First Half Goals Keep Raith Top
In their first match of 2020, Raith Rovers made it a happy new year for the Lang Toun faithful, courtesy of a 2-1 win against Peterhead at Stark’s Park this afternoon. First half goals from Dylan Tait and Jamie Gullan provide to be sufficient in securing a victory which was at time stylish, though in the end the Blue Toon pushed John McGlynn’s men to the final whistle before the points were secured.
Ahead of today’s fixture between the clubs, Rovers boasted three wins from three encounters against Peterhead in Kirkcaldy this season (two of which were in cup matches), though Jim McInally’s side emerged victorious when they met at Balmoor back in November. Confidence, of course, would have been high within the home ranks following last week’s free-scoring derby clash in Methil, though Peterhead’s win against Clyde had hoisted them to seventh place in League One. Manager McGlynn named an unchanged starting eleven going into today’s game.
In front of a healthy crowd, the match started tentatively, though a flowing Rovers move littered with neat, first-time passing which propelled defence into attack within the space of a few seconds drew hearty applause within the home crowd after five minutes. Three minutes later, those same fans were once again buoyed, though this time there was tangible reward as Rovers opened the scoring.
Last week, Dylan Tait’s strike against East Fife was neat, tidy, composed – and decisive. Today’s, however, fell into the spectacular category. The young midfielder gathered the ball in space midway inside Peterhead’s half, and showing commendable composure and confidence, lashed a rising shot from fully thirty yards into the top corner of the net.
Understandably encouraged by his goal of genuine quality, Tait drove forward again within sixty seconds of the restart, feeding John Baird with a quick pass, who in turn found Jamie Watson galloping into the penalty area with intent. However, the young full-back’s square ball into the danger area was scrambled clear.
Despite enjoying the upper hand at this stage, Rovers immediately conceded an equaliser with ten minutes on the clock. In truth, it was a goal which came from nothing, but it served to remind the home side that nothing could be taken for granted against a side which was not in town to make up the numbers. A deep, hopeful cross into the Rovers penalty area evaded a clutch of defenders, and veteran striker Derek Lyle gratefully bundled the ball into the net past the wrong-footed Ross Munro from close range.
Rovers responded quickly, and within two minutes Regan Hendry went close to restoring the lead, though his low shot from outside the penalty area flew narrowly past the post with Peterhead keeper Greg Fleming beaten. Tait then worked his way down the right flank before finding Brad Spencer lurking at the back post with a floated cross. However, the midfielder hesitated and his shot was blocked to safety.
In what was a busy opening twenty minutes, David McKay was given a yellow card by referee Gavin Ross for fouling Lyle, but from the resultant free-kick Jamie Stevenson fired high over the crossbar.
The pattern of the match was beginning to become evident, with Rovers enjoying the bulk of possession, and the visitors looking dangerous on the counter-attack. With 21 minutes played, Kieran MacDonald whipped in a low cross which was met first-tine by Baird, but the striker’s shot was well blocked by Fleming. However, two minutes later Rovers regained the lead. A floated pass was misjudged by the Peterhead defence, and Grant Anderson pounced on the ball before delivering an inch-perfect low cross into Gullan, who swept the ball into the net from six yards.
Rain began to swirl across the pitch, but this did little to detract from Rovers’ work, which was relentlessly determined. With thirty minutes played, Fleming produced a stunning double save which kept the visitors within touching distance. First, he parried a shot by Grant Anderson, but followed this up with an outstanding stop to deny Regan Hendry, whose follow-up shot had looked destined to produce a third Rovers goal before his athletic intervention.
Not that Fleming was satisfied with that. The stopper then did well to deny a low shot from Gullan, before somehow keeping a diving header from Baird from finding the new following an inviting cross by Watson. There was no denying that Peterhead had their goalkeeper to thank for keeping their interest in the match alive at this point, although Rovers should have scored a third goal when they were awarded a penalty five minutes from half-time.
Following a deep corner kick, which was headed back into the six-yard box by Kyle Benedictus, the referee noticed an infringement within a crowded box, and pointed to the penalty spot. Hendry struck his shot well, but Fleming was its equal, throwing himself to his left to push away the Rovers midfielder’s attempt. This was the last meaningful action of an eventful first-half, one in which Rovers created a number of goal-scoring opportunities, and could count themselves unfortunate to be ahead by just one goal at the interval.
