Nisbet Brace Earns Point
Raith Rovers and Arbroath shared four goals and the points at Gayfield this afternoon, in a two all draw which wasn’t enough for Rovers to climb back into second place in the table.
In a match which was essentially a microcosm of the season, two pieces of brilliance up front from Kevin Nisbet were undone by hesitancy and slackness at the back, with Rovers relinquishing the lead not once, but twice, through slipshod defending.
Manager, John McGlynn was forced into three changes, with Nathan Flanagan, Nat Wedderburn and Euan Murray all dropping out, with their places taken by Kyle Benedictus, Craig McGuffie and Jamie Gullan.
In all, Rovers were missing seven first-team players, and it was a patched up side which formed the guard of honour that applauded the League One champions onto the Gayfield turf.
Considering the somewhat unusual look to the starting eleven, it was perhaps no surprise that the away side started somewhat timidly, with Dave McKay starting in an unfamilar right full back position.
The young defender was caught out in the second minute, misjudging a cross which allowed Danny Denholm a volleyed attempt at goal that somehow almost went in, but also hit the corner flag and went out for a goal kick.
The away side were having difficulties clearing their lines, and a stramash in the tenth minute appeared to feature umpteen players trying and failing to smash the ball out of the box, before Benedictus was at last able to hoof the ball clear.
However, Arbroath’s game plan was hampered in the 13th minute, when Jason Thomson was forced off through injury.
It left the Red Licthies shorn of one of their main sources of width and attacking impetus, and it allowed the Rovers onto the front foot as the half progressed.
It took them until the 23rd minute to register their first shot at goal, but when it arrived it was a decent one, when Ross Matthews pass was run onto by Liam Buchanan, whose shot from 20-yards was stopped well at his right-hand-post by Darren Jamieson.
Rovers did take the lead four minutes later though, with a strike that was similar to Daniel Armstrong’s effort the last time these two sides met at Gayfield just before Christmas.
Rovers were awarded a free-kick 25-yards from goal, and Nisbet stepped up to ping a superb curling effort past Jamieson and into the top right corner to put Raith one up.
However, the lead was to be short lived.
Just a minute later, it was almost one all after Iain Davidson and Callum Crane managed to career into each other and allow Steven Doris a shot at goal, but his effort was repelled by Dean Lyness.
Two minutes later though, Crane switched off at a throw in and allowed Doris to get to the line and send in a cross, and although Swankie completely missed the ball with his first attempt, Rovers were completely incapable of clearing their lines, and Swankie made no mistake from his second attempt, which nestled in Lyness’ net.
The hosts seemed to take fresh impetus from the equaliser, and were the stronger side for the rest of the half, with Swankie and Denholm both going close, but Raith made it safely to the interval without further damage.
They would start the second half in excellent fettle though, taking the lead in the 51st minute, thanks to another excellent finish from Nisbet.
A free-kick from Gullan was headed across the box by an Arbroath defender under pressure from Davidson, and although the forward had plenty to do, he made his first-time volleyed finish look simple, blasting past Jamieson from eight yards out.
The second half was being played out in a more sedate fashion than the first, with Rovers keeping Arbroath at bay, in a match which in the glorious sunshine, and with little at stake, was feeling a little like a pre-season friendly.
Rovers had probably had the better of the second period though, and they were frustrated on the hour mark, when Buchanan worked himself free down the right, only for referee Alan Newlands to bring the play back, with Rovers in a promising position.
The match had become a little niggly, punctuated by fouls and bookings, but despite being under little or no pressure, Rovers found themselves pegged back again with a little under a quarter of an hour remaining.
Ricky Little headed on a corner kick, which somehow found both Ryan Wallace and Denholm alone at the back post, with the former just pipping the latter to volley home from close range.
Bouyed by that goal, Arbroath looked the likelier winner in the closing stages, but Rovers held firm for a decent point, which could well of been all three but for moments of hesitancy at the back.
Rovers will be back at Stark’s Park this Saturday, when they face Barry Smith’s Brechin City side.
RaithTV talked to John McGlynn after the 2-2 draw with Arbroath
Raith Rovers head to Gayfield this Sunday, to take on League One champions Arbroath, live on BBC Alba.
That point took Dick Campbell’s men 13 points clear of Raith with just four games to play, and Rovers will be hoping they can join the Angus side in the Championship next term, by getting through the playoffs.
If they’re to head into them with any kind of momentum behind them, their form will need to swing round soon, with Rovers loss to Stranraer last week.
The points between these sides have been split right down the middle this term, with a win apiece and a draw in the three previous meetings.
The first was at Stark’s Park in October, when a late Bobby Linn goal appeared to be enough to give all three points to Arbroath, but an equaliser from Kevin Nisbet meant the match finished level.
Rovers came out on top at Gayfield just before Christmas, when arguably their best performance of the season saw them come out 2-0 winners, thanks to goals from Daniel Armstrong and Liam Buchanan.
That result appeared to lift Raith back into the title race, but the best match between the two very much left them out of it, when Arbroath won 1-0 at Stark’s Park in February, due to Colin Hamilton’s effort.Overall, Rovers have a good record in this fixture, with five wins and four draws from the last 10 meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Alan Newlands.
Head-To-Head League Record at Arbroath:
Arbroath Wins: 13 | Raith Rovers Wins: 16 | Draws: 4
Arbroath Goals: 55 | Raith Rovers Goals: 56
Arbroath: L-W-D-L-W-D | Raith Rovers: W-L-W-W-D-L
Top Goal Scorers:
Arbroath: Bobby Linn 23 | Ryan Wallace 11 | Michael McKenna 10
Raith Rovers: Kevin Nisbet 28 | Liam Buchanan 12 | Lewis Vaughan 11
Arbroath: 13/10 | Raith Rovers: 15/8 | Draw: 13/5