MACLEAN STRIKE SEALS RAITH WIN
A first Raith Rovers goal from Steven MacLean and a wonder-save from keeper Robbie Thomson helped Raith to all three points against a talented and free-flowing Clyde at Starks Park, following a strong second half showing in which John McGlynn’s substitutions again had a key role in deciding the outcome. Rovers maintained their attacking tempo as Clyde lost steam in the second half, with the introductions of Brad Spencer, Dan Armstrong, and Tony Dingwall each having an impact.
After a first-half in which Danny Lennon’s enterprising side had enjoyed the better of the possession and created the clearer chances, Raith gathered themselves at the half and dominated for spells after the break, but needed MacLean’s goal and Thomson’s late from Clyde’s John Rankin to secure all three points. On a day when the top four in Scottish League One were all victorious, Raith head into next week’s fixtures retaining their one-point advantage over nearest rivals Falkirk.
Danny Lennon’s side arrived in Kirkcaldy on the back of a poor run – three consecutive defeats had seen the Broadwood men slip down the table. Following last week’s two-goal defeat at Airdrie, Lennon rang the changes with no fewer than five first-teamers dropping to the bench – central defenders McNiff and Lang were recalled, with Mark Lamont and Ally Love joining David Goodwillie upfront; Chris McStay taking John Rankin’s place in midfield.
With Raith naming the same eleven as started in the stunning Cup semi-final at Firhill the previous Friday, momentum and continuity were the watchwords for the home side. With Falkirk only a point behind, and Airdrie returning to winning ways against today’s opponents Clyde in their previous fixture, manager John McGlynn would need his side to focus on the League campaign and put the prospect of a Challenge Cup Final to one side. From a player’s perspective, with a Cup Final place up for grabs, there was everything to play for.
The buffeting wind and swirling rain before kick-off looked ominous – flowing football would not be easy. With Raith looking to carry on their fine recent run, and the visitors exhorted by their manager in midweek to hold the ball and be comfortable in possession, both sides would need to be at their best in order to match the challenge posed by the wintry conditions. Those without gloves had their hands firmly in their pockets as referee Mike Roncone’s whistle got proceedings underway.
Eager to retain the warmth of the dressing rooms, both sides started briskly. McStay looked lively down Clyde’s right, while Dave McKay twice looked to release Kieron Bowie on Rovers’ own right flank. The uneven breeze made passing difficult – Raith’s MacDonald saw two passes drift toward visiting keeper Mitchell, while Cunningham on Clyde’s left struggled to find a team-mate when well forward.
The first clear chance fell to the visitors – Livingstone swooped forward on the left, found Goodwillie, and after the latter’s pass, Ross Cunningham stepped inside his man and fired just over. In truth the midfielder should have done better. Moments later, Cunningham headed straight at Munro – the linesman’s flag rescuing a Raith defence momentarily posted missing.
With blue sky visible to the north but rain swirling around the ground, it was quarter of an hour before Raith generated a half-chance – Lang thumping clear as Bowie shaped to shoot. At the other end, Lamont stepped away from Hendry, allowing Goodwillie to blast at Thomson, the shot fizzing over. Cunningham’s free-kick fell just the wrong side of Thomson’s post with the Raith keeper at full stretch. With eighteen minutes on the clock, it was undoubtedly the visitors who had the upper hand.
Raith were unable to find any fluidity in midfield. From Thomson’s mis-cued clearance, McStay ran in on goal – his deflected effort rebounding from the frame of the goal. Cunningham had the next strike, curling high into the South Stand. With Baird foraging deep and Steven MacLean dropping into wide areas to secure possession, Raith struggled to make any real headway. Danny Lennon’s game-plan appeared to be working – the visiting centre-halves looked comfortable, and in the central third, it was Clyde who had time in possession.
It was fully half an hour before Rovers began to generate any momentum. The first of a series of chances came suddenly – MacLean and Baird exchanged quickfire passes, with Baird’s first-time shot bouncing narrowly wide of Mitchell’s far post. Although Goodwillie fired a twenty-yard drive into Thomson’s midriff in response, Raith came again. MacDonald found his range, drilling two crosses in quick succession into Mitchell’s six-yard-box. Regan Hendry was bundled over moments later, MacLean’s free-kick flying just wide. With bright sunshine slicing across Starks Park for the first time, the home side began to show some cohesion in the final third – MacLean narrowly missed Baird’s cutback after the latter had burrowed past Lang to cross.
The half-time whistle came with Raith camped in the Clyde half but unable to create a clear goal-scoring opportunity – numerous missed passes, a well-drilled and disciplined away defence, and a blustery wind had all contributed to a frustrating half for Raith’s players and fans alike. Having been on top for the first half-hour, it was the visitors who could consider themselves unlucky not to go in at the break a goal to the good.
