Rovers Return To Top After Home Win
Raith Rovers ran out 3-1 winners against Stranraer, and in doing so, returned to the summit of League One, taking advantage of Falkirk’s home defeat to Airdrieonians.
A brace from Jamie Gullan and a goal from John Baird handed Rovers a three goal advantage, and although Mark Stewart reduced the arrears late on, Rovers comfortably held out.
John McGlynn made four changes from the side which lost at Peterhead.
David McGurn made way for Ross Munro between the posts, while Steven Anderson replaced the suspended Ian Davidson.
Tony Dingwall and Daniel Armstrong also made way, with David McKay coming back into the fold in a back three, while Baird made his first start at Stark’s Park since returning to the club.
The game took a while to settle down, not helped by an injury to Stranraer’s Ryan Thompson, who went off with a fractured cheekbone after a collision with a colleague.
After a tousled opening period however, Rovers fashioned the game’s first good chance after 15 minutes, when Gullan did well to gain possession in the middle of the park and thread the ball through to Keron Bowie, but with defenders trailing in his wake, he was unable to force the ball past Blues ‘keeper, Max Currie, who did well to gather at the second attempt.
Rovers were moving the ball around well, and after a neat passing move a moment later, Baird had a sight at goal from just outside the area, although his attempted lob was aimed too high.
Kieran MacDonald was making good headway down the left-hand side, and it was from one of his numerous forays forward that Rovers threatened again, when his cross eventually presented itself to Brad Spencer, whose shot from distance was scudded just wide of Currie’s right-hand post.
Baird and Bowie had further efforts as the half wore on, but neither could find the target, as Rovers frustrations grew.
Despite holding the upper hand, Stranraer were proving to be resolute, and they almost went into the interval with a lead, after Scott Robertson’s strike at goal was deflected just past the post, and then Munro was called into action just a moment later, getting down to his left to repel an attempt from James Hilton, as Steve Farrell’s side threatened to snatch the initiative.
However, just as the crowd were getting a little uneasy as Stranraer started to grow into the game, Rovers took the lead through Gullan.
The Stranraer defence failed to cope with the long ball forward from MacDonald, allowing Gullan to scamper through all on his own, before rounding Currie and slot home to give Raith a deserved lead.
It was to be MacDonald’s final act in the game, as he went off injured during the half time break, replaced by Armstrong, and it was the substitute who created the second goal in the 49th minute.
His superb pass forward picked out Baird on the run, and after allowing the ball to bounce once, he caught it sweetly as it fell a second time, sending a shot past Currie and into the bottom right-hand corner to double Raith’s lead.
The visitors were now forced to go on the offensive, and Munro had to look sharp for Rovers to retain their cushion in the 53rd minute, tipping over a Connor McManus snap shot from inside the area.
The game appeared to be over as a contest on the hour mark however, when Gullan gained possession on the left, cut inside along the edge of the area, before blootering the ball past Currie for his second, and Rovers third.
It looked like the day was going to become even more difficult for Stranraer, with Bowie forcing Currie into a save before their defence managed to hack the ball clear from the resulting corner.
However, they reduced the arrears in the 75th minute, through ex-Raith striker, Mark Stewart.
Andy Stirling did well down the left, before picking out Stewart who was unmarked in the area, and he swivelled and fired into the bottom corner before the defence could react.
It failed to spark a revival though, with Rovers looking the likelier of the two sides to score again in the closing moments, and result took them back to the top of the table on goals scored, with East Fife in second place.
Rovers will put league business to one side for the next couple of weeks, with the side in cup action for the next fortnight, starting next Friday evening with a Challenge Cup quarter final tie against Elgin City.
Raith Rovers will be looking for their first win in five league games this Saturday, when they take on Stranraer at Stark’s Park.
They go into the game on the back of a 2-0 defeat at Peterhead last weekend, a result which saw them slip down to second in the table, a point behind Falkirk.
Stranraer on the other hand go into the game on a high, after an excellent 3-0 win over Clyde last weekend, a result which lifted them off the bottom of the table, after their first win since defeating Raith midway through August.
That win didn’t seem likely at one stage, with Rovers 2-1 up with just seven minutes remaining, thanks to goals from Brad Spencer and Michael Miller, however, late goals from David Dangana and Cameron Elliott saw the Blues take all three points.
That meant Rovers had beaten Stranraer just once in their last five meetings, with their only win coming back over a year ago, with two goals from Kevin Nisbet sealing a 2-1 win, despite Euan Murray’s first-half red card.
Raith Rovers still have the upper hand in recent years however, with five wins and two draws from the last 10 meetings between the sides.
Saturday’s match referee will be Lloyd Wilson.
Head To Head Home League Record Versus Stranraer:
Raith Rovers Wins: 18 | Stranraer Wins: 4 | Draws: 7
Raith Rovers Goals: 58 | Stranraer Goals: 30
Raith Rovers: W-D-W-D-D-L
Raith Rovers: Lewis Allan 6 | Kieron Bowie 5 | Michael Miller 5
Stranraer: James Hilton 5 | Mark Stewart 3
Raith Rovers: 4/9 | Stranraer: 5/1 | Draw: 15/4