Raith On Rise After Cappielow Win
Yet another clean sheet, Raith Rovers seventh in 11 competitive outings this term, enabled Rovers to take all three points at Cappielow this afternoon, with Dario Zanatta’s first half strike all that separated the sides.
Both teams missed chances in what was an open game, but a superb rearguard action from Raith, particularly in the final 10 minutes, frustrated the hosts as Morton desperately went in search of an equaliser.
John McGlynn made one change from last weekend’s 1-0 loss to Queen of the South, with Blaise Riley-Snow returning from suspension and taking the place of Kai Fotheringham, who returned to the bench.
As for Morton’s team-sheet, there may have been some sighs of relief that ex-Rover, Gozie Ugwu, who is enjoying a fine season for the Ton missed out through injury, with recent loan signing from Livingston, Gavin Reilly leading the line.
Rovers were the first team to threaten in the opening minute, when Dario Zanatta’s run to the bye line eventually ended with the ball being played into the box, but the hosts were able to clear the danger with Raith having plenty of bodies in the penalty area.
It was arguably the only threatening passage of play in the opening skirmishes, which were reasonably scrappy, albeit Rovers were the side who were enjoying the bulk of possession.
Gus MacPherson’s side had their first sight at goal in the 15th minute, when Tom Allan decided he fancied his chances from a direct free-kick around 25-yards from goal, and while his effort had pace, it just lacked a bit of accuracy and whizzed a yard wide of Jamie MacDonald’s right-hand post.
It was the only shot at goal of the game’s opening quarter, with both sides struggling to get going, with Rovers passint style breaking down in the middle of the park all too often.
Morton were just starting to stamp their mark on proceedings, and Allan again had a blast at goal from 20-yards, but once again his effort was wide of the target.
The home team were starting to sense the game was there for the taking, and Darren Hynes was next to try his luck from distance, but this time the shot just flew over the bar, although MacDonald may have had things covered.
Rovers were too often making things hard for themselves by giving away possession sloppily in midfield, and that almost brought about the opener in the 28th minute, when space opened up for Reilly, but once again, a Morton effort from 20 plus yards was just off target.
Considering how the first half-hour had played out, there must have been huge frustration from those of a Morton persuasion, when they found themselves a goal down in the 33rd minute.
Ethon Varian did well to hold the ball up and cleverly play the ball into the path of Zanatta, and after making his way in from the left and teeing himself up, he sent a fine 20-yard effort past Jack Hamilton to give Rovers the advantage.
The goal gave John McGlynn’s some added impetus, and suddenly they looked more composed on the ball, although Christophe Berra had to look alert inside his own penalty area, when the ball just seemed to be bouncing kindly for Reilly to finish, but Berra did well to deny the forward.
The former Queen of the South striker had been Morton’s biggest danger in the first period, and MacDonald had to backpedal in the closing stages of the first half when Reilly’s deflected effort looped over the ‘keeper, as Rovers went into the interval with the slenderest of leads.
It was a lead that was almost wiped out within a minute of the restart, when Robbie Muirhead got the wrong side of Riley-Snow, and with Berra unsure to stick or twist, the path to goal opened up for the forward, but MacDonald got down well to push away his effort from 15-yards.
There was more concern in the 49th minute, when Liam Dick’s pass infield went straight to Reilly, but his route to goal, which initially looked clear, was eventually blocked by Kyle Benedictus.
Rovers were living very, very dangerously, and Lewis Strapp teed up Reilly in the 55th minute, but between them, Riley-Snow and Reghan Tumilty did enough to block his effort.
Rovers had struggled to get going since the interval, but like the first half, they almost grabbed a goal regardless, when Zanatta made a beeline for goal from the right, but after dinking the ball over the onrushing Hamilton, he was unable to apply the finishing touch, as Morton just managed to scramble the ball away.
They could have doubled their advantage in the 63rd minute, after an intricate passing move involving 4 or 5 players, ended with interplay between Spencer and Ross Matthews, which allowed the latter a shot at goal from eight yards, but it was straight at Hamilton, and another good chance was spurned.
Raith were now enjoying their best spell of the game, with Tumilty getting forward well down the right, and although his cross found Matthews, his side foot volley was never threatening the Morton net.
If Morton had been worried about missing chances earlier in the game, Rovers were now going through the same process, with Spencer the next player to send an opportunity over the bar, after some excellent set up play from Zanatta.
Morton were going direct in the game’s closing stages, but Rovers were dealing with it well, and should have put the game to bed in the 83rd minute.
Substitute, Kai Fotheringham picked up on a loose ball and ran to the edge of the penalty area, before playing in Zanatta. Considering his form, you were waiting on the net to bulge, but he failed to get the ball out from his feet and eventually stabbed it wide.
As you’d expect, Morton threw everyone into the penalty box in the closing few minutes, including their goalkeeper for a couple of set pieces, but the Rovers defence, and in particular Berra and Benedictus, who between them, must have won (approximately) a few hundred headers across the piece, stood firm for a fine three points.
The win sees Rovers rise to fifth in the table, just two points behind fourth placed Partick Thistle, who they face next Sunday at Stark’s Park.
The switch to the Sunday is due to Rovers playing at Celtic Park on Thursday evening, in what will be the first time Rovers have played in the quarter-finals of the League Cup since winning it in 1994.
John McGlynn talked to RaithTV after the win at Cappielow.
Raith Rovers head to Greenock this weekend, to take on a Morton side who, like the visitors, are looking to return to winning ways.
While Rovers were losing 1-0 to Queen of the South last Saturday, Gus MacPherson’s men were going down by the same scoreline to Kilmarnock at Rugby Park, their third successive league defeat.
Those results kept the two sides locked together on four points, with Raith sixth and Morton eighth in the Championship table.
Raith will be hoping they can reproduce the same run of results as they did last season against the Cappielow side, with a 100% record across the three fixtures.
The first meeting at Stark’s Park was the most straightforward, with the home side putting in one of their best performances of the season, with goals from Daniel Armstrong, Frankie Musonda, Fernandy Mendy and a brace from Ross Matthews sealing a 5-0 win.
It was tighter affairs in the other two meetings however, with a goal from Iain Davidson enough to see Rovers take all three points at Greenock in February, and it was the same result back at Kirkcaldy in March, thanks to a late goal from Jamie Gullan.
Rovers have the upper hand in this fixture, with seven wins and three defeats from the last 10 meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Colin Steven.
Head-To-Head Away League Record:
Morton Wins: 34
Raith Rovers Wins: 17
Morton Goals: 115
Raith Rovers Goals: 59
Raith Rovers: D-L-W-W-W-L
Morton: Robbie Muirhead 3, Gozie Ugwu 1
Raith Rovers: Lewis Vaughan 4, Dario Zanatta 4
Raith Rovers: 6/5