RAITH TAKE A POINT FROM DOUR DRAW
An uninspiring draw on a dour and dreich evening gave Raith another point in this year’s Scottish League One promotion campaign, but an otherwise forgettable night gave Raith fans little to cheer as Rovers missed the opportunity to go top of the table, taking few positives from this drab 0-0 draw with Forfar. In stark contrast to the electric encounters between these sides over the last two seasons, neither Raith nor Forfar could claim to have dominated the other for any spells of a ninety minutes in which a draw looked on the cards from the opening minutes.
While John Baird and Kieron Bowie both had chances for the home side, and Callum Tapping and Dale Hilson had energetic and busy evenings for the visitors, in truth the quality to carve open a defence or to play the perfect pass was missing. While Raith remain very much in the title-chasing pack, the supporters drifting off into the Kirkcaldy night at full time would regard this as two points dropped rather than a point gained.
With constant rain showing in the glare of the Starks Park floodlights, the match started relatively brightly. Rovers generated some early pressure and carved out the opening changes – Jamie Gullan forced an excellent save from Forfar keeper Mark McCallum as early as the second minute, with Kieran MacDonald driving into the box to lash just over the Forfar cross-bar with the follow-up. Several corners followed, as Forfar began the match very much on the back foot.
Raith had started with an attacking formation – Lewis Allan, John Baird, and Kieron Bowie had all started, ably supported by Jamie Gullan and youngster Dylan Tait from midfield. Gullan – withheld from Cup duty at the weekend by his parent club Hibernian – was clearly relishing his return to first team action, and buzzed effectively in the Forfar half throughout the early stages. His dinked cross looped up and onto McCallum’s cross-bar with fifteen minutes gone.
For the visitors, this season has been a trial. With manager Jim Weir beset by problems on and off the park, replacement manager Stuart Malcolm took the helm earlier this month without his troubles to seek. Stationed in the lower end of the table, and unceremoniously dumped out of the Scottish Cup at Dumbarton on Saturday, the ‘Loons were clearly in need of a lift. On paper, Forfar’s side was impressive, boasting several players who are counted as amongst the best in the Division in their positions – the gel which brings results seems to have evaded the Athletic thus far this season. Familiar faces Tapping and Hilson moved efficiently through midfield, and stout defenders Travis and Whyte kept a close eye on Raith’s front three – however morale is low at Station Park and all present this evening could see the visitors as a side bereft of confidence. Hilson’s cross fell just beyond his strikers just after the quarter hour. Tapping had tested Benedictus’ pace early on.
Hilson was also engaged in an energetic tussle with Raith youngster Dylan Tait – eager and showing a sense of authority beyond his years, the young Raith midfielder snapped and snarled at his more experienced rival, and showed good awareness when in possession, spreading the play well and linking defence and attack as every good midfielder should – Tait’s performance was among the few bright spots on an evening mostly free of talking points for the home support. The numerous scouts in attendance may well have journeyed from Starks Park with a new name in their notebooks.
Raith become slicker as the half progressed, masking a twenty minute spell of endeavour and application but no end product from either side. MacDonald was particularly effective down his flank, zipping several crosses through the air above McCallum’s head.
With referee Kevin Graham’s whistle piercing the cold evening air at half-time, the Raith fans let out a groan of frustration. While midfield play had been solid, and Raith had been largely untroubled at the back, the half had not seen the attacking verve or flow through the central third which home fans were looking for. In truth, both sides had been static, with neither side doing enough to generate real momentum. With a scrappy first forty-five disappearing quickly in the memories of all present, supporters of both sides looked ahead to a marked improvement in the second half.
With both sides re-emerging into the second half rain, it was the visitors who were first to make their mark. Playing toward the South Stand, Forfar mustered two early shots, with Callum Tapping and Murray Macintosh failing to trouble Ross Munro but earning the plaudits of their manager for their application.
The first golden opportunity of the match came ten minutes into the second period – Anderson caught the Athletic defence napping with a ball over the top for Allan to chase; a defensive mix-up saw McCallum rush from his line, giving Lewis Allan with a clear sight of goal. The Hibs loanee took the goal wide of the Forfar goalkeeper but was unable to either square to a colleague or finish from a narrow angle. The South Stand sounded aggrieved, but the finish would have been a fine one if Allan had been able to find the net.
