Stalemate At Gayfield
Raith Rovers leapfrogged Kilmarnock in the Championship table, but they couldn’t quite take the top spot, after a 0-0 draw with Arbroath at Gayfield.
In a game of very, very few chances, neither team troubled the opposing goalkeeper, meaning Raith now sit second, one point behind leaders Inverness.
It was a much changed side from the one which defeated Inverness Caledonian Thistle on penalties in midweek, with four changes to the personnel, as well as a tweak to the formation.
Jamie MacDonald returned in goals, while Tom Lang, Ethon Varian and Frankie Musonda all came back in to the starting eleven.
It meant Rovers started with a 5-4-1 formation, with Musonda starting on the right, and Liam Dick on the left, with Lang, Kyle Benedictus and Christophe Berra sandwiched in between.
Arbroath made the sharper start to the game, and they really should have taken the lead in the fifth minute, and would have done so without the intervention of Lang.
A cross from Colin Hamilton found Joel Nouble in the box, and his curling effort seemed destined for the back of the net, if not for the Raith defender’s flying diving header over the bar.
Then from the corner, Rovers struggled to clear their lines, and Nouble was able to set up Ricky Little, whose blast from the edge of the area flashed just wide.
Rovers were sitting deep, and hadn’t provided a threat to the home side in the opening passages of play, although a corner kick did provide an opportunity to test the Arbroath defence, but Dylan Tait’s cross was well gathered by Derek Gaston.
Little had another chance in the 19th minute, when a set-piece from the right was swung into the area, and the defender rose highest to nod the ball over MacDonald’s crossbar.
Rovers defence was holding steady, but it was Dick Campbell’s men who were in the ascendency.
The game was starting to become a little scrappy, and while Arbroath were threatening down the right-hand side through Scott Stewart and ex-Rover Jason Thomson, too many passes were going astray for both sides.
Rovers did have a couple of opportunities from free-kicks in decent positions as the half progressed, but from 25-yards out, Tait and then Dario Zanatta could only lash their efforts into Arbroath’s defensive wall.
The home side were forced into a swap just before the interval, with Little being forced off with a head knock, to be replaced by David Gold.
It was the final moment of the opening 45 minutes, which had been a little on the attritional side, with neither ‘keeper forced into a save.
Rovers made a change at the interval, with Musonda going off for Ethan Ross.
Rovers forced the first chance of the second 45, when Dick’s cross from the left was met by Varian, but he couldn’t guide his header on target and the chance was lost.
It was a far better start to the second half from Rovers, who were very much on the front foot in its early exchanges.
Ross’ introduction had injected a little more vim into Rovers forward play, and for the first time in the game, Arbroath were under some sustained pressure, albeit Gaston hadn’t been called into action.
There was huge concern in the 60th minute, when Michael McKenna’s challenge on Brad Spencer led to both sides’ medical teams running onto the park, and while Spencer was able to hobble off, it looked like a nasty injury, with Aaron Arnott brought on as his replacement.
The second half had been another scrappy affair, but the Red Lichties almost opened the scoring in the 72nd minute, oddly enough from a Raith corner.
Zanatta’s short corner routine went completely wrong, allowing Arbroath to hit on the break, although Bobby Linn’s shot was straight at MacDonald.
Both teams were pushing for a winner in the closing stages, and Raith probably should have taken the lead in the 83rd minute, when good work from Benedictus down the right played in Tumilty, and his cross found Tait on the edge of the area, but he couldn’t apply the finish.
Arbroath couldn’t quite get the ball clear however, and with the ball coming back into the penalty area, Tumilty saw the space open up for him, but again, he couldn’t connect properly and Gaston gathered easily.
Arbroath almost snatched it in the second minute of injury time, after Linn raced clear of the defence and sent a tame shot towards MacDonald which the ‘keeper let squirm away from him, but it was hacked clear as it trundled towards goal.
There was one last chance in the game, when Anton Dowds headed a set piece towards goal, but again, it was an easy take for MacDonald, as both teams had to settle for a point.
The game again demonstrated another side to this Raith team, who on their day can play football as well as anyone in the division, but can also be called upon to dig in when required.
They face another tough match next week, when they face Kilmarnock at Stark’s Park.
© Eddie Doig
John McGlynn spoke to RaithTV after the draw at Gayfield: