Rovers Give Up Lead To Share With Bairns
Raith Rovers secured a valuable point against promotion-chasing Falkirk in a hard-fought 2-2 draw at Stark’s Park this afternoon.
The blustery conditions were far from conducive to flowing football, and consequently the opening exchanges weren’t for the purists of the beautiful game, as both sides struggled to make headway for the most part.
Nevertheless, it was the visitors who did most of the early pressing, although they did little to threaten Rovers keeper David McGurn.
After quarter of an hour, a shot appeared to strike Rovers defender Iain Davidson on the arm, although referee John Beaton waved away the Bairns’ penalty claims.
We had to wait until the twentieth minute to see the game’s first corner kick, although Mark Millar’s floated cross was comfortably handled by McGurn despite the strong wind.
After 25 minutes, veteran Falkirk defender Darren Dods picked up the first yellow card of the contest for a late challenge, although Allan Walker’s resultant free-kick was cleared to safety with the minimum of fuss. However, two minutes later, Rovers took the lead.
A free-kick from the halfway line was launched deep into the Falkirk box. The ball was half-cleared, and fell to Grant Murray, who dispatched a low, first-time drive into the corner of the net from the edge of the box.
The home fans were still celebrating the opening goal when Falkirk almost levelled the score from the restart. An in-swinging corner caused panic in the home defence, and David McGurn had to look alert to fingertip a flashing header over his crossbar.
Rovers striker Damien Casalinuovo was then booked for failing to retreat ten yards at a Falkirk free-kick and then, with 35 minutes on the clock, Rovers doubled their advantage, delighting and surprising the home fans in equal measure. Neat work by Reece Donaldson down the right wing resulted in the young full-back floating a high cross into the Falkirk box. Joe Hamill was first to react, and although the midfielder’s shot was mis-hit, the ball was parried by Falkirk keeper Michael McGovern towards the lurking John Baird. The little striker, operating once more just behind front two Casalinuovo and Pat Clarke, rose high to send a header into the net via the underside of the crossbar.
Falkirk, perhaps bristling in light of a two-goal deficit they scarcely deserved, pushed forward and were rewarded with a goal as the half-time whistle loomed. From a corner kick, a neat interchange of passes took them to the edge of the Rovers box, and from Kallum Higginbotham’s dangerous-looking cross Farid El Alagui sent a glancing header beyond the Rovers keeper.
Falkirk were clearly galvanised by their goal, and started the second half firmly on the front foot as they went in search of an equaliser. They pinned Rovers back in their own half for lengthy spells, although El Alagui earned a caution for impeding McGurn as the Rovers keeper made a clearance.
On the hour mark, Rovers manager John McGlynn made a double substitution in a bid to thwart the dominant Bairns side, with Jamie Walker and David Smith replacing IainWilliamson and the tiring Casalinuovo respectively. However, within two minutes of the changes, Falkirk levelled the scores. A free-kick was played into the heart of the Rovers box by Mark Millar, and Darren Dods rose unchallenged to direct his header into the Rovers net from ten yards out.
Falkirk’s Murray Wallace was then booked for a bad challenge on the halfway line, as Rovers tried to restore their lead. Jamie Walker looked particularly lively, and one mazy run took him past several Bairns defenders. However, the Hearts youngster’s shot from the edge of the box lacked conviction, and drifted harmlessly wide of the post.
Falkirk continued to threaten, and frequently broke up the pitch at pace, stretching the Rovers rearguard down the flanks. A number of crosses into the box caused anxiety in the Rovers defence, although Murray and Davidson managed to withstand the pressure. Bairns playmaker Mark Millar then tried his luck from all of forty yards out with a rasping shot which shaved the outside of McGurn’s post.
With fifteen minutes remaining, Rovers had the ball in the net, with Davidson firing the ball home from 6 yards, but the celebrations among the home fans were cut short with the referee blowing for an earlier infringement by Clarke as the ball came into the box.
John McGlynn then made his final substitution, with Donaldson replaced by Laurie Ellis. Grant Murray was moved out to right back as McGlynn reorganised his defence.
Both sides then contributed to what was a rousing finale to the match, as they went in search of a winning goal. The feeling persisted that Falkirk were the more likely side to snatch the three points as the game ebbed and flowed from one end to the other, although Rovers almost scored a decisive third goal when Pat Clarke’s cross from wide on the right was sent narrowly wide by Allan Walker’s diving header.
At full-time, Rovers would have had mixed emotions about a point taken from a game during which they had held a two-goal cushion. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that Falkirk are perhaps the best footballing side in the division at the moment, and therefore a draw, considering Rovers’ wretched home record this season, must be considered in positive terms on this occasion.
Pictures by Jim Foy
John McGlynn was happy with the way the team performed, despite losing a two goal lead, but he isn’t kidding himself that Falkirk didn’t deserve something from the game. Interview by David Hancock.
Steven Pressley felt it was a great game of football and he was proud of the way his team responded to going two down.