Seventh Heaven for the Rovers
For most of today’s game I did not relish writing this match report. I’ve done quite a few and to be honest things were looking pretty bleak for most of the match… I however sit in front of the keyboard knowing that I’ll only be able to scratch the surface of what happened today in Airdrie.
For those of you who were not there indulge me and don’t skip to last few paragraphs to in a tiny, tiny way recreate what we witnessed. Those of you who were there, yes it happened, really it did! I know… What the flip?!? No really, I seen it with my own eyes and wrote stuff down! As for anyone who left early – there may have been a few – read this to make your claims you didn’t sound more plausible.
There was only one change from last week with David McKay dropping to the bench as Iain Davidson returned from suspension. On the other side of the ball ex-Rover Ryan Conroy was one of the few that remained from last seasons Diamond’s. There have been wholescale changes to the playing staff and Dale Carrick was joined up top by Leighton McIntosh – who always seems to play well against the Rovers – and the less well-known Joao Victoria.
Raith started brightly winning a corner in the fifth minute which was swung in but too close to Hutton the home keeper who claimed it easily. A free kick swung in lead to another corner which though better didn’t threaten. In the sixth minute Joao Victoria picked up the ball wide and moved infield along the edge of the box and created enough space to fire a great shot past Wright. It was clear from the start that the home side were looking to get the ball forward quickly to their lively front men. This may be their normal way of playing but it certainly caused the visitors problems throughout. 1:0
Nisbet fired a low shot at Hutton from 18 yards after good build up play but it was relatively easy for the home keeper to claim. Leighton McIntosh, who was sporting a bandage at a jaunty angle after an ear injury last week, sped towards the Rovers goal with Davidson in pursuit. The ex-Dundee man went down having tripped over his own feet to cries from the Airdrie fans at the other end of the ground. Referee Newlands was up with play and rightly let play go on. Moments later another attack was broken up before a heavy touch by Davidson saw Victoria’s snapshot blocked.
Pushing on Victoria robbed Matthews and from the break Murray arrived just in time to prevent a home man from firing goalward as Wright dithered. From the resulting corner Conroy shot low, hard and just wide from 16 yards. The Rovers tried to get back into the game and were lucky to get a free kick when Flanagan and Watson ran into each other. Justice was done when the ball into the box was taken by Hutton.
Matthews and Flanagan switched sides after twenty minutes and another free kick in fell in the box but no Rover could capitalise. Nathan and Buchanan combined nicely but the lay-off was just too short for Matthews to strike at goal. Though the Rovers were getting a bit more of the ball Watson had to be alert to prevent Victoria from getting Carrick’s square ball.
Matthews was subbed in the 25th minute and got some treatment on what looked like his knee being replaced by Chris Duggan. At the same time Crighton the home captain left the field with Edwards coming on. Nisbet had moved wide and did well getting to the by-line but less well overhitting a cross. In the 31st minute Victoria again did well beating Watson and his low cross from the by-line was knocked home with ease by Dale Carrick from a couple of yards out. 2:0
The 34th minute saw Gillespie and Nisbet combine and the latter’s driven cross was knocked past by Buchanan. Conroy hit a shot over after a mistake in the Rovers back line before Carrick took a touch and drove a shot wide from 20 yards. The last action of the first half saw a free kick claimed by Wright in the Rovers box. The mood among the Rovers support was not great at the break. The home side looked dangerous and the home back four hadn’t really been tested.
There were no personnel changes at the break but the Rovers seemed to be playing more 4-3-3 with Nisbet hugging the side line in front of the benches. Nisbet headed an early corner taken by Gillespie wide. Grant put in a decent free kick which was put out and from the resulting corner was knocked up onto the bar with Hutton beaten. Bouncing off the woodwork Benedictus headed bravely over taking a knock to the face. Going down Kyle indicated he needed assistance as a home man lay stricken in the six-yard box. A minute later Benny scampered off holding a dressing to his face and went down the tunnel followed by the physio clearly anticipating he’d get stiches.
Being a man short didn’t deter the men in blue and a foul on Duggan wasn’t punished but Buchanan’s cross from the by-line was claimed by Hutton. Gillespie was booked for a foul before McKay came on for the missing Benny in the 54th minute. In the 56th minute Liam Buchanan anticipated a back pass and was onto it in a flash knocking the ball through the legs of the exposed Hutton. 2:1
Next Euan Murray mistimed a tackle – with no malicious intent – and was lucky to avoid being booked. Following a home slip Nisbet weaved his way into the box and his clever pass to Gillespie saw Hutton do very well blocking low before the ball was cleared. Moments later Wedderburn found himself by the corner flag and his step over wasn’t enough to create anything. Airdrie tried to get the vital third and Victoria showed quick feet but couldn’t get a shot off.
Nisbet got a knock in the face which went unpunished and as the home fans booed thinking there was no contact their physio will be able to vouch for him providing treatment as the Rovers medic was still tending to Benny. The ever dangerous from set pieces Conroy hit a free kick over after a Davidson foul. Nisbet tried at the other end after Buchanan was fouled but his free kick also went over.
