Nisbet Brace Seals Win
Amid cold and blustery conditions in Fife, Raith Rovers and Brechin City served up an absorbing League 1 clash at Stark’s Park this afternoon. John McGlynn’s side merited the three points gained courtesy of their 2-1 win, although the outcome was anything but certain until the final whistle, which was met with a combination of cheers and relief by the Rovers faithful.
Brechin’s stuttering start to their campaign following relegation from the Championship last season saw them part company with manager Darren Dods earlier in the week, although they would have travelled south buoyed by a decent record against the hosts in recent years. In fact, the best part of a decade had passed since Rovers last tasted success against City, when a stunning free-kick by Robert Sloan propelled the Lang Toun club to a win which helped them clinch the league title a few weeks later.
Rovers were keen to get back on track following last weekend’s disappointing loss at Forfar. Euan Murray returned to the starting eleven following suspension, and Liam Buchanan lined up at the expense of the injured Regan Hendry. Brechin boasted two former Rovers in their line-up, in the shape of keeper Conor Brennan and Ramsden’s Cup hero Dougie Hill.
Following a minute’s silence in honour of last weekend’s tragic helicopter crash in Leicester, the match kicked off, and Rovers quickly looked to assert themselves on their visitors. A deft pass by Nat Wedderburn found Kevin Nisbet hogging the touchline wide on the left, and the young forward’s deep cross was scrambled clear. Moments later, from the same spot Callum Crane tried his luck with a cross which was over-hit and evaded everyone inside the Brechin penalty area.
Brechin were keen to show that they too had attacking intentions, with Callum Tapping trying his luck with shot which flew over the crossbar. Shortly afterwards, a speculative effort by his team-mate Euan Smith suffered the same fate.
Euan Spark then required treatment following a clash with Wedderburn, which resulted in treatment for the Brechin defender, and a word of warning in the Rovers midfielder’s ear from referee Graham Beaton. Five minutes later, Wedderburn committed another foul, which earned him the first yellow card of the game. Rovers responded with a dangerous free-kick by Nathan Flanagan, which brought an impressive headed clearance from under his own crossbar by Ryan McGeever.
Brechin’s Kalvin Orsi then evened up the caution count for a needless tug at Wedderburn, before Sean Burns made space for himself deep in Rovers territory before fluffing his shot well wide of the target from a promising position outside the box. The Brechin physio had to earn his corn by providing on-field treatment to Callum Hendry and Andrew Jackson in quick succession, though it was a Rovers player, Flanagan, who suffered most thanks to a crude lunge from behind by Aaron Lynas, a challenge which was rewarded with a yellow card for the midfielder.
With 35 minutes played, a slick passing move on the left wing found Buchanan in space, and his square pass was met by strike partner Nisbet, who sent his shot high into the net from close range. However, celebrations in the south stand were quickly curtailed by the linesman’s flag.
As the first half drew to a conclusion, the visitors enjoyed a flurry of chances which gave the impression they might reach the interval with their noses in front. Lynas’ inviting fizzed pass across the Rovers box deserved better than no takers, and Orsi hurried a shot well wide of the target. Lynas, clearly far from discouraged by this, tried his luck with a shot from distance, but he too failed to trouble Rovers keeper Robbie Thomson.
Brechin were then made to pay by the home side, who took the lead three minutes before the break. Almost inevitably, it was Kevin Nisbet who broke the deadlock with a typically opportunist strike. The forward, fresh from lifting the League 1 player of the month gong for October, pounced on a loose pass, and pushed clear beyond the last defender, before beating the advancing Brennan with a firm shot into the corner of the net.
Brechin’s Hendry, perhaps frustrated at falling behind in the match, then committed a bad foul on Rovers’ Callum Crane out on the far touch-line. As the left-back lay in a crumpled heap, Hendry was given a lecture by the referee, but no yellow card was brandished, much to the consternation of the home fans.
Rovers, perhaps fortunate to enjoy a lead at half-time, emerged for the second half with real purpose, and within two minutes of the restart almost doubled their advantage. Flanagan danced his way through the middle before unleashing a shot from fully 25 yards which whistled past the upright with Brennan a spectator. A clipped cross by Nisbet was then headed clear by Hill as Buchanan lurked with intent at the near post.
Lynas then found his way into the referee’s book, though the visitors began to push forward in search of an equaliser. Jackson should have done better than send a header wide of the target from inside the six-yard box, before Ross Matthews received a yellow card as Rovers struggled to clear their lines, with various passes within their own half going astray and inviting their opponents forward. With an hour on the clock, Davidson and Nisbet took knocks which worried the home fans, though both players were able to soldier on without the need of treatment.
