Vaughan Creates Buzz Against Wasps
Raith Rovers returned to winning ways tonight, against a spirited Alloa Athletic side, who made them fight all the way for the three points.
Manager Grant Murray made just one change from the midweek match against Hearts, with the suspended Christian Nadé being replaced by Mark Stewart, who partnered Lewis Vaughan up front. Alloa’s caretaker manager Paddy Connolly, once again started recent signing Michael Chopra on the bench.
With Alloa the side who were in more desperate need of the points, it was no surprise that they started the match the quickest, in what was a fairly tousled opening period, with neither side keeping hold of the ball too well. Whilst Alloa may have been in the ascendency, they failed to trouble David McGurn in the Raith goal, and it was the home who chiselled out the first half chance after nine minutes.
A ball into the box was well flicked on by Lewis Vaughan, allowing Grant Anderson to drill an effort towards goal which was well charged down.
A moment later, Raith had a slight let off, when a pass through was picked up by Liam Buchanan who was offside. If he’d left the ball for Mark Docherty who was behind him, the Alloa man would had found himself with just McGurn to beat, a point that wasn’t lost on Docherty, who bellowed at the former Dunfermline man for his decision.
The front two of Stewart and Vaughan were starting to link well, whilst Anderson was keen to get involved out wide. The latter’s inswinging cross found Stewart in the box, and his header was smartly tipped over by Wasps goalkeeper Craig McDowall.
Vaughan then brought the ball down well in the middle of the park, before releasing Stewart who made good headway down the left, before firing in a cross that fizzed across the goal, but too high for the awaiting Raith players.
Alloa had yet to create a particularly effective opening, although they were finding an unusually large amount of space at the edge of the Raith penalty area when they ventured forward. Kevin Cawley almost managed to take advantage of that fact after 25 minutes, when his turn and drive had to be turned around the post by McGurn at full stretch. They came even closer to taking the lead from the corner routine that followed, which involved a low cross, and a step over, which allowed Buchanan a sight at goal, but his shot struck the top of the bar.
The frustrations that Alloa felt at that point, must have intensified further, when Raith took the lead just two minutes later. Once again it involved good work from Vaughan, who slotted a pass through to Stewart, who showed good strength to hold off the defender and stroke it past McDowall to put Raith one up.
However, the home side weren’t ahead for long, as Alloa pegged them level just five minutes later, although the equaliser was probably merited. Mark Docherty’s ball into the box was gathered up by Buchanan, who exploited the yard of space he’d been given, to swivel towards goal and dispatch a clean finish past McGurn to restore parity.
Both sides had one more chance each as the half ended. Firstly, Cawley had a sniff of goal from 20-yards, but his effort was blootered wildly over the bar, then McDowall did well to divert Stewart’s first-time shot past the post.
While the first half had been reasonably even-stevens, Raith reappeared for the second period looking fired up, and took the lead again in the 47th minute. An excellent cross from Grant Anderson from the right corner flag, was taken first time by Vaughan who crashed his volley past McDowall.
Raith looked like they were meaning business at this point, and for the first time in the match, were looking dominant. A good piece of interchange from Stewart and Vaughan, saw the youngster’s shot from inside the box blocked. Then, Raith somehow failed to take advantage of a four on three break, when a passing move between Stewart, Vaughan, Callachan and Conroy, broke down when Conroy received a pass after straying offside.
Whilst most of Raith’s play had come through the middle or right-hand-side, Rory McKeown almost managed to create the third goal from the left on the hour mark. His excellent switch of play found Conroy, whose first touch took him away from his marker, but he failed to catch his shot properly, and McDowall was able to parry it away.
Alloa had failed to eke out anything in the second half, and it was no surprise to see Michael Chopra replace Phil Roberts with 25 minutes remaining. His introduction freshened things up for the away side, and the substitute wasted little time in making his presence felt, with some neat touches, as well as a shot from distance which deflected over.
For the next fifteen minutes or so, Raith looked edgy, but while the fans feared that the final few moments could be fraught, they instead turned into the Lewis Vaughan show, with the youngster grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck, and tormenting the Alloa rearguard. First, he gathered a pass from Anderson, dinked the ball over the head of one defender, but was crowded out before he could shoot.
He then teed up Stewart who had his shot blocked by the goalkeeper, before Vaughan demonstrated the finest piece of skill of the evening, sidestepping four separate challenges, lunges and tackles, before sending his shot too close to McDowall.
The keeper was caught out as the 90th minute approached, by Vaughan’s first time shot, after Anderson did well to retrieve the ball out wide, but with McDowall caught out, the ball curved just past the post.
The result moves Raith six points clear of seventh placed Dumbarton, and they can go into Tuesday evening’s home match against Queen of the South in fine fettle.
Photographs © Tony Fimister 2015
Rovers gaffer Grant Murray was pleased with the 3 points
Raith Rovers will look to bounce back from two consecutive league defeats this Saturday evening, when they take on an Alloa Athletic side, who are fresh from picking up a point in a 2-2 draw at Ibrox on Tuesday.
The encounter will be the fourth occasion that the sides have met this season, and while Rovers are unbeaten against the Clackmannanshire outfit, there’s been little to choose between the teams.
A Ryan Conroy strike sealed a 1-0 win for Rovers at the Indoddrill Stadium in August, while Grant Anderson equalised for Raith in a 1-1 draw at Stark’s Park in October, after Liam Buchanan had nodded the visitors ahead.
It was an even tighter affair back at the Indodrill in January, where neither side could muster up a goal on a bitterly cold afternoon.
For this final meeting of the campaign, Alloa will have a new man at the helm, after previous manager, Barry Smith resigned after a 1-0 defeat to Dumbarton. Currently in charge is caretaker manager, Paddy Connolly, who has so far presided over a 3-1 defeat against Falkirk, and that 2-2 draw versus Rangers.
The Wasps have recently moved to strengthen their squad, by signing striker Michael Chopra, who was a free agent, after leaving Indian side, Kerala Blasters. Chopra has played in the English Premiership with Sunderland, and has amassed transfer fees of over £9,000,000 during his playing career.
Alloa are currently in eighth place in the Championship table, tied on points with second bottom Cowdenbeath, but with a better goal difference. However, the Blue Brazil have two games in hand, and with the two sides meeting on the last day of the season, the stage could be set for a dramatic finale.
Raith Rovers have an impressive recent record against this weekend’s visitors, with five wins and one draw from their last ten league meetings. Alloa’s last league win at Stark’s Park, was a 1-0 victory in the Second Division, back in April 2006.
Saturday’s referee will be Brian Colvin
Head-to-Head League Record at Stark’s Park:
Raith Rovers Wins: 26 | Alloa Athletic Wins: 7 | Draws: 11
Raith Rovers Goals: 108 | Alloa Athletic Goals: 54
Raith Rovers: D-L-W-L-L-L
Alloa Athletic: L-W-L-L-L-D
Biggest Home Win: 15/11/1930 Division Two Raith Rovers 7 Alloa Athletic 0
Biggest Away Win: 12/10/1935 Division Two Raith Rovers 1 Alloa Athletic 3
Top Goalscorers In All Competitions:
Raith Rovers: Ryan Conroy 9 | Christian Nadé 7 | Mark Stewart 4
Alloa Athletic: Greig Spence 12 | Liam Buchanan 11 |Kevin Cawley 4 | Mark Docherty 4
Match Odds: Raith Rovers: 19/20 | Alloa Athletic: 3/1 | Draw: 5/2