Then things went from bad to worse for the Rovers. A Flanagan free kick saw Davidson go down in a congested box. Incensed he ran up the field as the home side tried to break. Play stopped and an Airdrie man lay on the plastic turf and Hutton the home keeper ran to the half way line to have a go at Wedderburn. Though I, and those around me did not see what happened, Davidson was shown a straight red card and Hutton was perhaps fortunate to only be booked.
Page the home man was booked for a foul as the Rovers set up in what looked like a 3-3-3 formation. Victoria won a corner with Watson doing well but the opportunity was wasted. Leighton McIntosh had caused bother the whole game and David McKay seemed to be doing the best against him blocking his shot in the 79th minute. McIntosh headed a corner wide when he could have done better. However, in the 83rd minute Joao Victoria turned in the box quicker than a Trump staffer offered legal immunity and fired a shot in off the underside of the bar. It bounced out of the goal but the linesman was already running towards the halfway line – Airdrie 3, Raith 1
Even the most ardent Rovers fan would have thought two things, firstly that the game was lost and secondly that the Diamonds deserved all three points.
Despite the man disadvantage the Rovers tried to go forward and Nisbet wide played a ball across the edge of the 18 yard box catching the home defence flat footed. But Liam Buchanan was on his toes and able to take a touch before putting the ball past the luckless Hutton in the 87th minute making it 3:2
The home men were looking to add to their lead and McIntosh played in Victoria who blazed an angled drive wide. At the other end in the 89th minute a Raith corner was cleared then went back into the box without any real threat. In the last moments of normal time a high foot at the edge of the box was rightly penalised. Buchanan and Nisbet stood by the ball as the Rovers looked for an unlikely equaliser. Liam touched it towards Kevin Nisbet who leathered an unstoppable shot low into the far corner of the net making it an unlikely but thrilling 3:3 score line.
Before Rovers fans young and old could try to remember when the men in blue came back from two goals and a man down Duggan and Flanagan found themselves wide by an Airdrie corner flag. Despite the canny thing being to try and see out the last few seconds for an unlikely point Chris worked himself enough space for a cross and sent the ball into the six-yard box. There was a half block on it by a defender and Hutton moved to snuff out the danger but Kevin Nisbet was also there and managed to knock the ball past the keeper and it bounced gently into the back of the net as what can only be described as utter pandemonium broke out at one end of the ground. Every Rovers player dashed to the visiting fans celebrating wildly as the updater, Raith TV commentators and I did the same somehow managing not to swear in front of the listening audience. An audience who to a man, woman and child no matter where they were across the world, no matter what they were doing probably swore several times!
A McKay clearance moments later saw the final whistle and as some Airdrie players understandably sank to their knees the Rovers players, fans and staff marvelled at what had just happened… Despite being there I’ve taken the opportunity to check, several sources and the final score was indeed Airdrieonians 3 Raith Rovers 4
I’ve been going to the Rovers since 88 and haven’t seen a turn around like that. I doubt fans who’ve being going longer will have either… IT WAS UTTERLY, UTTERLY BONKERS. It may well be a wee while before it happens again.
© Eddie Doig
A delighted Barry Smith spoke after the game
Fourth placed Raith Rovers travel to second placed Airdrieonians this Saturday, looking to leapfrog their opponents who have taken six points from their first nine available.
It’s been all change at the Penny Cars Stadium over the summer, with manager, Stephen Findlay rebuilding a side that struggled for large swathes of last term.
Two goalkeepers have been brought in, in David Hutton and Scott Gallacher, while the defence has been strengthened by the acquisitions of Sean Crighton and Chris O’Neill, both from Brechin City, while Scott Robertson has come in from Stranraer and Jonathon Page from East Fife.
In midfield, former fellow East Fife alumni, Kieran Miller and Kyle Wilkie could fit in alongside former Rovers midfielder Ryan Conroy, but it’s up front that Airdrie arguably boast their best options.
Darryl Duffy was brought in from St Mirren after impressing on-loan last term, while Leighton McIntosh, who was a thorn in Raith’s side last term for Arbroath, with both able to start alongside Dale Hilson in attack.
Airdrie go into the game on the back of a 2-1 win over Stenhousemuir, a result which was achieved despite being down to ten men for the majority of the match, and that hard fought victory lifted them above Montrose on goal difference, just a point behind early pace-setters Arbroath.
Rovers had an excellent record against Airdrie last term, taking 10 points from a possible 12 across the four encounters, and they have a good overall record against The Diamonds, with no defeats from the last ten encounters, winning seven in the process.
Saturday’s match referee will be Alan Newlands.
Head-To-Head Away League Record Versus Airdrie:
Airdrie Wins: 37 | Raith Rovers Wins: 24 | Draws: 11
Airdrie Goals: 158 | Raith Rovers Goals: 119
Raith Rovers: L-L-D-W-W-D
Top Goal Scorers:
Airdrie: Ryan Conroy 5 | Darryl Duffy 3 | Leighton McIntosh 3
Raith Rovers: Kevin Nisbet 5
Airdrie: 2/1 | Raith Rovers: 13/10 | Draw: 13/5