With Bowie substituted with an ankle injury on the hour, and a number of challenges becoming more untidy, the match entered an attritional phase. Bain was booked for his hack at Bowie, as referee Kevin Graham become the busiest of those on the park. To lift the gloom, Forfar’s Ross Forbes tried his luck from fully 45 yards – having scored for Dumbarton two seasons previously with a similar effort, the Forfar man’s eyes lit up, no doubt seeing his spectacular finish breaking the deadlock in an otherwise tepid encounter. Unfortunately for Forbes, his effort flew harmlessly wide. A goal of such provenance would have been quite out of keeping with the evening’s entertainment to that point.
A worry for the home side with a quarter of an hour to go – defensive lynchpin Steven Anderson appeared to be nudged off the ball, but referee Graham saw nothing amiss; with Forfar attacking from the transition, a linesman’s flag brought their sudden attack to a halt, just as Kieran MacDonald turned Forfar’s cross into his own net.
Three Raith substitutions in the second half sought to introduce a burst of energy to what had otherwise been a lethargic performance. Tony Dingwall, Grant Anderson, and Daniel Armstrong all have pace in their repertoire, and each are the sort of players who supporters would hope would unlock a tight defence, or create a spark which would bring life to a goal-less encounter. But with the match passing into the final ten minutes, Raith could only create a number of half-chances. John Baird’s quicksilver 1-2 with Grant Anderson allowed the former Forfar striker a shot on goal – Mark McCallum sprang to life to make an excellent block. Jamie Gullan’s shot passed wide moments later.
Raith committed ever more numbers forward in the closing stages. Grant Anderson’s tempting cross saw the ball nicked from Dave McKay’s toe. Gullan’s corners whizzed through the area, but too often, Forfar keeper McCallum was able to govern his six-yard box with real authority. One of the better keepers in League One, McCallum was a solid presence throughout, and fully deserved his clean sheet. A final chance for John Baird – playing the full ninety minutes against one of his former clubs – was well tipped round the post by McCallum at full stretch.
With referee Graham’s final whistle, the small band of visiting fans cheered the welcome point as they chart their way to mid-table security. For Raith, no doubt this was two points dropped in a League campaign in which four clubs at least currently have genuine title-chasing ambitions. With East Fife – also returning to League action after their own humbling Cup experience – also drawing at home to Clyde, the League One table remains congested with no side as yet showing the quality to build an advantage. Raith’s next opportunity for three points come this Saturday, with a trip to Montrose.
The match highlights video will appear here the day after the match
Photo’s © Tony Fimister
Interviews will appear shortly
After two successive cup wins over the last two weekends, Raith Rovers return to league duty this Tuesday night, with a home match against Forfar Athletic.
Rovers have slipped to second in the table with Airdrie taking advantage of Rovers League One inactivity, but a win on Tuesday evening would would put John McGlynn’s men back on top of the pile.
Despite winning their first two league games of the season, the Loons have been out of form this term, with ex-manager Jim Weir leaving the club at the beginning of the month. His replacement is Stuart Malcolm, with the former East Kilbride manager taking charge of Forfar for the first time in the league for this one.
The two sides have met once already this season, with Rovers coming out on top in a 2-1 win back in September, thanks to goals from Lewis Vaughan, and an injury time winner from Kieran MacDonald, in what was Raith’s first win at Station Park since 2007, and
Rovers have the upper hand in this fixture, but only just, with four wins and three draws from the last 10 meetings.
Tuesday night’s match referee will be Kevin Graham.
Head-To-Head Home League Record Versus Forfar:
Raith Rovers Wins: 26 | Forfar Athletic Wins: 10 | Draws: 5
Raith Rovers Goals: 94 | Forfar Athletic Goals: 55
Raith Rovers: D-D-L-W-W-W | Forfar Athletic: L-L-L-L-L-L
Raith Rovers: Kieron Bowie 8 | Lewis Allan 6 | Michael Miller 5
Forfar Athletic: Dale Hilson 5 | Callum Tapping 3 | Michael Travis 3
Raith Rovers: 2/7 | Forfar Athletic: 7/1 | Draw: 19/4