Three into One equals One
The Rovers returned south with another well deserved point. Despite a 32 point gap in the League there was a lot less between the sides in Dingwall. The conditions were good for a road trip and football in spring sunshine. The Rovers fans arrived in good spirits and saw Clarke had replaced the suspended Baird. Facing the Champions elect who were unbeaten at home while scrapping at the bottom of the league would scare a lot of teams. The Rovers however were not phased.
The first opportunity fell to County when ex-Rover Brittain shot on the angle after the ball had moved across the field. His effort went wide of McGurn’s left hand post. The game settled into a pattern with the Rovers having a lot of the ball and County playing more like an away side – on the break. Lawson put Hill’s clearance over after a free kick in the 13th minute.
Grant Murray took a knock in the face and was tended to at the sideline.
Davidson tripped a County man in midfield and the Raith support were surprised to see a senior member of the Staggie’s coaching staff calling loudly for a booking – Kettlewell had been penalised twice and spoken too by then. Davidson probably didn’t notice but should have taken it as a compliment!
Despite more of the ball the Rovers were not getting many opportunities. Clarke won a header which went straight up and Fraser in the County goal collected before Pat could capitalise. Ellis mopped up a long pass forward as the Staggie’s failed to get the upper hand. In the 27th minute Miller blocked Casalinuovo just outside the box – this stirred the home support a little. The free kick was blocked and cleared but a moment later Allan Walker got onto a good ball in the box but scuffed his pass as County’s defence looked stretched.
Hamill left two home men in his wake with a skilful spin before McGurn was called into action for the first time in the 31stminute. A rare foray forward saw the ball fall to Quinn who shot hard from 23 yards – McGurn reacted pushing the effort away. A great save from Dave who’d only had the vocal Rovers support behind him to keep him alert for much of the half. At the other end Boyd beat Damian in the air and the ball fell to Ellis 15 yards out, Lawrie’s first time effort was too high.
The next chance went to Allan Walker who got onto Damian’s header in the box and failed to hit the target – it was the best chance of the half. A forward move by the Dingwall side saw Miller’s shot cheered by the home support, then jeered by the Rovers fans who watched it go 5 yards wide. The final action of the first 45 saw Fraser take a driven free kick before the Rovers could pounce.
The Rovers fan’s knew ex-Par Derek Adams would try and lift his team to push on in the second half. However Dougie Hill – having another good performance – headed wide in the 49th minute. County did see a chance go begging in the 51st when Morrow’s header was cleared off the line and hit a man in the crowded box however Hill was alert and removed the danger. As both sides looked for the first goal Fraser made a brilliant save from Casalinuovo’s header – the ex-ICT man pushed away the ball diving low to his right. Then Miller – who’d just been booked – appeared to tug at Damian who was level with him chasing a ball that Fraser just got too. The Rovers support were a little surprised to see the big man penalised.
Gardyne was taken off having had a quiet game and ex-Rover Steven Craig went on up front, he saw Brittain’s back heel tee up a low cross that no-one was near. Next to threaten however were the Rovers when Fraser dealt easily with Casalinuovo’s long range effort that he didn’t really connect with. The Rovers broke from a County free kick and Miller did very well tackling Damian as he looked to take advantage.
The home fans were at last seeing their side have some pressure around the 70th minute and the Rovers dug in and defended well. Morrow was played in on the edge of the box in rare space and chose to go wide – the wrong option – the resultant corner came to nothing. In the 74th minute the Rovers hit the back of the net for the first time. Boyd played a gentle pass back to Fraser who was closed down by Clarke, the keepers clearance hit the front man and as it was close in Pat was able to touch the ball into the net. However the referee decided to penalise the Rovers man and the ‘goal’ was disallowed. Encouraged the fresh legs of Williamson started a slick move including Damian, Dyer and Davidson before the final ball was just too strong.
McGurn was again called into action matching Fraser’s earlier save when he dived brilliantly to push away a low Miller drive. As both sides tried to break the deadlock again the Rovers support cheered as Dyers cross found Iain Williamson running in at the back post and he forced the ball home. However the referee whistled and again ruled out a Rovers strike – for what he adjudged to be a foul by Damian at the near post.
Reacting County saw the Rovers defend well as the Champions elect tried to hit the net themselves. A Raith man blocked an effort bravely in the 79th then in the 82nd Morrison’s low cross went wide as some County fans thought it would sneak in… A quick throw saw a County man get half a yard, his cross was cleared but fell nicely for Lawson whose shot from 22 yards went through a forest of legs and beat McGurn. 1:0 to the league leaders after 85 minutes.
McGurn calmly claimed a free kick then panic at the other end saw County scramble the ball away as some of the Rovers support sang, “We want 3…” Jamie Walker got on the end of a free kick but the ball eluded him and as the Rovers pushed on. Hamill was caught out and nearly cost the Rovers dear but Jamie’s pace meant he could remove the danger. As home crowd hoped for the final whistle the Rovers tried to find a way into the box. Young Walker’s clever back heel played in Thomson and caught out the defence. Jason Thomson was fouled – apparently by ‘Man of the Match’ Boyd – and referee McLean pointed to the spot.
As the dying seconds of the match clicked by Pat Clarke strode up and put the penalty to Frasers left to make it 1:1. The sun drenched Rovers support behind the goal enjoyed it while the chillier Raith fans in the shadows of the stand also celebrated.
Two away trips to the top two teams have seen the Rovers collect two points. After having so much possession in both games and three goals disallowed many Rovers fans will be disappointed with that return. However our disappointment will be much less than that of Ayr, Morton and Queen of the South fans who’ll have hoped for heavy Raith defeats…
Ross County: Fraser, Miller, Morrison, Boyd, Munro, Lawson, Brittain, Kettlewell, Quinn (Corcoran 78), Gardyne (Craig 62), Morrow (Vigurs 72). Subs Not Used: Malin, Flynn.
YC’s: Miller, Kettlewell.
Raith Rovers: McGurn, Thomson, Dyer, Ellis, Hill (Williamson 70), Murray, Allan Walker, Davidson, Hamill, Clarke, Casalinuovo (Jamie Walker 82). Subs Not Used: Laidlaw, Stewart, McBride.
Report John Mainland, Pictures Eddie Doig
Updates by Chris Hynd
Photos by Eddie Doig
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