Dominant Raith Too Good For Airdrie
Raith got back to winning ways at Starks Park today with a comfortable 2-0 win against Airdrie United.
Grant Murray made changes from the side that capitulated early in the second half at Firhill last Sunday. In came new signing Simon Mensing in the heart of the defence alongside Dougie Hill. Malone moved back to his more natural left back berth with Murray and Donaldson dropping out altogether. Hearts loanee David Smith came in on the right for Grant Anderson who dropped to the bench.
With Starks Park basking in the late summer sun it was Rovers who made the brighter start. Smith received the ball just inside the Airdrie half and turned his man cleverly, evading another challenge he managed to get his front post cross in but the chance was whipped away.
Smith was at the hub of most of Raith’s early play. Again, picking up the ball wide right he cut inside and took his time before picking out the run of Clarke, but with just the keeper to beat his firm finish was palmed away by Kenny Arthur, low to his right.
Airdrie were also looking to their right hand side for inspiration but William McLaren, who scored 3 times in a reserve match against Raith on Monday night was having far less joy than Smith.
Raith’s debutante Simon Mensing seemed to slot in comfortably and was dealing with any high balls that came his way. His presence seemed a calming influence on a Raith back line that had conceded 6 goals in the last 2 matches.
Despite a decent opening the game deteriorated into a scrappy affair, typified by Airdrie’s Ryan Donnelly who gathered the ball in the centre circle and promptly fell over it. Raith were struggling to get to grips with Airdrie’s high back line which was catching them offside time and again while the middle third of the park was becoming congested with players.
Despite Rovers being the better team it was Airdrie who went closest to opening the scoring on the half hour mark, McGurn getting down smartly to his right to beat out a fierce 25 yard attempt from Michael Hart.
Five minutes later though Raith made the breakthrough. Good work by Joe Hamill freed up Malone whose cross was nodded behind for a corner. Hamill drove the set piece to the front post and was met well by Graham who thumped his header perfectly into the top corner of the net.
The goal certainly got Rovers going and they created a couple of half chances at the tail end of the half. First, Smith teed up Thomson in the box but his shot was deflected wide, then Graham’s flick on set up Smith from close range but he couldn’t quite get enough on it and his toe poke effort was pounced on by Arthur at his near post.
The second half began as the first half ended with Rovers pushing for a second goal. Walkers cross was only just punched clear by Arthur as Pat Clarke attempted to get something on it. Then Cameron McDonald almost had the misfortune of scoring an own goal. His cushioned back header seemed easy to deal with but Kenny Arthur almost made a meal of it, eventually getting down to gather at his left hand post.
Airdrie then made the first substitution of the match with Di Giacomo replacing Willie McLaren, who showed what he thought of manager Jimmy Boyle’s decision by taking his frustration out on the dugout.
The substitution didn’t alter the flow of the match and Rovers were inches away from doubling their lead in the 53rd minute. After McDonald handled the ball on the edge of the area Brian Graham took responsibility for the free kick and smacked it against Arthur’s left hand post.
Graham was getting a lot of joy by staying on the shoulder of Airdrie’s right back Michael Hart and it was from there that he almost scored again. Gathering up the ball he held it up before cutting inside and sending a slow hot towards goal that was deflected wide.
It just seemed a matter of time before Raith scored again but wasteful finishing was keeping the score at one. Great work by Hamill freed up Thomson who was brought down near the corner flag. Dusting himself down he took a quick free kick that allowed Smith a shooting opportunity but he struck the side netting. Thomson was the architect again a few minutes later, finding Graham in acres of room but his header from the cross sailed over.
For all their dominance Rovers had to rely on the linesman flag to keep them ahead. A free kick was bundled home from close range amongst a forest of limbs but the flag had went up as soon as the set piece had been taken.
A few minutes later the opposite linesman disallowed a Raith effort. Walkers lovely cross was deftly headed past Arthur by Hill but despite arriving late he was judged to be just offside.
Clarke was next to try his luck with 20 minutes remaining but his acrobatic effort went flying over the bar. It was to be his final contribution to the game as he was replaced by Greig Spence.
As the minutes ticked by the Rovers fans sensed the game was far from over and with 10 minutes left Airdrie almost made their anxieties a reality. With the Raith defence exposed in the right back position two Airdrie players were awaiting the cross but Di Giacomo volleyed his effort over the bar.
The away side were made to pay for that a minute later. Spence was put through but he couldn’t quite outpace the defenders but despite their pressure he still managed to get a shot off which Arthur did well to parry away. The ball eventually found its way to Walker who sent in a fantastic ball that just evaded Graham and Arthur but fell to Spence at the back post, who controlled it before steadying himself and driving the ball into the net.
With that the match was all but over but Rovers almost gave the scoreline a more realistic reflection. First, substitute Grant Anderson’s cross was just too hard for the four Raith players who had made their way into the box and lastly Graham sent a Stuart Anderson cross wide when he perhaps should have done better.
Grant Murray must have been happy with a dominant showing from his side with the only slight downside being that it took so long to kill the game off. He’d also have been delighted at the improved defensive showing with Mensing slotting in well amongst the defensive unit. Graham continued his goal scoring form while Greig Spence will be angling for a start after he came off the bench to good effect yet again. A similarly good performance will be required next week with a tough looking away fixture at Greenock Morton.
Report – Shaughan McGuigan, Pictures – Tony Fimister
Photographs copyright Tony Fimister and Ian Martin
Rovers manager Grant Murray gave his views on the match
Airdrie boss Jimmy Boyle stopped to chat after the game
New signing and Man of the Match Simon Mensing talked with Raith TV after his debut