Raith Return To Winning Ways
Raith Rovers leapfrogged Dunfermline into second place in the Championship, after a ground out 1-0 win at Cappielow this afternoon.
An early goal from Iain Davidson was all that separated the sides in a close contest, but some redoubtable defending from the visitors meant they were largely comfortable for the majority of the game.
Manager John Mclynn made four changes from that bruising Fife derby defeat in midweek, with Dylan Tait, Lewis Vaughan, Timmy Abraham and Kai Kennedy all dropping out.
In their place were Fernandy Mendy, Gozie Ugwu, Regan Hendry and Jamie Gullan.
Mendy’s return to the starting eleven meant a back three for Raith, with the Frenchman slotting in alongside Davidson and Frankie Musonda, while Hendry returned to his normal position in midfield after suspension, with Gullan dovetailing Ugwu up front.
Rovers were on the front foot in the opening moments, sending crosses in from both wings in the game’s early skirmishes, although neither were able to find a player in a Raith jersey.
Referee, Chris Graham was also getting involved early doors, ending up on his rump after running into a group of players, although he was fine to continue after dusting himself down.
Despite Rovers looking bright, it was the hosts who had the first attempt at goal after five minutes, when Sean McGinty managed to get the better of Davidson out on the right, before cutting inside and crashing a shot from an angle that had Jamie MacDonald concerned, but zipped just over the bar.
MacDonald had another issue three minutes later, when he went down injured after collecting a cross into the area with no-one else in close proximity.
He appeared to land awkwardly after potentially catching his studs in the turf, and with Robbie Thomson unzipping his tracksuit, it looked like MacDonald’s day was done.
However, after receiving treatment for a few minutes, he was judged as fit and able to continue, and the game got it’s opening goal two minutes later, with a well worked set-piece.
Rovers were awarded a free-kick wide on the right-hand side, and from Daniel Armstrong’s perfect delivery, Davidson got in front of his marker to thump a header past ‘Ton goalkeeper, Aidan McAdams to put the visitors in front.
It was the perfect response after the poor showing in midweek, although Morton looked to hit back immediately, with Cameron Blues dispossessing Kieran MacDonald on the left, but his dangerous low cross was gathered well by MacDonald in the Raith net.
However, the Rovers goalkeeper was clearly still struggling from his earlier knock, and he had to slowly hobble off the park to be replaced by Thomson.
The game had become a little more scrappy since the goal, with Morton probably having slightly more of the play, without really troubling Raith at the back.
Gullan and Ugwu were doing well up top, and the former had a half chance after 26 minutes, when Regan Tumilty sent in a cross from the right which was slightly too high for the on-loan Hibs man, who couldn’t get enough accuracy or oomph into his header which drifted wide.
Rovers had coped well with Morton’s attacks since that attempt after five minutes, but they had a bit of a let off with 10 minutes of the half remaining, when a cross from the right was only half cleared to the edge of the area, allowing Blues an attempt at goal which appeared to strike Frankie Musonda’s bahookie and out for a corner.
The game was struggling to cough up too many goalmouth incidents, although Raith were looking slightly sharper in possession, and could have been two goals to the good just before the interval.
MacDonald’s cross from the left looked like it was weighted ideally for Ugwu, but he couldn’t quite get a touch right in front of goal, when it looked like even the slightest of them would have been enough to double Raith’s lead.
It was the final incident of a half which hadn’t exactly been chock-a-block with them, with both sides probably struggling on a difficult looking surface.
The home side looked like they had a little more energy about them at the start of the second 45, and fashioned a decent opportunity in it’s opening moments.
Ugwu’s attempted clearance on the edge of the area struck Gary Oliver, and with space opening up in front of him he was well entitled to chance his arm from 20-yards, but he got his shot all wrong and it bobbled well wide of Thomson’s left-hand post.
