Team Pd GD Pt
1 Inverness CT 16 8 31
2 Raith Rovers 16 10 30
3 Kilmarnock 16 10 29
4 Partick Thistle 16 15 28
5 Arbroath 16 13 28
6 Hamilton Academical 16 -15 16
7 Ayr United 16 -13 14
8 Greenock Morton 16 -8 13
9 Dunfermline 16 -10 13
10 Queen of the South 16 -10 13
Updated: 4th Dec
Saturday October 23rd 2021

Raith Rovers 1 – 1 Inverness CT


A second-half counter-attack goal from Aidan Connolly set Raith on their way to a deserved draw with Championship leaders Inverness Caledonian Thistle, as Ross Matthews’ sending-off before the break set up a dramatic second half in this top-of-the-table clash at Starks Park. Although Sean Welsh’s equaliser for the Highlanders was merited on the balance of play, Rovers could be hugely proud of their performance – having created the better chances in the first half, and having been a danger throughout in a second half played with ten men.

Inverness retain their status as leaders in the Championship race, but it was Raith who would take the plaudits – willing to commit runners in attack even when a man down, and showing ruggedness in defence with the visitors’ late onslaught not bringing the winner their travelling band of supporters craved. The draw came at a heavy cost for Raith, with injuries to Benedictus and Varian alongwith Matthews’ suspension clouding the day for the Kirkcaldy men.

For Raith, manager John McGlynn spoke in his programme notes of the fast start in last week’s win over Arbroath – Dylan Tait’s third-minute goal coming after a slick ten-pass move. Raith had a familiar look, with Spencer Tait and Matthews the midfield fulcrum, with Zanatta and Connolly supporting the hard-working Ethon Varian. Manager McGlynn’s mid-week interview with Raith TV disclosed that Aidan Connolly regularly runs 12 kilometres in a match, closely followed by several others in the side – Rovers would need energy and skill to defeat today’s visitors, a task no Raith side had managed in twenty-one years.

With twenty-two points from their first nine games, Billy Dodd’s Inverness side deservedly arrived in Kirkcaldy as the team to beat in this season’s Championship. Having won their first three League matches 1-0, Caley Thistle had developed as robust and obdurate firstly, and with no lack of quality. Roddy MacGregor – scorer of a fine winner when these sides met in the Highlands in August – started here. Billy McKay and Michael Gardyne had a further ten goals between them. With only Cameron Harper missing out through injury, and former Rover Manny Duku on the bench, Caley Thistle were in fine fettle for this top-of-the-table clash. Dodds’ only change from last week’s win over Morton was Scott Allardice moving into midfield with Sean Duffy back in at right-back – Reece McAlear dropping to the bench.

Prior to kick-off, players from both sides endorsed the national “Show Racism The Red Card” campaign, with all taking the knee immediately before kick-off – important gestures both, warmly and unanimously applauded by all present.

Under blustery grey skies, Raith started briskly – Broadfoot was booked in the first minute for pulling back Varian, a Benedictus blast was blocked clear, and Tumilty escaped beyond Deas on the right-flank. Overall, the pace in the opening minutes was bright from both sides – Tait sparkled in midfield with two lovely touches taking him clear of MacGregor and McKay, Spencer’s sharp passing kept the ball moving smartly across the Starks Park turf, and for the visitors, Gardyne and Allardice bobbed and weaved in a busy central third.

It was nine minutes before Shane Sutherland showed for the visitors – nearly latching onto MacGregor’s through ball – although it was Raith who had settled the quickest – knocking the ball around the back four, Raith probed for fully two minutes before a sharp Spencer pass nearly gave Varian an opening. Inverness looked well drilled and comfortable in defence, but as the home side, it was Rovers who were asking the early questions.

It wasn’t long before Inverness too were simmering nicely – MacGregor drifted wide before a disguised instep nearly played in Welsh arriving at pace; McKay’s flicked header fizzed toward MacDonald, and Gardyne began to look much more purposeful on the visitors’ left. The early skirmishes had shown the qualities of both sides – the visitors strong in defence and incisive in attack; Raith vibrant and busy, pulling their opponents left and right, seeking an opening.

Raith suffered a blow on twenty minutes – Ethon Varian twisted awkwardly, and despite treatment, couldn’t continue. With Matej Poplatnik brought on, the change would be a straight swap, albeit earlier than manager McGlynn would have planned for. Following a controversial free-kick – referee Steven roundly booed after penalising Tait – Welsh blasted the set-piece high over the bar. MacGregor’s flick allowed Sutherland to blast at goal – a forest of legs and a lusty clearance averting the danger for Raith. Gardyne dashed clear a moment later – the sharp-eyed far-side linesman correctly raising his flag. On the other flank, the stand-side linesman had his say with the next attack, pulling Poplatnik back after Tait’s delayed through-ball.

