Wick Win Not Academic
The Rovers made things more difficult for themselves against a spirited Highland side in Wick.
For those of you who didn’t go, Wick is a long way away – a very long way indeed! You can only go a handful of miles north without falling into the sea at John O’Groats. It’s 251 miles from the Lang Toun and the RAC say it takes 5 hours 15 minutes to drive there. The same distance south is York and in that time, you could get to Wrexham. For many, the last time we travelled for as long for a Raith game we ended up in Bavaria!
The Raith support converged on Wick by train, plane and automobile and the locals will have been in no doubt there was a game on. Some were sporting the special edition Wick/Raith scarves that had been produced by the home side for the event. Harmsworth Park has a wee stand, a bit of covered terrace and a line of mobile executive boxes (parked cars) at each end. There is a fair old slope on the pitch then,just as the fans were coming in, the skies opened. Up went the brollys and on went the windscreen wipers – several travelling fans were soaked by kick off. At least the rain kept the midgies away.
Grant Murray made his managerial debut in central defence attacking down the hill and, despite the slope, will have looked up at Lukasz Geruzel, a big Polish lad that Wick had up front. As the game kicked off, the Raith fans sang the praises of Davie Kirkwood, no doubt with the Wick fans’ assistance. Davie may not be in the same shape he was as a player but he has Academy playing football and working hard for each other. Stuart Anderson played in Brian Graham in the 4th minute but the alert Gray in the Wick goal claimed at the second attempt. Stuart then tried for himself, sending the ball over the bar, the crowd, the wall and out of the ground. Wick had their first effort on target when a free kick aimed at Geruzel fell to Sam MacKay whose shot was blocked away by Clarke. The number 23, MacKay, looked lively throughout and he was poised at the back post when his teammate Steven got in the way at the resulting corner.
Brian Graham hit the bar with a great flick of Clarke’s low cross with the keeper beaten. The ball was played back in and the ex-Ton man found space and put the ball past the keeper and the post. In the 14th minute, Graham’s cracking strike from 21 yards was heading for the top corner before being pushed over by the ex-Brora keeper – it was a great save. From the corner, Graham’s bullet header hit the yellow shirted custodian on the chest and he held on to it.
Geruzel headed a free kick wide and then Pat Clarke saw his shot on the spin go over. Shearer had a go from distance which McGurn took easily. Brian Graham failed to hit the target heading over a Walker free kick. Wick were trying to get forward and Dougie Hill needed to and made a good tackle midway through the half as a Wick man scampered up the hill. On the half hour, Graham flicked a Hill header from a corner up and over the bar when a less true contact would have broken the deadlock. Clarke tried from 19 yards and Gray was again equal to the effort.
Having already had numerous good efforts, Graham opened the scoring scrappily in the 38th minute. Thomson, who played well, put in a cross and Brian’s first effort was blocked by a defender, the keeper joined the pair of them on the 6 yard line and then the mini-stramash ended with Graham scuffing the ball in off the far post.
Both Graham and Manson had efforts just before the first half ended but it remained 1:0 to the Rovers. At half time, the lighter showers of the first half were eclipsed by a downpour that had the windscreen wipers working overtime. Several travelling fans were hoping it would stop soon in case the match was abandoned! Fortunately, the rain eased and the pitch was not too badly affected by the rain that continued on and off for the second half.
The conditions did not dampen the spirits of the home side as they attacked down the hill. Graham nipped into the box and Gray did well to push his shot from the angle away. Dougie Hill then played a pass across the Raith 18 yard box straight to a Wick man! Geruzel moved into the box and slotted low past the exposed McGurn – 1:1 in the 51st minute. Dougie redeemed himself 6 minutes later when a deep corner was headed across by Malone, and Hill was able to head home from a yard or so at the back post. 1:2.
Clarke was played in by Graham but his angled drive zipped past the keeper and the far post. The quick counter had not let the Academy side push on but again they were gifted an equaliser – Murray turned and played a woefully short pass back towards McGurn. Academy’s Davie Allan was onto it and the again exposed McGurn was beaten making it 2:2. Murray, the manager, would have wanted to have a word with Murray, the player, about that one – this was probably not what Bert had planned for his first game!
Clarke had a header saved by the diving Gray, but Wick were lifted by their second goal. Geruzel headed wide then Jason Thomson made a great tackle to snuff out an attack. Murray hooked away an effort a couple of yards out and then Thomson again broke up an attack when 23 MacKay played in a colleague. The Rovers also continued to press and a free kick was knocked around in the box then half cleared – Grant Anderson strode onto it and smacked it, first time, into the net from 20 yards, 2:3.
In the 75th minute, Geruzel could have done better heading a free header over. It was the best chance Academy created for themselves. The Rovers kept pushing up hill and Grant Anderson turned provider, his cross went over the impeded Graham but Pat Clarke popped it in from close range to make it 2:4. At the death, Gray again did well taking the ball bravely at Graham’s feet.
The game in front of 980 was entertaining, if wetter than planned. Brian Graham looked keen all afternoon and really caused problems, rightly winning the Man of the Match award. Despite the Rovers pair of defensive lapses, Raith played well and worked hard.
Wick Academy made us very welcome and gave us a better game than most will have hoped. Davie Kirkwood has them playing the right way and I’m sure many who made the trip will be keeping an eye out for their results. Wick must already be our favourite black and white opponents of the season.
Report – John Mainland, Pictures – Eddie Doig
Photos copyright Eddie Doig. Due to a technical fault (the rain), the selection of photographs from this match was limited.
Grant Murray spoke after the game