Morton Sneak Past Profligate Raith
Douglas Rae, the Morton Chairman, seems to like to wander onto the park with a microphone when the Rovers are in town. This week he started by talking about the huge debt owed to a local bus firm and then introduced Alan Menamin – which was a surprise. Colin McMenamin, Ton’s new signing stood rather perplexed at the side of the pitch… Helpful shouts of “Colin!” from the home fans helped salvage the situation.
The new signing was on the home bench. The visitors lined up with Hill being replaced by Mensing in the back four and Hamill coming in for the under the weather Grant Anderson. Pat Clarke joined Graham up front in place of Spence. Allan Walker and David Smith were the wide midfielders and the impressive Stuart Anderson was joined by Hamill in the middle.
Morton won an early corner then nearly capitalised from an Ellis slip but Laurie did well to recover. It started to rain about five minutes in which led to some slips and slides for the rest of the match. The first chance went the Rovers way, Anderson’s great cross was intelligently headed down by Walker to Clarke who’s first time drive from 18 yards went wide. Brian Graham closed down Al Gaston in the home goal almost blocking his ponderous clearance. On the quarter hour Hardie lined up a free kick but the veteran’s effort hit the wall. In the 18th minute the Rovers should have scored, the Morton back four lost their shape and Walker then Clarke were left with space and the latter’s effort to place his shot in the top corner was just over. Pat was unmarked and the beaten keeper looked very relieved turning to see the ball go over the bar.
Two minutes later it was Tidser’s turn to hit the defensive wall with a free kick. The Rovers then had a good spell with Smith causing problems wide and sending in a tempting cross the keeper claimed. In the 34th minute Morton threatened for a moment when some slips and pinball outside the box saw the ball break forward and O’Brien lost his footing with the ball well out of reach. Again the Rovers pressed and after a free kick was cleared Hamill fired in a shot from 24 yards but it flashed wide. Next the Rovers created a chance when Anderson’s smart header into the box saw Walker’s overhead effort go too close to the keeper.
Reid the home left back tried to make something happen running forward but his shot was too high. Pat Clarke saw a flick header go wide
from another dangerous position then the Rovers should have got the goal they deserved before the half. Alan Rutkiewicz facing goal put a dreadful attempted back pass into the path of Brian Graham. The ex-Ton man took a touch into the box and drove his shot low and hard for the far corner of goal. Gaston just got enough off a touch on the ball to divert it agonisingly wide – a good save and a massive let off for the home side.
Dave McGurn came out early, as he often does during half time, probably in an effort to keep warm as the Rovers back four had done well making his first half uneventful. This was borne out by Allan Moore’s offensive change with the ineffectual Graham replaced by Colin McMenamin – aka Alan - for his Ton debut. However in only 40 seconds the Rovers nearly made the breakthrough, Graham’s low shot zipped past Gaston and clipped the post.
The healthy home support were getting a little restless and this was manifested by an unaccountable shout for handball when Clarke clearly chested the ball down in the centre of the field. In the 49th minute McDonald – who was well marshalled throughout by Ellis – almost scored by accident. Staying on his feet he clipped in a cross into an empty six yard box, miss-hitting it over McGurn and across goal skimming the far post before eventually trundling out for a throw in. In the 52nd minute a free kick was cleared out of the Raith box, Tidser stepped onto it and hit a low hard shot towards goal. The ball somehow avoided the many bodies in the box and nestled in the back of the net. Any Alan’s in the home end would have been more than happy with that. It was very similar to Hamill’s effort in the first half but with a different result… 1:0 to the League leaders.
Many would have expected the home side to step up having secured the lead but only three minutes later again the Rovers could have scored. Smith did well wide and Clarke had time and space to side foot for goal from around 10 yards with Gaston again exposed. The ball went past the post and the Raith players complained vigorously at the award of a by-kick and not a corner. In the 56th minute McGurn made his first save of note from a Ton chance, pushing away a header after a corner. Gaston at the other end was busy again blocking Clarke’s effort following Malone’s good free kick. Scrambled defending saw the Rovers fail to capitalise. Hardie was booked for committing two fouls in two minutes and should know better than to show such distain for a referee’s decision as they were by no means his first offences.
In the 73rd minute the Rovers again beat Gaston. Clarke took a great touch wrong footing his marker and his low shot flew past the keeper only to be acrobatically hoofed off the line by a despairing home defender.
Weatherston, who has a knack of scoring against the Rovers, replaced McDonald and shot past from 24 yards. Spence replaced Anderson as the Rovers pushed for the equaliser their play had deserved and the youngster soon had the Ton back four on their toes chasing down a ball forward. In only the 76th minute debut man McMenamin put the ball into the terracing from a yard out to try and take some time off the clock… In the 77th Hamill’s pass found Graham in the box, he turned and shot over, it was yet another good Rovers chance.
Play was stretched and the Rovers were pushing forward, a Ton clearance flew over the high roof of the terracing as the League leaders dug in. The home side tried to break and Weatherston’s ball for O’Brien not even close but the last opportunity fell for the Rovers. Allan Walker got his head to Smith’s cross at the near post but it seemed to clip the foot of the post or somehow end up moving away from goal.
Leaving snowy Fife some of the travelling fans will have been thinking a trip to the League leaders is not the best place to turn around a run of bad results. The game ended 1:0 and though in many ways it was an even match the home side will not win many games creating so few chances. The Rovers on the other hand have won many points with fewer opportunities than today. The Raith fans returned, after being delayed by happy Montrose fans, disappointed that the performance did not get the reward it deserved.
Report – John Mainland, Pictures – Eddie Doig
Photgraphs copyright Eddie Doig.