With half-an-hour gone, both sides were having their moments – Poplatnik was providing  handful for Broadfoot and Devine; Inverness’s high press had sprung McKay and Sutherland in advanced positions; and both Connolly and Zanatta were making headway on their respective flanks. With his first key intervention, Zanatta’s slide-rule pass nearly gave Tumilty a clear run – Deas reacted quickly.

Inverness looked well briefed in their defensive duties – Gardyne tracked Tumilty, looking for the long diagonal ball, McKay was pressing Berra and Benedictus, and Sutherland – normally so dangerous in attack – was keeping tabs on Liam Dick’s sorties down the left. Although some of the play looked scrappy in the run-up to the interval, it was a fascinating tactical battle.

With forty minutes on the clock, suddenly there was a clear sight of goal – Connolly nipped around his man and fired goalwards, a deflection taking the shot wide of Ridgers. Although the corner came to nothing, the South Stand roared its approval.

With a minute until the break, the first-half’s defining moment – with Inverness working their way out of defence, Matthews slid into McKay. While the ball was won, the tackle was firm – referee Steven brandished the red card, to howls of disbelief from Raith players and fans, which continued as the players headed off at the break. While mangaer McGlynn had half-time to reorganise his men, Raith’s chances had been dealt a severe blow.

The second-half began with Raith looking long – Zanatta and Connolly were billeted to sit deeper, with Poplatnik using his strength to hold up play. For Inverness, the instruction would be to be patient, spread the play, and look to catch their tiring opponents late on. Duffy’s early cross allowed MacGregor an early strike. At the other end, quicksilver passing from Poplatnik and Connolly saw Tumilty fire on goal – Ridgers’ save resulted in a corner. With men forward, Raith were caught on the break – Sutherland’s curling drive brushing the outside of MacDonald’s post.

There was further worry for Raith, with captain Benedictus down after Sutherland’s run – clutching his hamstring, the talismanic defender hobbled off, Tom Lang his replacement. With the first high diagonal, MacGregor looked to sneak in behind the Raith substitute, the ball bouncing through to keeper MacDonald.

There was a siege mentality around Raith as the hour mark passed. The lingering sense of injustice at Matthews’ dismissal prevailed in the South Stand, but on the park, Rovers’ players stuck to their tasks. Poplatnik held the ball up well, Spencer and Connolly offered outlets, while Berra and Lang won the aerial battle against McKay. Poplatnik’s battling qualities won a corner from nothing, bringing the South Stand to life – Tait’s curled effort drifting just wide.

Within minutes, bedlam in the home support – Poplatnik was clattered while playing in Zanatta, and the winger hared off down the left-flank, his pinpoint cross fired home first-time by Aidan Connolly, sending the home fans into raptures. The Raith man was mobbed by his team-mates, Rovers’ sense of injustice translated into an outpouring of joy at the Rovers’ goal.

Sutherland’s flying header was well tipped over by MacDonald as the visitors looked to respond, but unquestionably Raith had struck a vital blow. Zanatta’s run and turn prompted a huge shout for handball soon after – while the first half perhaps lacked drama, the second half was bursting with it. Tumilty’s blast flew just over as Raith attacked again.

With a break in play, Inverness tried to regroup – Sutherland was withdrawn for Manny Duku, the former Raith man pressed up against Tom Lang. Berra clattered into MacGregor as Caley Thistle attacked at pace – Duku’s free-kick palmed to safety by MacDonald.

Goal-scorer Connolly was withdrawn on seventy-six minutes – new signing Ethan Ross bright and vigourous in his place – but it was the visitors who finally got their equaliser. Gardyne flew down the left, his cut-back the perfect invitation to Sean Welsh to blast through a ruck of bodies past MacDonald. With the Inverness bench euphoric, the match was set for a grandstand finish.

Poplatnik was felled by Devine; Duku’s header was scrambled away – Billy Dodds urged his men forward from the touchline, as John McGlynn exhorted his players to redouble their efforts. Referee Steven showed Raith assistant Paul Smith a yellow card. With Spencer escaping for Raith, MacGregor clattered into his man with an untidy hack – again, referee Steven showed yellow.

As the ninetieth minute approached, Inverness were camped in the Raith half – Devine and Broadfoot played the ball left and right, looking to create a chance to cross; Spencer Tait and Ross followed the ball, frantically closing space wherever it appeared. Astonishingly, it was Rovers with the best late chance – Brad Spencer found himself furthest forward after Ethan Ross’s fine pass – Dario Zanatta could only fire his rising drive over the bar. At the other end, Gardyne’s header was well held by MacDonald with Duku in attendance.

