Laurie’s Big Day
John McGlynn’s return to Stark’s Park saw his Hearts players emerge with a deserved 3-0 victory against Raith Rovers in Laurie Ellis’ testimonial match this afternoon.
A healthy crowd, including a surprisingly large travelling support from the capital, turned out to pay homage to the popular Rovers defender, who has given ten years service to the Rovers cause in three stints with the club.
Rovers, buoyed by their midweek showing against Ross County, started the match off firmly on the front foot, as they took the game to their SPL opponents. With Scotland boss Craig Levein watching from the stand, Rovers looked lively, and new signing Grant Anderson in particular linked up well down the right hand side with young Ross Callachan during the opening exchanges. It was Callachan who had Rovers’ first shot at goal after ten minutes, although he dragged his shot wide of the target from a promising position just inside the Hearts penalty area.
Five minutes later, Pat Clarke threaded a neat pass between the Hearts central defenders to fellow striker Brian Graham, although the big forward’s first-time shot from outside the box flew narrowly wide of the target.
Although Rovers continued to enjoy territorial advantage, Hearts looked dangerous on the break, and former Rover John Sutton almost scored when he burst at pace into the Rovers goalmouth. However, David McGurn denied the Jambos striker with an excellent blocking save.
Rovers failed to heed the warning, and Hearts took the lead against the run of play on the half hour mark. There appeared to be little danger as the ball was played into the Rovers box, but the Rovers defence failed to clear their lines, and Hearts full-back Callum Patterson scored with an angular drive that found the bottom corner of McGurn’s net.
Rovers looked to restore parity immediately, and Pat Clarke tested Hearts stopper MacDonald with a free-kick from all of 30 yards which the keeper tipped acrobatically over his crossbar.
The Gorgie side slowly began to assert their authority on proceedings, and doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time. John Sutton controlled a pass just inside the Rovers box, and shrugged off a tackle from Rovers player/manager Grant Murray before sliding a left-foot shot low past McGurn into the net.
During the interval, former Hearts and Rovers striker Scott Crabbe cheered the Gorgie faithful by parading the Scottish Cup in front of the masses in the away end. Keith Wright failed to dampen their enthusiasm by suggesting that it would be green ribbons adorning the famous old trophy this time next year!
Rovers made a change at half-time in a bid to haul themselves back into contention, with Clarke replaced by trialist Greig Spence up front. However, it was Hearts who enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, and looked more likely to add to their goal tally. Callachan was replaced by Stuart Anderson, before McGurn made way for young keeper Ross Laidlaw for Rovers.
Hearts then made a triple substitution of their own, which included Jamie Walker, a youngster who had made a significant impact during his loan spell at Stark’s Park last season. Within five minutes, Walker’s fellow substitute David Templeton increased Hearts’ lead. Following a move down the left wing, the ball fell invitingly for Templeton, and the winger deftly curled a shot from 20 yards beyond Laidlaw into the far corner of the net.
Rovers gamely tried to grab a consolation goal, and Jason Thomson’s mazy run deep into the Hearts box looked promising before the youngster was crowded out by several maroon jerseys.
A flurry of substitutions from both sides made little difference to the general ebb and flow of the match as it entered its closing stages, although the home crowd were entertained by the arrival of Craig Dargo and Gary Wales. The biggest cheer of the day then arrived when Marvin Andrews replaced man of the moment Ellis with ten minutes remaining.
It was Hearts who continued to look the most dangerous, although Laidlaw in the Rovers goal kept them at bay with a number of fine saves. The young keeper showed commendable confidence and handling skills as the tiring Rovers defence struggled to contain their SPL opponents.
As the final whistle beckoned, an in-swinging Allan Walker corner found the head of Marvin Andrews, but his header sailed wide of the goal.
Although the final scoreline could be said to flatter Hearts a tad, in reality Rovers could have no complaints. The home side failed to build on a promising opening half hour or so, although they played some neat football in spells during the match.
Afterwards, John McGlynn received a rapturous response to his warm words as he reflected on six successful seasons with Rovers. However, the last word rightly went to Laurie Ellis, who acknowledged the special relationship he continues to enjoy with the Stark’s Park faithful. McGlynn noted that nobody deserved the day’s acclaim more than Ellis, and not a single soul present was about to disagree with that sentiment.
Special thanks to all those who helped set up the Testimonial. At a time when Scottish fitba has been a bit of a mess it’s events like this that remind us what the game should be about.
Report – Donald Ramsay, Photos – Tony Fimister
Match Highlights, along with post-match speeches.
Filmed and edited by Steven Ward and Lyle Kilbane
Photographs copyright Tony Fimister
Grant Murray reflects on Laurie’s Testimonial and Rovers’ performance against Hearts
John McGlynn gives his thoughts on the day, his move to Hearts and his confidence for the Rovers’ season ahead
After an exhausting period for the Raith Rovers’ Board, Davie grabs a few minutes with Turnbull Hutton
Marvin Andrews takes a few minutes after his guest appearance to pay tribute to Laurie and show his continued enthusiasm for Raith