Five Star Raith Cruise Into Next Round
Grant Murray continued his 100% record as Raith boss with a comprehensive 5-2 home victory against Montrose in the second round of the Ramsdens Cup.
Raith began the match with the same starting XI that had disposed of Hamilton at the weekend while Montrose featured ex-Raith midfielder Lloyd Young on the bench.
The home team were quick out the blocks and fashioned their first chance after a couple of minutes, a long throw finding Clarke with a yard of space in the box but his header was off target.
A minute later Grant Anderson picked up the ball on the right and slipped the ball between the central defenders to Brian Graham but he appeared to allow the ball to just get away from him, giving himself too much of an angle inside the box and his shot went wide.
Even at this early stage it looked like the Angus side could be in for a long evening and after just 6 minutes they found themselves a goal down. Thomson and Grant Anderson combined well down the right hand side, allowing the former to cut the ball back to Allan Walker who had all the time he needed to control the ball in the middle of the penalty area, pick his spot and slot the ball past Wood in the Montrose net.
While the Raith support wondered if it was going to be a case of how many, Montrose made their first attacking move of the game. Paul Watson’s deep cross found Martin Boyle but his volley was blocked by Dougie Hill. The resulting corner from Craig McLeish appeared to be dipping under the bar but was palmed away by McGurn.
The half chances for the away side were just a brief respite for them though and the next half hour was pretty much one way traffic towards Sandy Wood’s goal.
Clarke was next to try his luck, sending his shot just wide after a Graham through ball left him with just the keeper to beat. Brian Graham then missed 2 chances in a matter of minutes, firstly sending a header just wide, then driving into the box and sending an angled drive just wide of Wood’s right hand post.
The same man came even closer after 20 minutes. Running onto a through ball from Walker he chipped the ball over the keeper but his goal bound shot was hacked off the line by Paul Lunan at the last possible moment.
The game then started to calm down, allowing Montrose more time in possession. Garry Wood was dropping deep to help out the midfield while right-winger David Gray in particular was impressing with his crosses, although unfortunately for Montrose no-one was able to make the most of them.
While Raith had dominated the opening quarter they had suddenly become lacklustre in possession and were squandering any good positions they found themselves in. All that changed in the 32nd minute though, Eddie Malone sending in a fantastic cross from the left that allowed Brian Grahamto bullet home a header past Wood to make it 2-0.
While the crowd were on their feet to acknowledge the strikers goal they were hushed two minutes later as the same man was injured in a 50/50 challenge with the Montrose keeper. Despite looking like a painful knock the tall front man was back up after treatment, much to the relief of the fans.
With 3 minutes to half time it appeared to be all over with a goal that was all to do with the skill and pace of Grant Anderson. Receiving the ball to feet he turned his man wonderfully, outpacing the defence before dinking the ball up to the back post to allow Pat Clarke to finish from close range.
While most Raith fans thought that was game over they got a rude awakening 2 minutes later. Martin Boyle wriggled clear of the Rovers defence and took the ball round McGurn who appeared to bring him down. Despite Hill being between the foul and the goal line the referee Stephen Finnie deemed it a red card offence and Raith were down to ten men. Substitute keeper Ross Laidlaw came on for the unfortunate Pat Clarke and his first task was to pick the ball out the net, Paul Watson sending the ball to Laidlaw’s right while the keeper chose to dive left.
Grant Murray’s half time team talk would presumably have concentrated on the importance of the next goal and the second half saw Raith still on the front foot despite being a man down.
Grant Anderson was again causing Paul Watson trouble. Picking up the ball he skipped past him, cutting inside before sending a shot low to the keepers left which he had to get down smartly to prevent Raith from extending their lead.
Wood was helpless a few minutes later though. Anderson was again the architect with another of his trademark runs down the right, this time his cross found two Raith players running in but Graham just got to it ahead of Hamill for his 7th goal of the campaign.
Both sides then made substitutions, Lloyd Young coming on for Craig McLeish and for Raith, Callaghan replaced Grant Anderson.
The substitute was instantly involved in one of the best moves of the match. Bringing a difficult ball under control he played in Graham who looked up and picked up Thomson rampaging down the right. Gathering the ball he drove into the box and sent in a cross cum shot that smacked off the left upright.
Whether the Raith players sensed the match was won or perhaps just because they were shorthanded, Montrose started to create some chances and as they did in the first half they came from the boot of David Gray. Firstly he put in a great ball that Martin Boyle somehow contrived to head wide from the centre of the six yard box. He had better joy after 78 minutes though, his deep cross found Scott Johnston at the back post and his knock down eventually fell to Lloyd Young who slotted past Laidlaw from close range.
Despite the goal offering Montrose the chance of a late comeback it was Rovers who dominated the final 10 minutes. A huge kick out from Laidlaw dropped over Lunan’s head and allowed Graham to have a snap shot from 18 yards but the keeper parried it away. It was to be his last contribution to the match and he departed to a standing ovation to be replaced by Greig Spence.
The ex-Celtic man was immediately involved, just failing to get on the end of a Walker cut back that was played just too far behind him. Spence wouldnt be denied however and in the last-minute he scampered onto another enormous kick out from Laidlaw. Holding off the challenge of Alan Campbell he coolly finished past Wood to make it 5-2 with virtually the last kick of the ball.
It was an impressive performance from Raith and in fairness it could have been even more comfortable had McGurn not been sent off at the end of the first half. Graham was again impressive and is in superb form, not just in terms of goalscoring but in his all round game. Grant Anderson and Thomson are forming a dangerous partnership down the right hand side and at the back Hill has started the season impressively.
While the opposition hasn’t perhaps been the strongest Grant Murray’s record of played 4, won 4, goals scored 15 is great by anyones standards. If this is whats known as a honeymoon period then the Raith fans will be hoping it never ends.
Report – Shaughan McGuigan, Pictures – Tony Fimister
Live match updates by: Alan Russell
Photos copyright Tony Fimister