Graham & Clarke provide the spark
Raith returned to winning ways with a perfunctory 2-0 victory over a poor Airdrie side at Stark’s Park today.
The starting XI showed a change in both personnel and shape, as Grant Murray looked to bounce back from the midweek defeat at East End Park by reverting to a more orthodox 4 4 2 shape. David McGurn was restored to the line up for the first time since he succumbed to an injury in October, while Stuart Anderson came in for Joe Hamill in the middle of the park. David Smith reverted back to left-wing while Greig Spence dropped to the bench, replaced by Pat Clarke who partnered Graham up front.
The match started reasonably slowly, with both sides struggling to establish any rhythm. In truth that’s no great surprise, as while Raith’s last league win was against Falkirk on the 10th of November, Airdrie’s was even longer ago, their comeback victory against Dumbarton at the end of October being the last time they managed to secure all three points.Raith’s early advances were mostly being provided by David Smith who seemed keen to get involved and eager to test visiting right back Chris O’Neil. Nothing was quite coming off for him though and it was Airdrie who looked the brighter side in the opening stages.
William McLaren managed to wriggle to the bye-line but his cut back was just turned away by the merest of touches from Malone who did well to stay on his feet and turn it away. They came close again in the 17th minute, Nathan Blackley picked out Ryan Donnelly whose shot was deflected into the path of Warren but his shot from 6 yards was blocked by an excellent sliding challenge from Grant Anderson.
It was Blackley again who was the provider in the 23rd minute, his cross from the right found two men free at the back post but Liam Watt couldn’t adjust his feet quick enough and he failed to catch hold of the cross, allowing McGurn to smother the ball gratefully.
Raith just weren’t in the game in an attacking sense at this point. Grant Anderson was being crowded out on the right, finding himself up against two opponents due to Jason Thomson’s reluctance to get forward and overlap him. On the opposite flank Smith was too often picking up the ball and deciding on the wrong option, best illustrated just before the half hour mark when he chose to shoot despite having two team mates in better positions ahead of him. Up front Clarke and Graham were struggling to make any inroads, although they were being starved of any good service. Frustratingly players were also being caught off-side on a number of occasions, either due to Airdrie’s off-side trap or possibly due to a lack of awareness on their behalf.
The home supporters first chance to get excited came after 31 minutes, Pat Clarke’s flick on allowed Grant Anderson to gallop into the box but with Graham waiting in the middle his cross was cut out.
It was a precursor of what was to come though, and Raith took the lead in the 34th minute. Pat Clarke gained possession and found Brian Graham’s run with a clever pass between two Airdrie defenders. Graham latched onto it and drove into the box from an angle, despatching it across Adam into the bottom corner. The goal hadn’t exactly been coming but the game sorely needed it.Rovers almost doubled their lead 3 minutes later with Smith’s fierce shot only being kept out by Adam at the second attempt.
It was the last real action of the half, save from a first time Walker effort from 25 yards that embarrassingly for him went out for a throw in.
The second period started in a similarly slow fashion to the first, although the few chances that were eked out were all by the home side. Graham skying a free kick over the bar from just outside the box after a handball from Lamie and then Grant Anderson squandering a decent chance when he ballooned a cross out for a goal kick after a good piece of sustained pressure.
Grant Murray made his first change after 55 minutes, swapping Eddie Malone with Reece Donaldson, and the replacement would have a huge influence on the second goal in the 62nd minute.
Breaking up an Airdrie attack at the edge of his own box the youngster powered forward, eventually freeing up Graham wide on the left who spotted Clarke sprinting through the middle. His perfect cross allowed his strike partner to run onto it without breaking his stride, before picking his spot and slipping it low past Adam.
The second goal knocked the stuffing out of the Airdrie side who had already started the second half poorly, while for Rovers the two goal cushion gave them the confidence to push on. Thomson was bombing forward while Stuart Anderson’s role of keeping things ticking over in midfield allowed Walker to supplement the forward areas, although his half volley with 15 minutes remaining never tested the keeper.It seemed more a case of how many Rovers would win by rather than could Airdrie get back in it and only a good save from Adam prevented Clarke from making it 3 after he pounced on a slack back header. A minute later though Adam was almost responsible for a goal, completely misjudging a corner which allowed Graham a clear shot at goal from the edge of the 6 yard box. He may have had players in front of him but his high effort should have been easily knocked home.
The last chance of the game also fell to Graham who ran clear on goal after a fantastic through ball from Walker but after delaying his opportunity to lob Adam he allowed Lamie to close in and clear the danger with a tremendous last-ditch tackle.
If anything the 2-0 scoreline flattered Airdrie United who looked devoid of ideas and spirit. For Raith it was a welcome three points and a decent performance, despite a tentative start. Stuart Anderson provided a better anchor in midfield,constantly looking for the ball and rarely losing posession, while Graham and Clarke combined well up front. The defence dealt fairly well with what little Airdrie threw at them, while returning keeper McGurn could scarcely have had a quieter 90 minutes, he’ll be expecting a sterner test next week though when the team travels to Livingston.
Report – Shaughan McGuigan, Pictures – Tony Fimister
High Bandwidth version:
Low Bandwidth version:
All Raith TV video is filmed and edited by Steven Ward and Lyle Kilbane
Photographs copyright Tony Fimister and Ian Martin
Rovers gaffer Grant Murray was pleased to get back to winning ways
Midfield ace Stuart Anderson spoke to Niall after the match