MUCH-CHANGED RAITH DRAW A BLANK
For the second time in a week, Raith came away with only a point from an end-to-end match in which either side could have claimed the victory, as Rovers and Inverness Caledonian Thistle finished this pulsating fixture nil-nil. Both and Raith would justifiably feel they did enough to win the game, yet each side also had their keeper to thank, with Jamie MacDonald and Mark Ridgers pulling off a number of fine saves.
John McGlynn’s side – with five changes from Tuesday’s 0-0 draw against Ayr United – dominated the early stages and created two golden chances for striker Gozie Ugwu, and were unlucky not to score at the death with Inverness keeper Mark Ridgers saving well from Dylan Tait after a goal-mouth stramash; but the home side had their opportunities too, with Sean Welsh striking a post in the second half and Roddy MacGregor missing with the goal gaping. The match could easily have ended five-five, and fans’ appetites should be whetted before these sides meet again at Starks Park on Tuesday evening.
With the fixtures piling up and Raith in danger of being pulled back into the mid-table dog-fight in this season’s congested League Championship table, Raith made five changes: defender Iain Davidson dropped out with Frankie Musonda starting alongside Kyle Benedictus; there were three changes in midfield with Jamie King, Adam King, and Dylan Tait all starting; and Gozie Ugwu was given the nod ahead of Manny Duku in the central striker’s role.
The hosts – without a win in five, and slipping down the table themselves – saw the return of captain Sean Welsh in midfield; James Keatings was demoted to the bench, with Daniel MacKay restored to the midfield. Neil McCann hadn’t yet recorded a victory in his interim spell in charge, and had several longer-term injury absences with Vincent, Storey, and Doran all out. Also faced with a congested fixture schedule, Inverness had struggled look fresh in their recent outings, particularly in their 0-1 home defeat by Morton at the weekend.
Having made five changes, John McGlynn would have expected a strong start from his team, and the Raith manager wasn’t disappointed. In the opening minutes, Hendry, Tait and Kennedy hared around the midfield, their passing crisp and sharp; Kieran MacDonald and Regan Tumilty each made ground down their respective flanks; upfront, Gozie Ugwu locked horns with Devine and Deas at the heart of the home defence. It took Raith six minutes to generate the first chance, and when it came it was a golden one – a lovely series of passes saw Tait backheel to Tumilty at full stretch, the full-back’s cross finding Ugwu at the near-post, with Brad McKay trailing in his wake – however the Raith striker was unable to make contact.
Neil McCann was using Shane Sutherland to drop into midfield to disrupt Raith’s flow, but still the opening twenty minutes were dominated by the visitors. Kennedy cut inside Carson and was felled – the youngster picked himself up, and sent the free-kick skimming just over Ridgers’ bar. With quarter of an hour gone, a half-chance for Frankie Musonda – Hendry’s corner wasn’t cleared properly, and the defender did well to fire goalward on the turn, but his finish drifted over the bar and away.
The hosts looked like they would need a spark to shake them out of their early lethargy, and it came on twenty minutes – Carson shook off the attentions of his marker to cross, and striker Todorov leapt highest, the striker’s effort flying narrowly wide of MacDonald’s far post.
The chance gave the home side a real lift, and confidence began to flow through the Caley Jags’ midfield – suddenly Todorov had support upfront from Roddy MacGregor and Brad Mackay, with Shane Sutherland passing well through the channels. An incredible chance followed soon after: Sutherland’s flick released Brad Mackay who shot through MacDonald from ten yards, although Kieran MacDonald stretched to block the goal-bound effort on the line; incredibly, the Raith full-back was alert enough to block MacGregor’s follow-up with Tumilty completing the clearance – Caley’s players held their heads in disbelief.
Undeterred, the hosts came again – Benedictus deflected a Todorov shot on the half-hour, and a Daniel Devine header from another Carson cross was clawed away at the far-post by MacDonald.
Kai Kennedy was one of the first-half’s key players from a Raith perspective. Bobbing and weaving, the youngster’s duel with Caley Thistle’s Carson was a fascinating sub-plot in a match of individual battles all across the park. Kennedy had to be alert to Carson’s over-lapping, with the Raith man tracking back regularly and often – on thirty-six minutes, Kennedy’s fine cross after Hendry’s pass gave Ugwu another fine opportunity, the Raith striker evading Devine but heading narrowing over Ridgers’ bar.
The first half had seen spells of ascendency from both sides – Raith had started much the brighter and created two gilt-edged chances, but Inverness had recovered themselves and were very much on top for long spells toward the break, with Roddy MacGregor guilty of missing the clearest of their chances. The opening period’s ebb and flow continued after the break – spaces opened up through midfield, as Regan Hendry pulled the strings for Raith, and MacGregor and Allardice spread passes left and right for the home side.
