Late Drama As Raith Earn A Point
Raith Rovers extended their lead over fifth place Queen of the South, but only just, as a last-gasp Kyle Benedictus goal salvaged a point against Alloa Athletic with a 1-1 draw.
Manager, Ray McKinnon made just one change from the side which started against Queen of the South in midweek. Iain Davidson missed out after picking up a nasty looking head-knock, meaning his replacement from Tuesday, Craig Barr was paired in the centre of defence with Benedictus.
The Alloa starting line up featured some familiar names, with Dougie Hill at centre-half, while Mitchell Megginson, who left Stark’s Park in January, started on Alloa’s left-flank.
The match started at a fairly pedestrian pace, with a cross from each side the only goalmouth activity in the opening ten minutes.
However, the opening piece of creativity did come from the away team, when Ross Calllachan fed Mark Stewart on the edge of the area, and his lay-off was sent wide of the post from Aiden Connolly.
One of the aspects of Ryan Hardie’s game which has impressed since arriving on loan from Rangers is his close control in the area, and he demonstrated it once more in the 15th minute, when he evaded a challenge inside the box, but just as it appeared a gap had appeared in front of him, a sliding Alloa defender blocked his effort from close range.
The Raith forward had an even better chance a few moments later, when Mark Stewart’s clever pass allowed Hardie a clear run at goal, but while his shot was firm enough, it was too close to Scott Gallacher, who was able to get both hands to it.
Any time Connolly was in possession, he looked likely to create something, and he demonstrated a great piece of skill in the middle of the park, moving away from one challenge with a nutmeg, before setting up Lewis Toshney, but his finish was too weak to trouble Gallacher.
Alloa’s attacks had been fairly minimal up until that point, but they did produce a fine piece of play just before the half-hour mark, allowing Michael Duffy a sight at goal, but his shot was deflected towards Mitch Megginson who was closed down and crowded out by Barr whilst in the process of shooting.
One notable feature of the game was how much protection Gallacher was getting in the Alloa goal, with Dougie Hill and Jason Marr especially, throwing their bodies at any shot which came their way.
Three times in quick succession, good chances for Raith didn’t manage to trouble the Wasps ‘keeper, with Stewart and James Craigen twice frustrated by an Alloa defender’s bravery.
The final chance of the half fell to Stewart after he blocked a Gallacher clearance, but while the ball spun behind the goalie, it failed to break Stewart’s way, and the chance was gone.
With Ray McKinnon’s words possibly ringing in their ears from the interval, it took Raith just a few seconds to register their first shot on target in the second-half, with Stewart testing Gallacher from just outside the area.
Connolly then quickly followed suit, and while Gallacher managed to keep it out, he failed to make a good connection, and the ball squirmed just wide. From the corner-kick, Barr headed just over the bar, and at that point, it appeared that Raith were starting to turn the screw on their hosts.
However, that was far from the case, and as the half started to play itself out, Raith’s performance became slightly more ragged, as Alloa started to trouble the Rovers defence with greater regularity.
Kyle Benedictus did well to step in and prevent Megginson from turning home a Duffy cross. Then Duffy saw his shot dip just over the bar, after he managed to take the ball past Callachan and Toshney before unleashing a shot from 25-yards.
The away side suddenly looked vulnerable, and Alloa took advantage in the 63rd minute, with a well worked and taken strike. The ball was played out to the right-hand-side, and Flannigan’s ball across the area was swept in at the back-post by Steven Hetherington, a goal which prompted a quick blast of the A-Team theme tune over the PA system. Despite looking the likely winner of the contest for much of the match, Rovers were now facing an uphill battle to even take a point.
The goal saw the Raith boss make a quick change, with Joel Thomas coming on for Connolly, as McKinnon elected to go with three up-top.
However, despite the addition of an extra attacker, it was Alloa who almost doubled their advantage, when they found themselves with a three-on-one breakaway, but while Duffy was presented with an excellent chance, Kevin Cuthbert did well to beat away his drive.
After 78 minutes, Louis Longridge replaced James Craigen, and while Rovers were sending long balls and throw-ins into the area, they were mostly meat and drink for Hill and Marr who were each clearing anything that came their way.
Harry Panayiotou was introduced with five minutes remaining for Mark Stewart, and he almost nicked a goal within a minute of coming on, bringing down a cross on his chest at the back post, but frustratingly, the recurring theme of the day, a blocked shot was the end result.
With some Raith fans filtering towards the exit, and Alloa fans thinking that they were about to witness their first home win of the season, the equaliser arrived in the final minute.
A throw in was sent into the heart of the Alloa area, and as their defence failed to clear their lines for possibly the first occasion that afternoon, Thomas flicked the ball on, allowing Benedictus to turn the ball home on the half-volley.
Incredibly, Rovers then had a half-chance to win it, but with Hardie making space for himself in the box, he couldn’t quite get the ball out from under him, and he failed to get the shot off.
In fairness to Alloa, it would have been rough on them if Rovers had managed to score twice in injury-time, after an excellent defensive display, which came so close to producing that elusive home victory.
With Queen of the South losing out to St. Mirren, Raith’s lead over fifth place now stretches to eight points, with their next match taking place next Saturday against Hibernian.
The match highlights video will appear here shortly
© Eddie Doig
RaithTV talked to the Rovers gaffer after the 1-1 draw with Alloa
After a successful week which saw Raith Rovers take six-points-from-six from their play-off challengers, Ray McKinnon and his team head to the Indodrill Stadium this Saturday, to take on Alloa Athletic.
Alloa currently find themselves bottom of the Championship, with no wins from their last 7 games, however, they’ll be no room for complacency in the Raith ranks, considering the Wasps last victory came at Stark’s Park in January.
That win came despite the hosts fashioning out a variety of chances, but after passing up those opportunities, the match swung Alloa’s way, with a late Iain Flannigan penalty ensuring all three points travelled back to Clackmannanshire.
However, it’s been a different story in the other two meetings this season, with Raith winning 3-0 in August, thanks to second-half goals from James Craigen, Craig Wighton and Mark Stewart, and it was a 1-0 win at the Indodrill in October, with a Grant Anderson finish from close range the only goal.
While Alloa have yet to win a home league match this season, Raith have only won three league matches on the road, although that record is possibly skewed, by the fact that the only grounds they’ve visited twice this campaign, is Ibrox, Easter Road and the Falkirk Stadium. They’ll certainly be hoping that that record improves soon, with three of their next four fixtures coming away from Kirkcaldy.
Rovers have a good record against Alloa at the Indodrill Stadium, with just one defeat from their last seven visits, and overall, Raith have won five and lost two from their last ten meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be George Salmond.
Head-to-Head Record at the Indodrill Stadium:
Alloa Athletic Wins: 17 | Raith Rovers Wins: 23 | Draws: 7
Alloa Athletic Goals: 72 | Raith Rovers Goals: 84
Alloa Athletic: L-D-D-L-L-L
Raith Rovers: D-W-W-L-W-W
Alloa Athletic: Iain Flannigan 4 | Colin Hamilton 2 | Graeme Holmes 2 | Jason Marr 2
Raith Rovers: Mark Stewart 10 | James Craigen 6 | Ryan Hardie 4
Alloa Athletic: 17/5 | Raith Rovers: 5/6 | Draw: 13/5