Snow and hail greeted the players for the second half. It was Raith who sought to assert themselves – with Steven MacLean starting on the left, Rovers looked vibrant in the opening moments. Bowie shot narrowly wide, MacLean’s drive flew over with referee Roncone playing advantage following McNiff’s pull on Bowie, and Baird raced down the inside right channel only to be crowded out. Ally Love shot wide from distance with the visitors’ first chance of the second period on fifty-three minutes.
With Clyde failing to regain their foothold following the break, Steven MacLean became a key figure. Holding the ball up well, and showing his experience to link with Baird running in behind, the former St Johnstone and Hearts man was the catalyst in drawing Raith into a winning position.
The visitors still looked slick in possession – with one break from deep, McStay, Lamont, and Cunningham were all involved, the latter’s slide-rule pass allowing Love to fire straight at Thomson.
There were ironic cheers on the hour with burly centre-half Lang penalised for a shove on Baird, but in truth it indicated how little change the Clyde defender had offered the Raith front-line up to that point. Seeking to reinvigorate his side in attack, John McGlynn shuffled his pack – Tait and Bowie withdrawn for the efficient Spencer and the livewire Armstrong. With Raymond Grant enjoying a fine game in the midfield engine-room for Clyde, Spencer’s task was to halt the visitor’s attacking flow; with Raith needing pace on the flank, Armstrong was the ideal addition.
Within minutes, Raith looked a different side. Armstrong stripped Clyde full-back Livingstone for pace twice, crossing dangerously toward the visitors’ goal; Spencer’s introduction allowed Hendry to advance far further forward, with Rovers showing a much smarter and pacier transfer through midfield. With Tony Dingwall’s introduction minutes later for the tiring Baird, Raith increased their options yet further.
With twenty minutes to go, Raith were enjoying their best spell. Armstrong fired in cross after cross, his opposite number all at sea. MacDonald’s cross narrowly evaded MacLean at full speed. With seventy-seven minutes on the clock, the breakthrough which Raith’s second half had deserved. Dingwall found Armstrong, who went wide on his right-foot, drilling a fine cross allowing Steven MacLean to finish from point-blank range.
All three subs had played their part, with Spencer’s clean and crisp interventions in midfield, Dingwall’s vigour, and Armstrong’s threat all conjuring the chance for the experienced striker. As the match ran into the final ten minutes, Raith’s substitutes were everywhere – Spencer won every tackle and showed the full range of his passing, Dingwall’s turn and shot brought a fine full-length save from Mitchell, and Armstrong twisted inside and out, firing both in- and out-swinging crosses into the Clyde area.
With time running out, and weathering attack after attack from their hosts, Clyde gathered themselves for one final push – with their own attacking substitutes showing their fresh legs, substitute Rankin crossed with Davidson heading off the line, Goodwillie lurking. Moments later, Goodwillie turned Benedictus inside out, offering the perfect invitation to Rankin – with the goal at his mercy, it was Raith keeper Thomson who pulled off a wonderful one-handed save to stop a certain equaliser.
With Raith controlling play for the final minutes, the cheers from the South Stand resounded around Starks Park at the final whistle. In a match in which Raith were second best early on, but had slowly but surely asserted their attacking philosophy in difficult conditions, John McGlynn’s approach had been vindicated with a deserved but hard-earned win over disciplined and talented opponents – Raith head to Dumbarton next weekend still with a one-point advantage at the top of the Scottish League One table.
Photo © Tony Fimister
John McGlynn spoke to RaithTV after the 1-0 win against Clyde
RaithTV talked to goalscorer Steven MacLean after the 1-0 win against Clyde FC
Raith Rovers welcome Clyde to Stark’s Park this weekend, with the home side looking to stay top of the League One table.
John McGlynn’s men are a point ahead of second placed Falkirk, and are unbeaten against Clyde this term.
The two teams first met in August with Raith winning 5-2, thanks to goals from Regan Hendry, Kieron Bowie, Grant Anderson, Joao Victoria and Jack Smith.
The second meeting in October was much closer, with Bowie and Gullan giving Raith a two-goal lead, only for Clyde to peg Raith back in the second period.
Raith have just two wins and three draws from the last 10 meetings in this fixture.
Saturday’s match referee will be Mike Roncone.
Head-To-Head Home Record Versus Clyde:
Raith Rovers Wins: 23 | Clyde Wins: 19 | Draws: 16
Raith Rovers Goals: 96 | Clyde Goals: 73
Raith Rovers: D-L-W-W-D-W
Raith Rovers: Kieron Bowie 9 | Jamie Gullan 7
Clyde: David Goodwillie 22 | Darren Smith 4