With the final whistle, it was Raith fans with most to cheer – while Inverness could take a point back to the Highlands, Rovers had faced an uphill task following Matthews’ red card and had performed heroically. The draw though had taken a heavy toll – suspension for Matthews, and injuries for Varian and captain Benedictus. These though were questions for another day – Raith had been thoroughly tested here, and had claimed a point amid real adversity with rugged defending and flair in attack, committing numbers forward even when down to ten men. Rovers had earned their draw amid dramatic scenes, and would take huge strength from their battling performance.

Welcome to Starks Park for today's game against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. It's 13 degrees and a lovely day for football.
Inverness CT kick off towards the South Stand.
Early yellow card for Allardice
Rovers FK wide left is blocked twice in the area.
Free kick ICT approx 30 yards out
From the free kick ball is placed to the head of an ICT player who softly heads the ball into the box but it doesn't trouble MacDonald
Play halted as Varian receives treatment deep in ICT half
Varian going off Poplatnik getting stripped.
InFK 25 yards centre, Welsh fires the ball straight at me in the South Stand.
MacGregor blocked by Benedictus on the 6 yard line.
Latest score Raith Rovers 0-0 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Zanatta and Combining well but no goal.
Liam Dick crosses across the face of goal but no takers.
Liam Dick crosses across the face of goal but no takers.
Plenty effort from both teams but no cutting edge by either.
MacGregor lifted the South Stand by standing on the ball and going headlong.
McKay raising a laugh this time biting the dust.
Connolly at the edge of the area sees his shot deflected for a corner.
Short corner wasted as the ball is charged down.
Allardice crunches Poplatnik for no sanction.
Matthews straight red for a tackle on McKay.
Half time. Raith Rovers 0-0 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Benedictus clears with a diving header, MacGregor fires way over with the clearance.
Ridgers gets a finger tip 6o Tumilty's shot.
Sutherland shoots just wide from 25 yards.
Benedictus down injured.
Tom Lang replaces Kyle Benedictus
Matej ploughing a lone furrow being the point man up front.
Poplatnik lays the ball off to Tumilty who leathered it into the South Stand
Rovers corner, Zanatta crosses, Tait tries to chip Ridgers at the back post but the ball goes wide.
Zanatta with a lung bursting run, his cross found Connolly who blasted the ball into the net past the stranded Ridgers.
MacDonald pulls of a great save at the other end. From the corner Inverness fire the ball into the North Stand
Zanatta with another run, shouts of hand ball in the visitors area but play goes on.
Another ICT effort lands on the top of the net.
Latest score, Raith Rovers 1-0 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Tait in the box, his shot comes to Tumilty but he shoots high into the South Stand
Sutherland off, Duku on.
Sutherland off, Duku on.
Zanatta comes back on after a rub down with the sponge
Inverness FK,25 yards centre, Duku shoots and MacDonald tips over.
Rovers clear the corner.
Berra sees of Duku on a foot race
Connolly off, Ross on.
Goal Inverness. Welsh from the edge of the area.
McKay off, Jamieson on.
Devine flattens Poplatnik, mysteriously the referee calls a drop ball.
Paul Smith yellow carded.
MacGregor yellow for taking out Tait.
Attendance 1900
+1 Tait lays it on for Tumilty but he skies the ball into the South Stand
+4 Full time. Raith Rovers 1-1 Inverness Caledonian Thistle (Connelly 61') (Welsh 79') Attendance 1900 MotM Connelly
Raith Rovers
MacDonald Tumilty Dick Berra Benedictus Connolly Matthews Zanatta Spencer Tait Varian

Thomson Lang Ross Riley-Snow Mitchell Young Poplatnik

Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Ridgers Duffy Welsh Deas Devine Gardyne McKay Sutherland MacGregor Broadfoot Allardice

Mackay Doran Walsh Jamieson Duku McLear

Photographs © Tony Fimister

John McGlynn spoke to RaithTV after the draw at Stark’s Park:

Second placed Raith Rovers are involved in a top of the table tussle this weekend, when they take on league leaders Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Stark’s Park.

Billy Dodds’ men have a five point lead at the top of the Championship, after an impressive first quarter of the season, which has seen them drop just five points so far, and conceding just four goals along the way.

If John McGlynn’s side are to close that gap at the top, they’ll need to do something no Rovers side have done in 21 years and 24 attempts, and that is defeat the Caley Jags over 90 minutes.

The two teams have already met once this season, with Inverness coming out on top by a goal to nil, thanks to an excellent late strike from Roddy MacGregor.

Saturday’s match referee will be Colin Steven.

Head-To-Head Record Versus Inverness Caledonian Thistle:

Raith Rovers Wins: 5 | Inverness Wins: 20 | Draws: 5

Current Form:

Raith Rovers: L-W-D-W-W-W

Inverness: W-D-W-L-W-W

Top Scorers:

Raith Rovers: Dario Zanatta 7 | Lewis Vaughan 4

Inverness: Billy McKay 6 | Michael Gardyne 4

Match Odds:

Raith Rovers: 6/4 | Inverness: 11/8 | Draw: 13/5