Rovers were toiling to get going in the second period, although they had a handy looking break in the 53rd minute, when Hendry broke up a Morton attack and took the ball for a run, advancing 40-yards upfield and playing in Ugwu who looked like he’d timed his run well, but his touch wasn’t quite assured enough and the opportunity was squandered.
Rovers looked like they’d done well to weather the storm in the first 10 minutes of the second half, and almost scored a second in the 56th minute, when Gullan reacted first as a corner dropped into the area, but he couldn’t quite get his shot off properly, and McAdams was able to gather reasonably comfortably at the base of his left-hand post.
Raith were forced into a double substitution with 25 minutes remaining, with Gullan picking up a knock and going off at the same time as his partner Ugwu, with the two being replaced by Abraham and Kennedy, and the duo combined to good effect just after coming on.
Abraham collected a punt upfield from Thomson and fed it to his fellow sub, who danced past one defender in the penalty area, but only at the expense at having to take a shot from an awkward angle, and while his effort may have been drifting wide, McAdams took no chances and palmed the ball wide.
As the minutes ticked down, Rovers were just about keeping the home team at arm’s length, and creating the occasional chance at the other end, and it probably should have been two in the 83rd minute.
Again, it came from Hendry, who strode forward from deep and slipped in Abraham who managed to stride clear of the defence, but he pulled his effort wide of the target with just McAdams to beat.
Morton were going more direct as the seconds ticked down, and they had one final chance in the 91st minute, when they were awarded a free-kick 30-yards from goal, and while it was a fair distance out, Rovers fans have seen enough of those situations hit the back of the net, so probably felt a little tense as Gary Oliver placed the ball.
However, his attempt was fired into the wall and Rovers were able to clear and hold out for the final few seconds, to chisel out a fine three points,
The win, coupled with Dunfermline’s loss to Arbroath, meant Rovers moved back up to second in the table, and are now seven points clear of fifth placed Ayr United in the battle for a playoff spot.
Those two sides play against each other at Stark’s Park next week, in a game that could go a long way in terms to determine who ends up in those end of season match ups.
Photo’s © Gary Bradley Morton F C
John McGlynn spoke to RaithTV after today’s away win:
Raith Rovers will attempt to put the disappointment of Wednesday evening’s defeat to Dunfermline behind them this Saturday, when they travel to Cappielow to face Morton.
The Greenock side had leapfrogged Raith in the table reasonably recently, but a run of six games without a win has seen them slip back down the table to sixth, four points behind Raith, who sit third after the midweek loss.
Morton manager, Anton McElhone has managed to bring in one player in the January transfer window, and it’s a player with Champions League experience Spurs.
The centre forward has also been on loan with Southend this season, where he has scored three times in 17 appearances.
Rovers and Morton have played each other once already this season, and it produced one of Raith’s best performances of the campaign.
Daniel Armstrong and Frankie Musonda had Rovers two goals to the good in the game’s opening quarter, and Morton’s task was made even harder when Jim McAllister was given a straight red card as half time approached.
Ross Matthews then scored twice at the start of the second period, and Fernandy Mendy brought an end to the scoring with the fifth and final goal in the 82nd minute.
You need to go back slightly longer for Raith’s last win a Cappielow, five years to be prescise, when a James Criagen goal was enough to seal all three points in a 1-0 win, in a season where Rovers took 12 points from 12 against the Greenock outfit.
This is a fixture which isn’t noted for draws with none in the last 10 meetings, and Rovers have a good record in that time, with seven wins and just three defeats.
Saturday’s match referee will be Chris Graham
Head-To-Head Away League Record:
Morton Wins: 34 Raith Rovers Wins: 16 Draws: 12
Morton Goals: 115 Raith Rovers Goals: 58
Morton: D-D-D-L-D-L | Raith Rovers: W-L-W-L-W-L
Morton: Cameron Blues 3 | Kalvin Orsi 3
Raith Rovers: Manny Duku 10 | Daniel Armstrong 4
Morton: 2/1 | Raith Rovers: 6/4 | Draw: 2/1