Raith not at Races
Raith Rovers missed the chance to move further away from the bottom of the First Division after a resounding 3 0 home defeat from an impressive Livingston side. John McGlynn made two changes from Saturdays fight back against Hamilton. Davidson missed out through injury and was replaced in the middle of the park by Johnny Stewart while Joe Hamill dropped to the bench and in came the second Hearts loanee Jamie Walker.
Raith made the brighter start on the sodden Starks Park turf and within the opening seconds had fashioned a chance from a Livingston error. Receiving the ball from a Livi throw in midway inside the oppositions half, Baird took 3 strides forward and from 25 yards sent a firm shot just over the bar.
Despite the treacherous conditions Raith had settled early and created another opening just a minute later. This time an Allan Walker corner found Laurie Ellis unmarked, but from close range he headed over the bar when he should really have done better. The positive start continued and from another corner Baird this time had a glimpse at goal but his toe poke was deflected wide of the target.
Livingston had rarely been seen as an attacking threat so far but after 10 minutes they gave a glimpse of what was to come. A flowing 5 man move ended with a cross into the box that saw Rory Boulding attempt to turn his man but was blocked by Ellis, just as he shaped to shoot. Raith still looked the most dangerous side though and again the threat came from a set piece from Allan Walker. His free kick from out wide evaded everyone and was fumbled by ex Raith keeper Andy McNeill but cleared to safety.
Livi were growing into the game now and most of the good football being played was by the away side. After 14 minutes a Rory Boulding cross found Marc McNulty but his shot was deflected clear for a corner. From the resultant kick, the deep cross was headed back into the box, and despite there being little danger, Jason Thomson pulled Boulding’s shirt as he shaped to try an overhead kick right in front of the referee. It may have been soft but the Raith right back did tug back on the strikers jersey. Both McGurn and Thomson were booked in the aftermath of the decision. Boulding took the kick himself and calmly slotted it inside McGurn’s left hand post as the keeper guessed the wrong way.
The goal seemed to breathe greater belief into the away side and they almost extended their lead 5 minutes later. A cross from the left by Boulding was met by a diving header from McNullty but McGurn kept it out with a fine full length save to his left. Boulding again caused the Raith defence grief and this time he found himself 22 yards from goal and crashed a superb drive past McGurn but it rebounded off the bar and over. Raith were looking really vulnerable now and in Bobby Barr, Marc McNulty and in particular Rory Boulding, the visitors had 3 players who’s pace, movement and creativity were proving irresistible to the Raith back four.
Despite this Rovers created the next 2 chances, Casalinouvo sent a shot against the outside of the post after 27 minutes and just a minute later Allan Walker sent a shot just past the same right hand post after being teed up by Baird. With 5 minutes remaining till half time McNulty picked the ball up and ran at the Raith defence, eventually crashing a shot goalward which ricocheted off a Raith defender and out for a corner kick. From the cross a stramash in the penalty area resulted in Boulding bundling the ball home but the linesmans flag was correctly raised for offside.
At this point the Raith defence was being pulled apart all over the place by wave after wave of Livingston attacks. The midfield was offering little in the way of protection and was sorely missing the organisation and tackling ability of Ian Davidson. This was the case after 42 minutes when Kyle Jacobs ran from deep, laying the ball off to McNulty who’s shot was tipped onto the bar by McGurn. He could do nothing just 60 seconds later however. Bobby Barr ran to the bye line and cut in, beating his man and picking out Boulding who had found space inside the penalty box and casually side footed the ball into the net from 8 yards, to give the away side a two goal half time advantage.
If McGlynn had read the Raith side the riot act during the interval then it didn’t seem to do much good. Ellis immediately gave the ball away, allowing Bobby Barr to run in on goal, but from a narrow angle his shot was gathered well by McGurn. Raith were still struggling to create anything from open play and the difference in both sides styles was abundantly clear. While Livi’s movement and pace was allowing their strikers to be given passes that saw them running towards goal, Baird and Casalinuovo were always receiving passes with their backs to goal, or even worse, near the corner flag. The only other creative outlet was Jason Thomson and although his runs forward were supplying crosses, the Livingston defenders were dealing with them comfortably.
The attacking limitations meant that Raith’s next chance again came from a corner. Walker’s short inswinger was again met by Ellis but his flicked effort landed on the roof of the net.
On 55 minutes the game was effectively killed off, and again it was in a clinical manner. Barr found space in the middle of the park and fed Boulding the ball on the right hand side. Coming in from the angle he dispatched the ball ruthlessly passed McGurn for his hat-trick. Five minutes later McGlynn made a double substitution, replacing Jamie Walker and Johnny Stewart with Iain Williamson and Joe Hamill. The latter man almost made an immediate difference, driving into the Livingston penalty area but with him seeming to have an angle to shoot he instead opted to square it and the chance was lost.
The third goal destroyed any belief the Rovers players had of getting anything from the game and if anything it was the away team who looked more likely to add to their tally. On 73 minutes Baird gave the ball away at the corner flag to Keaghan Jacobs who then ran the length of the park before slicing his shot wide when he should have done better. Casalinuovo was then replaced by Brian Graham.
With Raith reduced to punting balls into the box and hoping for the best, Boulding was again showing how it should be done. Receiving the ball to feet inside the box he dragged his marker wide and drove in a shot that McGurn did well to keep out. McGurn then made an even better save, acrobatically tipping over a Bobby Barr effort after the impressive midfielder had skipped past 3 Raith defenders. Raith’s final effort summed up their limp performance. A Hamill corner was punched away unconvincingly by McNeill and Williamson’s half volley from outside the box sailed into the dreich night sky.
The hope that had been built up on the back of a four game unbeaten streak going into this match had all but evaporated by full time after an utterly toothless display. All credit to a Livingston side though who at times played excellent football in difficult conditions. With two consecutive away matches coming up against Partick and Falkirk, Raith need to put this result behind them and get back to winning ways to try and ensure their first division status.
Report by Shaughan McGuigan, Pictures Tony Fimister
Photographs copyright Tony Fimister and Ian Martin