SUTHERLAND STRIKE SEES RAITH LOSE
Defender Iain Davidson was sent off after only ten minutes as Raith fell to defeat to Inverness Caledonian Thistle, as a Shane Sutherland strike just after half-time was the difference between these two well-matched sides.
Following an even first-half in which Raith succeeded in creating real pressure on the Inverness goal despite their numerical disadvantage, the visitors put their noses in front on fifty minutes and were able to defend their second-half lead while presenting a continued threat on the break. Raith’s management team now have only a few days to arrest a worrying slide in form, and address a scoring drought which now stretches to three games.
Raith, back on home turf, were slow to start. John McGlynn named a more familiar midfield, with Matthews, Spencer, and Armstrong all recalled at the expense of Gullan, Tait, and King. Iain Davidson was recalled with Frankie Musonda dropping to the bench. Gozie Ugwu, whose two gilt-edged opportunities in Friday’s draw had been Raith’s best chances on the night, kept his place as lone striker, with support from Kai Kennedy. Ugwu battled and jostled with Devine on eight minutes, without attracting the sympathy of referee Colin Steven.
Inverness, resplendent in bright pink jerseys with black trim, named an unchanged starting eleven – the only change the introduction of experienced English striker Miles Storey to the substitutes’ bench in place of youngster Shane Harkness. Billy Dodds was present as part of the backroom staff for the Caley Jags, running his players through a brisk warm-up – the visitors started with genuine pace and an energetic high press. Robbie Deas’ strong challenge in the second minute started an attack which resulted in the first corner of the evening; with Raith napping in the defence, Carson ran untracked into the area and crashed a header off the junction of post and bar. Raith had been warned of their visitors’ attacking intent.
The match burst to life on ten minutes. Under a high ball, Davidson clashed in the air with Todorov – the visiting striker collapsed to the floor, with team-mates protesting loudly. Referee Steven went straight to his top pocket, dismissing Davidson for violent conduct. At first watch, the challenge looked firm, but the speed of the referee’s decision indicated there was no doubt in his mind. For Raith, the prospect of eighty minutes with ten men; for Inverness, a golden opportunity for a valuable away win in this season’s incredibly tight Championship race.
With Armstrong sacrificed for Musonda, Raith were immediately on the back-foot – Sutherland and MacGregor buzzed around the home defence, looking to turn ICT’s numerical advantage into an advantage on the score-sheet. Dan MacKay’s flying run and shot from the left flank drew a fine instinctive save from Jamie MacDonald on twenty-one minutes.
Raith, who hadn’t been seen as an attacking force, began to settle. Hendry, Matthews, and Spencer had more company as Caley Thistle committed greater numbers to their midfield press, but Rovers began to string passes together. Ross Matthews, unlucky to be booked for a ball-winning challenge soon after Davidson’s red card, looked to bring Kennedy and Ugwu into play at every opportunity. Hendry’s delightful jink down the inside left channel saw his cross toward Tumilty cleared by Robbie Deas. Musonda’s long through-ball fell just beyond Ugwu.
With half-an-hour gone, Raith were gaining a foothold in terms of territory, and beginning to create some forward momentum. After a lengthy spell of passing, Raith sharply increased the tempo with Hendry releasing Kieran MacDonald haring down the left – the full-back’s tempting delivery saw Ugwu, Devine, and Ridgers clash in the six-yard box. The visiting keeper held the cross well, but required lengthy treatment – allowing Raith to recharge their batteries and take instruction from the touchline.
Frankie Musonda had an impressive first-half for the home side. Introduced in the immediate aftermath of the red card, Musonda was commanding in the air and effectively tracked runners across the Raith back-line. The Raith defender’s quality on the floor has been a feature of his play this season, and his range of passing was on full display here. With Inverness building pressure in the lead-up to half-time, Musonda did wonderfully well to track and block Todorov’s cross with Mackay waiting at the far post – a goal-saving tackle if ever there was one.
With Raith no doubt pleased to get to half-time without having conceded, the second half began in the worst way possible for the home side, with Inverness getting their noses in front. In the opening minutes, Hendry’s drive from distance had been tipped over by Ridgers, and Kennedy’s corner had caused problems in the visiting defence – however, with a thumping clearance, keeper Mark Ridgers found Shane Sutherland streaking forwards with a step on Regan Tumilty; Jamie MacDonald was caught on the edge of his box, and Sutherland skilfully lobbed the exposed Raith keeper, the ball bouncing once on its way into the empty net.