The second half began with Rovers once again on the front foot, but for all they continued to enjoy the lion’s share of possession, more often than not thee play broke down within the final third, and the number of chances reduced accordingly. Peterhead’s Scott Hooper was booked for a foul on Anderson, before the Rovers player was injured during a joust for the ball with Patrick Boyle close to the right touchline. Anderson recovered to find Baird deep within the box, but the Rovers striker’s quick turn and shot was deflected narrowly over the bar, with Fleming scrambling backwards on his heels towards his goal-line.
Perhaps sensing that Rovers were losing a degree of cohesion to their play, Jim McInally made a couple of quick substitutions – Jack Leitch and David Ferguson made way for Cameron Eadie and Rory McAllister – before Jamie Watson was booked for a foul on Boyle, who was substituted and left the field nursing what looked like a facial injury. Rovers manager John McGlynn responded with his first substitution of the match, Kieron Bowie replacing Anderson.
However, as Rovers looked to see out the match, they were reduced to ten men when McKay was given a second yellow card for a robust aerial challenge. Baird was then withdrawn for Ross Matthews, with ten minutes of an absorbing encounter remaining. Peterhead had their tails up, and went in search of an equaliser, which was almost delivered when a header from a corner kick was cleared off the line with Munro beaten.
Tony Dingwall was then introduced to the fray at the expense of Tait, and Dingwall made an immediate impact, drawing a foul from Scott Brown which earned the Peterhead player a booking.
Rovers then managed to see out the final minutes of the match, one which really should have been done and dusted long before the final whistle, which was met with a mixture of celebration and relief by the home fans and players alike. McGlynn’s team remain two points clear at the top of the league, and go into the new year looking confident and sure. The next step in this promotion push sees the side head to Forfar next weekend.
Photo’s © Tony Fimister
RaithTV talked to Paul Smith after the 2-1 Ladbrokes SPFL League 1 win v Peterhead
RaithTV talked to Jamie Watson after the 2-1 Ladbrokes SPFL League 1 win v Peterhead
Raith Rovers host their first match of the decade this Saturday, and it’ll be a very familiar first foot, as Peterhead come to Stark’s Park for the fourth time this term.
The Blue Toon have already journeyed to Kirkcaldy for a league match, a Scottish Cup fixture and a League Cup group stage tie, and they’ll be looking to avoid defeat at the fourth time of asking this weekend.
Their first encounter came in the League Cup in July, with Rovers running out impressive 3-1 winners, with goals coming from Kieron Bowie, Michael Miller and Lewis Allan.
It was even more comfortable in September, when goals from Grant Anderson, Lewis Vaughan and a brace from Michael Miller handed Rovers a 4-0 League One victory, but it was far tougher the last time the two sides met in the Scottish Cup in November, when Jim McInally’s men must have been wondering how they lost, as they dominated for large stretches of the game, only to lose by a goal to nil, thanks to an early Kieron Bowie goal.
Peterhead do have a win under their belts against Rovers though, with a 2-0 win up at Balmoor, thanks to goals from Jack Leitch and Gary Fraser.
Peterhead go into the game on the back of a 2-0 win over Clyde, a result which lifted them up to seventh in the table, although Rovers will be hoping to take advantage of Peterhead’s away form, with just one side picking up fewer points on the road in League One this term.
Rovers hold the upper hand in this fixture, with five wins and two draws from the last 10 meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Gavin Ross.
Head-To-Head Home League Record Versus Peterhead:
Raith Rovers Wins: 5 | Peterhead Wins: 2 | Draws: 2
Raith Rovers Goals: 22 | Peterhead Goals: 14
Raith Rovers: D-W-W-D-L-W
Raith Rovers: Kieron Bowie 8 | Lewis Allan 6 | Jamie Gullan 6
Peterhead: Scott Brown 7 | Derek Lyle 4 | Rory McAllister 4
Raith Rovers: 17/20 | Peterhead: 11/4 | Draw: 5/2