Indeed, Davidson recovered sufficiently quickly to head a deep cross by Flanagan back into the danger area, but with his back to goal Buchanan was unable to turn and get his shot away. Flanagan, who was involved in most forays upfield for Rovers, found Nisbet in space, and the striker’s shot was blocked for a corner. Flanagan the creator then turned tormentor with a rasping shot which was parried by Brennan, before Kyle Benedictus was penalised for a challenge for the loose ball which left the City keeper writhing in pain.
As the match entered its final quarter, Rovers replaced Lewis Milne with Ryan Stevenson, and Brechin introduced Boris Melingui at the expense of Hendry. Melingui appeared to instantly galvanise the visitors with his direct running, and Lynas should have done better than loft a shot high into the Val McDermid stand from twenty yards out.
Moments later, Melingui almost cemented his impact player status with an equaliser, when the forward’s long-range shot crashed back off the crossbar with Thomson beaten. Benedictus did the honours as far as mopping up the rebound was concerned. This served as a warning to Rovers, whose one-goal lead felt precarious at this point, though McGlynn’s men responded with a series of forays upfield in search of a match-clinching second goal.
Buchanan then made way for youngster Jack Smith, whose energy helped Rovers pressurise their opponents higher up the field. That said, Brechin continued to provoke occasional alarm by peppering the Rovers box with crosses, most of which were effectively dealt with by the solid central defensive pairing of Benedictus and Davidson. For all that Thomson was rarely troubled, the sense of anxiety within the south stand was palpable as the game entered its closing minutes.
Nisbet tried his level best to reduce the stress levels with a shot which almost brought a second goal for Rovers. A neat exchange of passes with Smith deep inside the box flummoxed the Brechin defence, and Nisbet’s rasping shot from ten yards crashed back off the crossbar. Flanagan pounced on the rebound, but arrowed his low shot wide of the post.
Rovers then enjoyed territorial advantage, running down time inside the Brechin half as the game entered the ninetieth minute and most home fans strained their eyes towards the digital clock in the railway stand. A high ball from Davidson then fell invitingly for Nisbet inside the penalty box, and the striker deftly switched the ball to his right foot before firing a shot into the net off the underside of the crossbar.
If the second goal settled the nerves within the home ranks, that feeling wasn’t allowed to linger, as deep into injury time Brechin immediately stole forward, and within a crowded penalty area Andrew Jackson steered a low shot past Thomson to reduce the deficit once again to a single goal. Incredibly, as darkness fell and most fans made for the exits, there would be one final opportunity for the visitors to snatch an unlikely draw, but the chance was lost and Rovers were finally able to savour three crucial, hard-fought points.
In the end, this was a case of job done for Rovers. John McGlynn’s men were made to work hard for the three points, and for all most observers would agree they deserved to take the spoils, there is little doubt that the creativity provided by injured players including Lewis Vaughan and Regan Hendry is sorely missed. Meanwhile, the focus will remain on looking to close the gap with leaders Arbroath, starting next weekend with a derby match on the road with East Fife.
RaithTV talked to John McGlynn after the 2-1 win at Stark’s Park
After the disappointment of losing to Forfar Athletic last weekend, Raith Rovers will look to get back on track against Brechin City at Stark’s Park this weekend.
The 3-2 loss at Station Park meant that John McGlynn’s side are now seven points behind league leaders Arbroath, and with Dick Campbell’s men in imperious form, Rovers are going to have their work cut out to close that gap.
Saturday’s opponents will be under new stewardship at Stark’s Park, after Darren Dods was relieved of his duties following a 3-1 loss to Montrose last weekend.
That defeat meant City had won just three of their 11 league matches this season, leaving them three points outside the playoff places, and just two points off the bottom, in a fiercely competitive third tier.
The two sides previous meeting this term was in September, when Kevin Nisbet opened the scoring from the penalty spot, before Boris Melingui equalised for the Glebe Park side with three minutes remaining.
That result meant Rovers and Brechin has drawn three consecutive times, with Rovers last win coming back in April 2009.
Rovers have a poor record in this fixture, with just two wins and five draws from the last 10 meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Graham Beaton
Head-To-Head Home League Record Versus Brechin City:
Raith Rovers Wins: 21 | Brechin City Wins: 4 | Draws: 10
Raith Rovers Goals: 84 | Brechin City Goals: 36
Raith Rovers: D-D-W-D-W-L
Brechin City: D-D-D-W-L-L
Raith Rovers: 4/6 | Brechin City: 15/4 | Draw: 16/5