The goal allowed the visitors to moderate their pressing, allowing Raith possession in defence but crowding out the midfield. In any transition, Daniel MacKay or Shane Sutherland would blitz forward, testing the tracking ability of Raith’s full-backs and midfielders, tempted to stray forward in search of an equaliser. MacKay finished weakly at MacDonald on fifty-one minutes, after good work from MacGregor in midfield.
Raith began to create some momentum – with Hendry dropping into a deep “quarterback” position between Benedictus and Musonda, Rovers’ passing put the visitors under some pressure. Spencer’s chip nearly found Ugwu behind Devine, with Ridgers needing to rush from his goal; Benedictus’ header from a Kennedy corner again had Ridgers scrambling to clear; from another corner, Musonda’s header flashed dangerously across goal. Raith were not out of this yet.
With twenty minutes to go, Inverness had stiffened their spine and introduced fresh legs in the form of Miles Storey, but Raith remained the greater threat. With Jamie Gullan introduced for a tiring Kai Kennedy, Raith had a different dimension to their attacking threat – Gullan’s free-kick fizzed over Ridgers’ bar from thirty yards after a foul on Spencer. Hendry was fouled bringing the ball forwards, referee Steven showing yellow to Allardice. More pressure resulted in two successive corners, with the Inverness defence looking less than solid in the face of Hendry’s dead-ball delivery.
The visitors remained a threat on the counter-attack – Storey’s pace down the left-hand side found some space; the substitute’s angled cut-back found Welsh, whose finely-placed finish flew narrowly wide of MacDonald’s far-post.
Raith upped the ante with quarter of an hour to go, with Lewis Vaughan thrown into the fray, replacing Brad Spencer. Inverness moved to counter, withdrawing Sean Welsh who had been clattered earlier in the half for James Keatings. The striker, with thirteen goals in twenty-four games against Raith, buzzed around the Rovers’ defence from the outset, creating a chance for Deas, who could only screw his finish across MacDonald’s goal and away.
Vaughan gave renewed life to the Raith attack, driving at defenders and looking to play in Ugwu at every opportunity. One flick was narrowly cut out by Devine at full stretch, and the Raith man was staggeringly unlucky to be penalised under a heavy aerial challenge by Deas. Vaughan’s twist and shot from twenty yards required Ridgers to be at his best, turning the strike away at full stretch.
With the clock ticking down, Raith’s play became more direct – Musonda directing long high clearances toward Ugwu and Benedictus, billeted to the front in the closing stages. While there was no lack of urgency in Raith’s play, Inverness’ packed defence remained resolute, and last few minutes and injury passed without serious threat to Mark Ridgers’ goal.
As referee Steven brought proceedings to an end, Rovers’ players looked exhausted, having battled for eighty minutes a man down. Inverness were jubilant, the victory lifting them up into mid-table; for Rovers, now with only one win in five and no goals in three, John McGlynn has a task in hand to refresh and rejuvenate his squad before Saturday’s visit to Somerset Park to face Ayr United.
Photos © Tony Fimister
RaithTV talked to John McGlynn after the defeat to Inverness CT
It’s the second part of Raith Rovers and Inverness’ double header at Stark’s Park this Tuesday evening, with Rovers looking for their first league win over the Caley Jags since October 2000.
They came pretty close to getting that elusive victory on Friday evening, when only a great stop from Mark Ridgers denied Dylan Tait from inside the area right at the death.
It meant the game finished goalless, but both teams passed up opportunities over the 90 minutes, in a game where either could have sneaked all three points.
With Dunfermline defeating Morton at the weekend, it meant Rovers slipped down the table to third in the Championship table, while the point was enough to see Neil McCann’s men rise to seventh in an unbelievably tight division.
Indeed, while Rovers currently sit in the playoff spots, fifth placed Queen of the South are only two points behind, although Raith do have two games in hand.
Tuesday night’s match referee will be Colin Steven.
Head-To-Head Home League Record Versus Inverness:
Raith Rovers Wins: 3 | Inverness Wins: 5 | Draws: 2
Raith Rovers Goals: 13 | Inverness Goals: 18
Raith Rovers: L-W-L-W-D-D
Raith Rovers: Manny Duku 10 | Daniel Armstrong 4
Inverness: Shane Sutherland 5 | Nikolay Todorov 5
Raith Rovers: 29/20 | Inverness: 9/5 | Draw: 12/5