The first chance of the half came from an unlikely source, with home midfielder David Carson – BBC Scotland’s Man of the Match – nearly put through his own net. Gozie Ugwu had cleverly set up Tumilty to cross, and the Inverness man sliced his clearance just wide of Ridgers’ near post, much to his and his keeper’s relief. At the other end, Dan Devine stepped over a MacKay cross only for Robbie Deas to send a finish well wide.
A fine chance for the hosts on the hour – Roddy MacGregor’s fine run down the right flank gave Carson room to cross, with Welsh’s fine run not picked up by the Raith defence. The home captain turned away in despair as his powerful header smacked off MacDonald’s left-hand post, with Tumilty completing the clearance. Moments later, MacGregor released Sutherland sprinting beyond Tumilty – Jamie MacDonald pulled off a fine reaction save to keep the scores level.
With his side losing momentum and the hosts beginning to dominate, John McGlynn sought to re-establish his side’s foothold with two changes just after the hour-mark – Jamie Gullan and Adam King, neither of whom had established themselves against their opposite numbers, were withdrawn and Ross Matthews and Dan Armstrong introduced; and for the next ten minutes, there was renewed vigour from the visitors. Hendry and Kennedy linked well on the left-hand side with Kieran MacDonald an added threat on the overlap – MacDonald’s weighted cross was the source of Dylan Tait’s opening on seventy-one minutes, the young midfielder’s controlled finish falling just wide of Ridgers’ post with the goal-keeper rooted to his line.
Caley Thistle responded – following some lovely flowing play through midfield, Daniel MacKay’s angled drive took a nick off Musonda as it flew just wide of MacDonald’s far post, Todorov fouling Benedictus when well placed from the resulting corner.
The closing stages saw chances for both sides. Each of Raith’s full-backs continued their attacking forays deep into Inverness territory, and Dan Armstrong offered a new threat particularly on Raith’s right. On eighty-six minutes, Armstrong cut inside and crossed dangerously into the box – while there were shouts for a penalty with Deas seeming to clear with his shoulder, Tait shot powerfully at Ridgers with the keeper throwing himself to his right to save, substitute Duku was unable to reach the rebound, and Matthews’ drive was blocked away.
With Raith gathering themselves for a final push, Todorov escaped at the other end, his first touch taking him too wide to trouble MacDonald with his finish – although his team-mates held their heads in anguish at the missed opportunity. Referee MacLean blew for full-time moments later, with each side reflecting on chances missed and saves made – Tuesday night’s rematch at Starks Park promises to be another enthralling encounter between these two well-matched sides.
Footage provided by BBC Scotland
Photos by courtesy of Peter Paul ICT FC
RaithTV talked to John McGlynn after the draw against Inverness CT
Raith Rovers hectic fixtures schedule sees them head north this Friday, to take on Inverness Caledonian Thistle, in a match which is being shown live on BBC Scotland.
The Caley Jags currently reside in the relegation playoff spot, but in an incredibly tight division, are also just seven points behind the promotion playoffs with a game in hand.
This is the first part of a double header against Neil McCann’s new charges, with the two meeting each other at Stark’s Park on Tuesday, and Rovers will be looking for their first league win over their opponents for the since October 2000.
Indeed, while Rovers did manage a bonus point penalty shoot out win in the League Cup, Raith haven’t beaten Inverness in 90 minutes in 21 attempts, with three draws and 18 defeats in that sequence.
Both teams were in action in midweek, with Inverness losing at home to Morton by a goal to nil, while Raith drew 0-0 with Ayr. Those results mean that Raith are now a point clear of Dunfermline in second, while Neil McCann is still in search of his first win as interim boss, since taking charge at the end of February.
This will be the third meeting between the teams this season, with the first something of a classic back in November.
Manny Duku gave Rovers the lead in the 10th minute, but Shane Sutherland equalised midway through the first half.
A Danny Devine own goal handed Raith the initiative again just before the hour mark, but two goals in two minutes through James Keatings and Roddy McGregor turned the game on its head.
However, a last minute equaliser from Duku sent the game into a shoot out, which Raith prevailed in 3-2.
It was a different story a couple of weeks later though, when Inverness run out comfortable winners in a league game at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium.
Keatings, who else, opened the scoring in the first half, and a Scott Allardice goal with 20 minutes remaining sealed all three points.
Friday night’s match referee will be Steven McLean
Head-To-Head League Record in Inverness:
Inverness wins: 8 | Raith Rovers wins: 2 | Draws: 1
Inverness goals: 26 | Raith Rovers goals: 11
Inverness: W-D-D-L-D-L | Raith Rovers: W-L-W-L-W-D
Inverness: Shane Sutherland 5 | Nikolay Todorov 5
Raith Rovers: Manny Duku 10 | Daniel Armstrong 4
Inverness: 23/20 | Raith Rovers: 23/10 | Draw: 12/5