Raith Seal Final Place
Raith Rovers made it through to the Championship playoff final this afternoon, after a 1-1 draw with Forfar at Station Park, which sealed a 3-2 aggregate win.
It was Raith’s first playoff win in six attempts, and they now face off against Queen of the South next week, with the winner lining up in next season’s second tier.
John Baird had given Forfar the lead early in the second period, but a Kevin Nisbet penalty following a Michael Travis red card, saw Rovers hold on what was occasionally a bad tempered affair.
John McGlynn made one change from Tuesday evening’s 2-1 win, with Jamie Gullan replacing Liam Buchanan up front, and Rovers were on the front foot in the opening moments, when a long ball forward saw Nisbet get the better of his man marker, before appearing to be in on goal, only for referee Euan Anderson blow for a foul.
The away side were enjoying the lion’s share of possession in the opening skirmishes, with Jamie Barjonas attempting a shot at goal after five minutes that failed to trouble Marc McCallum, while Gullan’s set piece into the area was met by Euan Murray, but his attempt was off target.
Raith were enjoying some patient possession in the opening period, but while they weren’t making too much headway in terms of shots at goal, they were taking the sting out of the occasion, with Jim Weir’s team unable to impart any influence on a game they had to win.
The Loons had barely been seen in an attacking sense, and it took until almost the half-hour mark before they notched an effort at goal, when Dale Hilson’s set-piece skittered wide of Dean Lyness’ post.
Rovers continued to dictate the flow of the football, and good work down the left from wing-back Callum Crane, eventually allowed Ross Matthews to deliver a good ball into the area, but while his cross was ideal for either Dave McKay or Nisbet, the colleagues appeared to get in each others way and the chance was lost.
As the half went on, the feeling was that Forfar were just starting to make inroads, and a couple of corner kicks in the last few moments of the half had the large travelling support on edge, but Travis could only send a header over Lynass’ crossbar.
Barring a goal or two, the first-half had gone as well as could be expected from a Raith point of view, but Forfar seemed to have a little more about them at the start of the second half, as they at last started to pin the away side back.
Jamie Bain drew a save from Lyness after getting on the end of a corner in the 47th minute, and Hilson was presented with a fine opportunity just a moment later after good work from Baird, but from just inside the area, his attempt suffered the ultimate indignity of going out for a throw-in.
Raith fans had their hearts in their mouths in the 53rd minute, when Hilson appealed for a penalty after going down under a challenge from Ian Davidson, but while the penalty wasn’t awarded, the momentum was very much swinging towards the home team, and they took the lead in the 55th minute.
As is normally the case, Rovers were undone by set-piece defending, when Baird’s run across goal wasn’t picked up by anyone following Bain’s corner-kick, and the forward glanced a header in at the near post.
It was a hammer blow to Rovers, but they were level almost instantly, and had a man advantage, when Travis was dismissed in the 58th minute, after pulling on Nathan Flanagan’s jersey after the winger had been played through on goal by Nisbet.
The forward made no mistake from the spot, firing the ball high past McCallum to the keeper’s right, and the home side started to lose the place thereafter, with Baird in particular, eager to speak to the referee at every available opportunity.
The match was starting to descend into a series of petty squabbles, which was of no concern to Rovers, as the time ticked down with Forfar struggling to make any headway.
Rovers almost extended their lead with three minutes remaining, when Flanagan’s clever free-kick from the right-hand side was met first time by Nisbet, but a well timed block denied him his 36th goal of the season.
Gillespie then tried his luck in injury time, but Rovers held on comfortably to seal their first ever place in a playoff final, the first leg of which will take place at Stark’s Park on Wednesday evening, with the second leg in Dumfries next Saturday.
© Eddie Doig 2019
RaithTV spoke to John McGlynn after today’s game against Forfar Athletic
All roads lead to Station Park this weekend, as Raith Rovers and Forfar Athletic duke it out for a place in final of the Championship playoffs.
The tie is finely balanced, with Rovers holding a slender one goal advantage, thanks to a 2-1 win on Tuesday evening at Stark’s Park.
Kevin Nisbet had handed Rovers the advantage in the 40th minute, but that lead was short-lived, with John Baird restoring parity just before the interval.
However, the half-time arrival of Jamie Gullan helped swing the tie in Raith’s favour, with his 63rd minute shot smashing off the inside of the post and into the net with just under half an hour remaining.
Despite that advantage, Rovers face a big ask in the away tie, especially as they haven’t travelled well this season, with Arbroath, Airdrie, East Fife and Forfar all picking up more points on the road.
They’re also up against the side with the best home record in League One, with the Loons unbeaten at home since December.
While Rovers have lost eight times in the league this term, they’ve never lost by more than a single goal, and they’ve also managed to score in every away league game this season.
The teams can’t be split in terms of the most recent head-to-head record, with four wins and two draws apiece from the last 10 meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Euan Anderson
Head-To-Head Away League Record Versus Forfar:
Forfar Athletic Wins: 18 | Raith Rovers Wins: 11 | Draws: 10
Forfar Athletic Goals: 69 | Raith Rovers Goals: 55
Forfar Athletic: L-D-W-W-W-L
Raith Rovers: D-L-D-W-D-W
Top Goal Scorers:
Forfar Athletic: John Baird 21 | Dale Hilson 14
Raith Rovers: Kevin Nisbet 34 | Liam Buchanan 13 | Lewis Vaughan 9