Vital Clash Ends All Square
It’s as you were at the top of League One, after Raith Rovers and Falkirk played out an exciting 1-1 draw at Stark’s Park.
Steven MacLean blasted the home side in front at the start of the second period, only for Declan McManus to equalise midway through the second half, in a game which could have been won by either side in the closing stages.
Rovers manager, John McGlynn made two changes from the side which went down so disappointingly to Dumbarton at the weekend, with John Baird and Tony Dinwall dropping to the bench, to be replaced by MacLean and Kieron Bowie.
Falkirk co-bosses, Lee Miller and David McCracken had went with a bold, attacking line up in this one, and they’d clearly been told to press the home defence at every opportunity, with the front players snapping into challenges and pressurising the Raith defence every time they had possession in the opening stages.
The opening 15 minutes were fairly even-Steven, with Raith shading possession without creating too much of note, although Falkirk felt they had a good shout for a penalty after quarter of an hour, when McManus went down under pressure from Iain Davidson, only for referee, Peter Stuart to wave play on, leaving a frustrated McManus to slap the turf.
The game’s first big chance came in the 25th minute, when Falkirk won a corner down Raith’s right, and from Longridge’s inswinger, McManus inexplicably managed to scoop high and wide of the goal, despite being no more than two-yards out, albeit he was under close watch from two Rovers defenders.
Falkirk were just starting to make their mark in the game though, with Louis Lonridge and Paul Dixon causing some amount of anxiety for the home side down their right-flank.
Morgaro Gomis was the next to try his luck, when a Falkirk set-piece was headed clear of the penalty area, allowing the Bairns midfielder to stride onto the ball and strike a fierce drive a yard over Robbie Thomsons’s crossbar.
It was far from one way traffic, with Regan Hendry and Daniel Armstrong both diligently probing the Falkirk backline, but other than a couple of scrambles in the Bairns box, Rovers had failed to test Falkirk keeper, Robbie Mutch, as the first half of a cagey match came to a close.
Raith maybe hadn’t created anything clear cut in the first half, but it didn’t take them long to create something in the second.
A perfectly weighted pass from Ross Matthews played through MacLean, and he leathered the ball past Mutch and in off the underside of the bar to open the scoring.
Rovers now looked very much in the mood, and they almost exposed slackness at the back to make it two, but Bowie blasted wildly wide with Spencer in support, who wasted no time in telling off his colleague for not supplying him with a pass.
Falkirk had started to look a little brighter since the goal, but it was almost 2-0 after an hour, when Armstrong’s free-kick from 25-yards appeared to be heading in, but for Mutch clawing the ball away from under the bar and out for a corner.
There was an injury blow for Raith after 63 minutes however, when Thomson went down in a heap in the penalty area with apparently no-one near him, meaning he had to be replaced by Ross Munro.
It was Mutch who was under scrutiny a moment later though, when he failed to deal with a high ball, and although MacLean was quick to gather the ball in, he was unable to turn and get his shot on target.
However, a little against the run of play, Rovers were pegged back in the 69th minute.
A ball was swung deep into Raith’s six-yard area, and from close range, McManus was able to force it home to bring the scores level.
The game was now swinging from end to end, and Falkirk had a remarkable escape in the 71st minute, when Raith hit the the frame of the goal twice in a matter of seconds.
From a corner kick, the ball was swung into a congested area, from which the ball was eventually turned onto the post, and from the rebound, Benedictus was unfortunate to see his effort also hit the woodwork. Despite an abundance of Raith players in the area, none of them were able to get the vital touch.
You felt the game had a third goal in it, and Hendry chanced his arm from distance, but while his effort fizzed, it lacked accuracy, slinking wide of Mutch’s left-hand post.
Falkirk roared straight back though, and almost took the lead through a defensive calamity.
The ball was gifted away just outside their own area, and after playing the ball across goal, substitute Lee Miller blazed high over the bar from eight yards out.
With time ticking down, either side could have won it, with Bowie almost steering a cross home which just dribbled the wrong side off the post, before Lee Miller just failed to guide a header on target, as both sides had to settle for a point.
With just the final quarter of the season to go, it looks like it’s going to be a fascinating run in, with both teams capable of taking the title.
Photos © Tony Fimister
John McGlynn spoke to RaithTV after the 1-1 draw at Stark’s Park
Stark’s Park plays host to a top of the table clash this Tuesday evening, as first placed Raith Rovers tackle second placed Falkirk.
The Bairns are just a point behind Raith going into this one, with both sides missing a golden opportunity to strike a significant blow in the battle for the title.
John McGlynn’s men went down 1-0 to Dumbarton, in a weather affected battle at the C&G Systems Stadium, while Falkirk suffered their first league defeat under Lee Miller and David McCracken, as they lost out by the odd goal in five to Clyde.
This will be the fourth time the two have met this term, and Rovers have yet to taste defeat in any of them.
The first was back in September, when two goals from the penalty spot from Regan Hendry put Raith into the fourth round of the Challenge Cup with a 2-0 win, although it was far less straightforward the next month, when Falkirk were again the visitors to Kirkcaldy.
Louis Longridge and Connor Sammon handed Falkirk an early two goal advantage, but a second half fightback from the home side saw the game end two each, with Michael Miller and Daniel Armstrong getting on the scoresheet.
The last meeting between the two was back in December, a game which featured two goals and three red cards.
Jamie Gullan headed Rovers in front in the first period, after Charlie Telfer was dismissed in the 14th minute. Declan McManus then restored parity early in the second half, before Kyle Benedictus was dismissed for Raith, although the game didn’t remain 10-a-side for too long, when Morgaro Gomis was sent packing with a little under 10 minutes remaining.
Rovers have a poor record in the most recent fixtures between the sides, with just two wins and four draws from the last 10 meetings.
Tuesday evening’s match referee will be Peter Stuart.
Head-To-Head Home League Record Versus Falkirk:
Raith Rovers Wins: 29
Falkirk Wins: 29
Raith Rovers Goals: 118
Falkirk Goals: 116
Raith Rovers: W-W-D-W-W-L
Raith Rovers: Kieron Bowie 9, Jamie Gullan 7, Lewis Allan 6
Falkirk: Declan McManus 21, Conor Sammon 10
Raith Rovers: 19/10