Rovers Return To Top After Win
They left it late, but three goals for Raith Rovers in the final ten minutes finally broke the stubborn resistance of Montrose at Stark’s Park this afternoon.
The win was important given last week’s loss at Stranraer, but an unexpected bonus was Clyde’s win against Falkirk, which returned Rovers to the top of League One.
On a sun-kissed day in Fife, Rovers went with the same eleven players who have clearly marked their names into manager John McGlynn’s first choice side so far this season.
The Gable Endies would have been keen to show that their stuttering start to this season was an aberration, and the form which led them to a play-off place last season would return.
Lewis Allan was denied by keeper Allan Fleming in the opening moments, but it was clear that a testing ninety minutes lay ahead for the home side as Montrose, well marshalled at the back, frustrated Raith’s attempts to get on the front foot in the opening exchanges.
With fifteen minutes played, Grant Anderson cut in from the right and fired a shot over the bar. Two minutes later, the same player took a pass from Lewis Allan, though his inviting cross into the box was easily cleared.
Allan then found himself in acres of space under a floated pass from Michael Miller, but the striker appeared to lose the flight of the ball and Fleming gathered comfortably.
Rovers continued to press forward, but after 25 minutes the visitors came close to taking the lead. A loose pass by Kieran MacDonald left Lewis Milne with a clear sight of goal, but for all his shot was well struck, Rovers custodian David McGurn was its equal with an impressive blocking save.
Sixty seconds later, Montrose should have taken the lead. Martin Rennie’s cross evaded Raith’s rearguard, but with the goal at his mercy Graham Webster steered his headed over the bar from six yards out.
For all that Rovers enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, Montrose created the best chances during an opening 45 minutes during which the home side toiled to introduce momentum to their game.
Brad Spencer fired a shot well over the bar, before a superb reverse pass by Regan Hendry sent Kieran Bowie scurrying through on goal, though an offside flag halted the move as Rovers looked poised to take the lead. Anderson then latched on to an angled pass by Spencer, but flashed his shot well over the bar.
The Home fans would have hoped for an improved performance in the second half, but the pattern of the opening 45 minutes was maintained after the interval, with Rovers struggling to convert general dominance into goal scoring opportunities.
Anderson and Hendry went close with shots, before Anderson made way for Jamie Gullan, following his return to Rovers from Hibs during the week.
Ten minutes into the second half, Rovers appealed for a penalty when Bowie appeared to be pulled to the ground inside the box, but referee Scott Lambie was unmoved. Montrose then went close, though McGurn stretched to push away a goal-bound header by Kerr Waddell for a corner.
With an hour played, Brad Spencer was given a yellow card for a trip on Montrose’s top scorer Josh Skelly, before Rovers missed a chance to take the lead a minute later. Lewis Allan bustled his way forwarded, and fed a pass to
Hendry, who turned his marker inside out but, as the fans within the south stand readied themselves for the opener, the young midfielder dragged his shot wide of the post
Hendry then appeared to be blocked inside the the box, but again the referee waved away the home side’s claims for a spot kick.
There was a palpable sense of frustration as Rovers struggled to create chances, and Montrose swatted away their forays forward with relative ease. This was reflected in a late tackle by Ross Matthews on opponent Ross Ballantyne which earned the Rovers midfielder a caution.
Patience, however, is a virtue, and those who maintained that philosophy were rewarded when Rovers took the lead with ten minutes left. The ball broke loose inside the box, and with the Montrose defence spectators, Kieron Bowie latched on to it and rifled his shot into the net.
The home side, galvanised by the goal, scented blood, and pushed forward in an attempt to finish the contest. Jamie’s Gullan’s intelligent cut-back found no takers, before the same player flashed a shot into the side net from a promising position.
Patrick Cregg was then yellow carded for Montrose for a blatant body check on Hendry, but shortly afterwards it was the Rovers player who had the last laugh with a helping hand as the home side doubled its advantage.
Hendry and Spencer enjoyed a neat interchange of passes, before the ball was rolled into the path of Gullan, 25 yards from goal.
The home fans roared for a shot, and the forward duly obliged with an audacious effort which rifled low into the corner of the net, giving Fleming no chance.
Gullan’s goal finished the game as a contest, which may explain Iain Campbell’s crude tackle on Hendry which drew a deserved yellow card. David McKay then fluffed a chance to extend Roves’ lead, before fellow substitute ‘trialist’ did precisely that, driving a low shot into the far corner of the net from a tight angle.
And that was that. News of Falkirk’s defeat filtered through, and the Rovers faithful spilled out on to Pratt Street safe in the knowledge that Rovers were sitting pretty at the top of the league once more.
In truth, the three-goal margin flattered the home side today, but it’s another welcome three points for John McGlynn’s men, who go into next week’s Fife derby in Methil against East Fife with confidence and expectations high.
Photo Gallery © Tony Fimister
RaithTV talked to John McGlynn after today’s 3-0 win against Montrose
RaithTV talked to Jamie Gullan, who scored one of the goals in today’s 3-0 win against Montrose
Raith Rovers will be looking to put last weekend’s last gasp defeat at Stranraer behind them, when they host Montrose this Saturday.
The 3-2 loss to Stranraer saw Rovers move off the top of the table to second, one point behind Falkirk, who travel to Clyde this weekend.
Montrose enjoyed an excellent campaign last season, finishing in the playoffs, but they have undergone a difficult start to the current League One campaign, currently siting ninth, with just one point from their first three fixtures.
They started the season with a 2-2 draw at Stranraer, but defeats to Airdrie and Falkirk sees them sitting above Clyde on goal difference at the foot of the table.
Few teams could have had a quieter transfer window than the Mo, with just two players leaving Links Park in the summer, and four coming in.
Former Raith goalkeeper Aaron Lennox arrived from Partick Thistle, while highly regarded right back, Cammy Ballantyne was picked up after he left Dumbarton.
Kerr Waddell could feature in the centre of defence after he was acquired from Dundee, while striker Blair Lyons was picked up from Stirling University.
Last season was the first time these two sides had met on league duty since 1992, and Rovers generally found the going tough, with just one win across the four matches.
That came back in February, with goals from Kevin Nisbet, Euan Murray, Liam Buchanan and Craig McGuffie in a 4-1 win at Stark’s Park.
Rovers have a formidable record in this fixture in general though, with seven wins and two draws from the last 10 meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Scott Lambie
Head-To-Head Home League Record Versus Montrose:
Raith Rovers Wins: 16 | Montrose Wins: 3 | Draws: 7
Raith Rovers Goals: 62 | Montrose Goals: 24
Raith Rovers: W-L-W-W-W-L | Montrose: L-D-D-L-W-L
Raith Rovers: Lewis Allan 4 | Grant Anderson 2 | Kieron Bowie 2 | Michael Miller 2
Montrose: Terry Masson 2 | Josh Skelly 2
Raith Rovers: 4/6 |Montrose: 16/5 | Draw: 3/1