Rovers Rebound To Take Three Points
Raith Rovers came back from being a goal down, not once but twice, to record a 3-2 win against Brechin City, which sent Barry Smith’s side tumbling into last place in the table.
Kevin Nisbet and Ross Kavanagh traded braces in the first half, before Liam Buchanan scored the winner midway through the second period, ensuring Rovers finished the afternoon just one point behind Forfar Athletic, who remain second.
Rovers went with an unchanged starting eleven from last weekend’s draw with Arbroath, although there was a far stronger looking bench, with Euan Murray, Grant Gillespie and Nat Wedderburn all listed in the squad.
Brechin won the toss and elected to shoot towards the South Stand in the first period, a scenario which always prompts groans of dismay from the home support, however, it was Raith who had the upper hand in the game’s opening moments.
Craig McGuffie and James Gullan were particularly involved, with the former sending a couple of crosses into the area which the Brechin defence struggled to deal with, while the latter clattered a fine effort towards the top corner, which Graeme Bowman did well to turn over the bar.
However, despite the decent start, Rovers found themselves a goal down after 11 minutes, and as has been the case so often this term, it came from not clearing their lines properly.
Callum Tapping’s delivery from a corner kick was cleared back towards his general direction by Ross Matthews, and his second effort was far more accurate, allowing Kavanagh to turn the ball past Dean Lyness at the near post.
Rovers remained on the front foot though, and were almost level just two minutes later, when Kyle Benedictus met Gullan’s corner kick, but his header was well saved again by Bowman.
Despite the deficit, Rovers were looking good, at least from middle to front, and Nisbet did well to pick out Buchanan inside the area, but from an acute angle, he could only find the side netting.
The equaliser Rovers play warranted came in the 27th minute, and there was little surpise it came from Nisbet, after some good wide play from McGuffie.
The on-loan Ayr man send in a fine delivery from the left-hand side, and with Nisbet making some space for himself inside the area, his header back across goal settled into the back of the net to restore parity.
That should really have been the catalyst for Rovers to take control of the match, but after excellent link up play between Jamie Barjonas and David McKay saw the defender rattle a shot just past the post, they found themselves rocked again, after conceding from yet another poorly defended goal.
Lyness was unable to gather the cross ball, and with goal scorer Kavanagh in space, he was able to send a free-header into the empty net.
The former Peterhead striker must wish he could play against Raith every week, as from his tally of four goals in 39 appearances this season, three have come against the Stark’s Park club.
Again, Rovers didn’t dwell on the setback, and incredibly, they were level again after just a minute, when McKay did well to pick out an advancing Nisbet, who slotted past Bowman from the edge of the area to notch up his seventh double of the season.
The match had turned into quite the ding-dong, and it almost swung Rovers way for the first time as the interval approached, with McGuffie at the hub of things.
Firstly, he shot straight at Bowman when he perhaps should have elected to tee up Buchanan who was on hand to tap home, and just a few moments later, his attempt from just outside the area after being picked out by Nisbet, was bent just wide of Bowman’s post.
It can often be the case that a goal laden first period makes way for a far tighter second, and that was very much the case in this one.
Rovers still held the upper-hand, but they lacked the verve and pace of the first 45, although Iain Davidson almost handed them the lead from yet another corner just before the hour mark, but he couldn’t keep his header down.
John McGlynn introduced Murray and Wedderburn after 64 minutes, with the manager presumably keen to give both some minutes as the playoffs approach, and Rovers were ahead four minutes later.
Nisbet’s ball forward eventually fell to Buchahan, and after initially appearing to lose possession, he did well to readjust and slam a superb finish past Bowman to Raith in front for the first time in the match.
Brechin almost responded immediately though, with Callum Tapping somehow squandering a Kavanagh cut-back after the Rovers defence again failed to deal with the danger.
Brechin had been somewhat unamitious in the second period, but with relegation now a very real threat, they had more intent in the final period, with the match becoming far more stretched.
Nisbet almost got his first hat-trick after crashing a long range effort off the post, while Gullan brought out a good save from the Brechin custodian after a fine run from the on-loan Hibs man.
There was concern in the final minute, when Brechin were awarded a set-piece on the edge of the area, but Samuel Jamieson’s tame effort was easily cleared by Benedictus.
The full-time whistle brought a welcome three points, and a filip to both the players and fans, and if momentum is important heading into the playoffs, then only Montose have picked up more points in League One over the last eight matches.
Coincidentally, it’s the Angus side that Raith meet next week, although it might not be their last fixture this term, with a potential play-off final in the offing, depending on how they both fare in their respective semi-finals.
John McGlynn spoke to RaithTV after the 3-2 win at Stark’s Park
Rovers return to Stark’s Park this Saturday, for their penultimate league game of the season.
Barry Smith’s Brechin City are the visitors, with his side desperate for the win that would see them avoid bottom place in the table, and the automatic relegation it would bring.
City sit level on points with Stenhousemuir at the League One table, although a superior goal difference means a win on Saturday should be enough to finish in the playoff spot, should Stenhousemuir lose to East Fife.
However, the two relegation threatened sides duke it out on the final day of the season, in what could be a winner takes all affair.
Rovers have a battle of their own when it comes to finishing positions, albeit it’s a little less important than Brechin and Stenny’s.
Barring Montrose making up six points in the final two games, and overturning a goal difference of 25, Raith will play Forfar in the playoff semi-finals, with the order of venue decided by finishing position.
If Rovers finish second, they’ll play the second leg at Stark’s Park, but finish third, and they’ll line up in Kirkcaldy first of all, with the return match at Station Park.
Despite Brechin’s lowly position, Rovers have a pretty poor record against them this term, with one win, a draw and a defeat from the three meetings.
The draw was first up, back in September, when Kevin Nisbet handed Rovers the lead from the penalty spot, only for Boris Melingui to equalise with three minutes remaining.
Rovers took all three points in the last meeting at Stark’s Park, with Kevin Nisbet scoring a brace in a 2-1 win, and the forward again put Rovers in the lead in the last meeting at Glebe Park in January, but goals from Euan Smith and Ross Kavanagh ensured a poor day for John McGlynn’s men.
Rovers have a mediocre record in general against Brechin in recent years, with just three wins and four draws from the last ten meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Graham Beaton.
Head-To-Head Home League Record Versus Brechin City:
Raith Rovers Wins: 22 | Brechin City Wins: 4 | Draws: 10
Raith Rovers Goals: 86 | Brechin City Wins: 37
Raith Rovers: L-W-W-D-L-D
Brechin City: W-L-L-L-D-L
Top Goal Scorers:
Raith Rovers: Kevin Nisbet 30 | Liam Buchanan 12 | Lewis Vaughan 9
Brechin City: Andy Jackson 10 | Boris Melingui 5
Raith Rovers: 17/20 | Brechin City: 14/5 | Draw: 3/1