 12th minute, when a bouncing ball was left by everyone in yellow, allowing Russell Dingwall a clear route to goal, but he was forced to take the ball at an awkward angle, and his attempt ended up well over the bar.
Dingwall, Hurst and Mark McGuigan were proving to be a difficult trio for the Raith defence to handle, and the Warriors were looking the far likelier side in the opening quarter.
Rovers were struggling to clear their lines, and a Stenhousemuir set-piece was the source of their next attempt, when Morgan Neill got a shot off from just inside the area which Thomson gathered easily.
Rovers were surviving on luck and poor finishing from their hosts, and they had an extraordinary let off in the 23rd minute.
Again, it was a free-kick which caused the damage, with a Neil knock-down into the area almost forced home by Hurst, only for Thomson to excellently block from close range, while the follow up from McGuigan was hacked off the line by Grant Gillespie.
The home side were cursing their luck a moment later too, when a shot from an angle was diverted off the line by Murray, as Stenhousemuir again came close to the opener.
Not only were Rovers under the cosh at this stage, they appeared to be second to every ball, as they struggled to to put together any positive passages of play, spending the bulk of the opening half hour pinned back.
Kevin Nisbet had been tasked with leading the line on his own, but he was too often an isolated player up top, with no-one within 30-yards of him any time Raith did break forward.
It took them until the 37th minute to test Smith, and when they did, they really should have capitalised.
Flanagan ran onto a superb curled pass from Nat Wedderburn, but after sprinting clear of the defence, he was unable to squeeze it past the goalie who turned it wide for a corner.
They should really of taken the lead from that too, when the corner found McGuffie at the back-post and in bags of room, but he could only plant his header way over the bar. It was certainly a more encouraging end to the half, as Rovers were at last starting to ask their hosts some questions, with Crane and Flanagan especially making good headway down the left-hand side.
Rovers were on the front foot at the start of the second period, but while their patient build up was keeping possession well, they were struggling to break down a formidable Stenny backline.
Twice in the opening few minutes of the half, Callum Crane burst into the box on the left, but with players in support, he was unable to pick out a colleague.
They’d have cause to regret that in the 58th minute, when Stenhousemuir took the lead.
A quick breakaway saw Hurst outstripping the defence, and his perfectly weighted pass allowed Mark McGuigan to dink a finish past Thomson and into the net.
With Rovers already toiling to create much in the final third, they now had a huge uphill struggle to get anything out of this one, although they almost equalised straight away, when Nisbet spun clear of his marker and sent a shot just wide of Smith’s right-hand post.
McGlynn made a double substitution in the 65th minute, replacing McGuffie and Gullan with Ross Matthews and Liam Buchanan, and Raith were almost level within three minutes of their introduction.
A free-kick caused confusion in the Stenny penalty area, and with Smith out of position, Murray’s goal bound header was cleared off the line by Neill.
Rovers were then forced to make their final substitution with 20 minutes remaining, when Robbie Thomson went down injured with no-one near him, forcing him to be stretchered off, with Dean Lynass replacing him.
With time ticking down, Rovers were getting more desperate in their attempts to get back into the game, but they’d yet to force Smith into any genuine saves in the entire second period.
Stenhousemuir were sitting deeper and deeper however, and Buchanan was presented with an opportunity inside the area, but with time to pick his spot, his blast at goal was deflected away.
He made amends in the 90th minute however, with a goal that was entirely of Stenhousemuir’s own making.
A sliced clearance from Neil saw the ball arcing over Smith’s head, and while the goalkeeper was able to scoop it off the line, Buchanan was on hand to smash the ball home from close range.
With plenty added on time due to the injury to Thomson, Rovers suddenly had time to produce another last gasp come from behind victory, but it was beyond them this time, as the two sides were forced to settle for a point, in a result which did neither team much good.
Rovers are back at Stark’s Park next weekend, with a home match versus Stranraer.
© Eddie Doig 2019
John McGlynn talked to RaithTV after the 1-1 draw at Stenhousemuir
After a last-gasp come-from-behind victory over East Fife last weekend, Rovers are back on their travels this Saturday, as they face Stenhousemuir at Ochilview.
The Warriors currently sit bottom of League One, but they’ve given themselves a fighting chance of staying in the division, after last week’s 2-1 win at Dumbarton.
That result now sees them just two points behind ninth place Stranraer, and three behind Brechin, who sit one place higher.
Although Stenny had lost their two games prior to last weekend’s victory, they’ve actually been in a pretty rich vein of form, losing just three times in their last 10 league outings, a sequence which has seen them taking points off four of the top six sides in the division, including a win at Gayfield against Arbroath.
This will be the two teams fourth meeting this term, with Raith taking nine points from nine so far.
Their first meeting was in August, when a brace from Kevin Nisbet was enough to seal all three points in a 2-0 win.
It was a two goal margin of victory when the two met at Ochilview in November too, with goals coming from Callum Crane and a double from Daniel Armstrong sealing a 3-1 win.
The most recent meeting was in January, when Rovers had five different goal scorers in a 5-1 win, with Iain Davidson, Grant Gillespie, Euan Murray, Lewis Vaughan and Chris Duggan all wading in, in what was a one sided match.
History suggests that we will get a winner on the day, with the last draw between these sides coming back in 1984, with a 1-1 draw at Ochilview in the old Second Division.
Rovers have an excellent record in this fixture, with eight wins and two defeats from the last ten meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Gavin Duncan.
Head-To-Head League Record At Stenhousemuir:
Stenhousemuir Wins: 10 | Raith Rovers Wins: 12 | Draws: 10
Stenhousemuir Goals: 48 | Raith Rovers Goals: 57
Raith Rovers: D-D-W-L-W-W
Stenhousemuir: Mark McGuigan 15
Raith Rovers: Kevin Nisbet 29 | Liam Buchanan 11 | Lewis Vaughan 9
Stenhousemuir 7/2 | Raith Rovers: 3/4 | Draw: 14/5