Raith Lose Ground After Defeat
Raith Rovers title aspirations were dealt a blow this afternoon, after they went down 2-1 at home to Arbroath.
The result meant Raith are now without a win in five matches, and now sit six points off the Red Lichties who continue to lead the way in the Championship.
A first half of very few chances had seen Rovers lead one nil at the interval, thanks to a goal from Reghan Tumilty, but goals in the second period from Jack Hamilton and Nicky Low saw Dick Campbell’s men deservedly take all three points.
Manager John McGlynn made one change from last week’s 1-1 draw with Inverness Caledonian Thistle, with Jamie Gullan making his first start of his fourth spell at the club, with Ethon Varian missing out.
The early part of the match was reasonably end to end, with Raith eking out the best chance in that spell, when some patient build up play eventually ended with space opening up for Gullan, but his chance was well defended, and while the corner that came from it was less so, Arbroath eventually managed to clear their lines.
However, Rovers had their own let off in the 10th minute, when a mix up at the back allowed Luke Donnelly to play in Hamilton, but his first touch sent the ball scuttling several yards ahead of him, allowing Jamie MacDonald to come out and gather at his feet.
That early opening was as good as it got for Raith in the first 20 minutes, with Arbroath largely enjoying the better of the opening quarter, with Donnelly and Hamilton proving an awkward, cumbersome duo for the Raith defence to handle, while Low was impressing in the middle of the park.
The home side were being given ample opportunities to play it between themselves along the backline, but any time it was played forward, the ball was rarely sticking and was coming straight back.
The game had turned into a spectacle which could only be described as attritional, as the opening 35 minutes ticked by without either goalkeeper making a real save of note, with both teams playing like boxers sizing one another up, without actually attempting any punches.
Perhaps getting a little fed up with proceedings, Low attempted to inject some excitement into the affair in the 38th minute, letting fly from 30 yards, which MacDonald was alert to all the way and gathered comfortably.
However, in the 42nd minute, the game came into life, with a goal which caused joy among the home players and fans, and consternation amongst those of a Red Lichtie hue.
Sam Stanton shifted the ball to Ben Williamson inside the penalty area, and his low cross to the back post was perfect for Tumilty to turn home from close range.
With the linesman deciding to keep his flag down, the Raith players ran off to celebrate, while the Arbroath and players and management team remonstrated with the officials, who signalled for half time not long after the protests had died down.
There’s no doubt the first half hadn’t been the prettiest, but it had certainly been effective for the home side, with Rovers clinically taking their one opportunity.
However, the good feeling didn’t last too long into the second period, as Arbroath equalised in the 47th minute.
The Raith defence seemed caught by surprise by a ball in behind, and Scott Stewart did well to send a low cross across the face of goal which Hamilton turned home.
It was the worst possible start to the second period for Rovers, but a goal that on the balance of play was well deserved.
Rovers tried to hit back immediately, and a free-kick from the left was whipped in by Ethan Ross, but Derek Gaston comfortably watched it as it drifted wide.
With both teams locked together, Raith made a change to the personnel and formation, with Christophe Berra, who appeared to take a knock, making way for Dario Zanatta, as Rovers went to the 4-2-3-1 that they’d played for the bulk of the campaign.
The Canadian was straight into the action, seeing a snap chance blocked for a corner, but from the short routine, Ross’ inswinging cross was well punched away by Gaston.
Rovers were arguably enjoying their best spell of the game now, and Williamson’s cross found Tumilty inside the area, but he couldn’t quite connect properly, and his half volley went wide.
Back came Arbroath in a game which had come to life, and MacDonald pulled off a fine save to deny Low from close range.
With 20 minutes left, Rovers made their second swap, as Aidan Connolly replaced Ross Matthews.
However, it was Arbroath who were taking a grip on the game, and they almost took the lead with 10 minutes remaining, when James Craigen’s cross from the left bounced all the way through and struck the inside of the post.
The visitors didn’t have long to rue their luck however, as Arbroath were awarded a penalty seconds later, when Colin Hamilton was adjudged to have been fouled by Tumilty, and Low made no mistake from the penalty spot.
With time ticking down, Arbroath looked the likelier side to get another, although Zanatta had options after picking up possession on the left of the penalty area, but his attempt at goal was fizzed over the bar.
Despite a late flurry of play around the Arbroath penalty area, Rovers failed to trouble Gaston, as Arbroath comfortably held out for another impressive win.
For Raith, the result meant they lost ground on the three sides above them, while they now sit two points ahead of fifth placed Partick Thistle who have played two games fewer.
Rovers will be hoping they can press the reset button before their next Championship game in a fortnight, as they put league action to one side next weekend, with a trip north to face Banks O’ Dee in the Scottish Cup.
Photographs © Tony Fimister
John McGlynn spoke to RaithTV after today’s defeat
After a late goal denied Raith bringing all three points back from Inverness last weekend, they’re back in action at Stark’s Park this Saturday, to face table topping Arbroath.
The Red Lichties have defied all expectations this season, and despite last weekend’s defeat to Ayr United, Dick Campbell’s men still hold a two point advantage over Inverness and Kilmarnock, albeit both of those sides have a game in hand, with Killie having the opportunity to leapfrog Arbroath on Friday evening when they take on Partick Thistle.
The Angus side will be without two forwards who have been such a success this term, with Joel Nouble and Anton Dowds both returning to their parent clubs, but they have brought Jack Hamilton in for another loan spell from Livingston, with the forward already proving a hit during a loan move to Gayfield last term.
This will be the two sides third meeting this season, with Rovers taking four points from the six on offer.
Dylan Tait opened the scoring at Stark’s Park in October, before Ross Matthews doubled the lead just before the interval. Anton Dowds did reduce the arrears in the 94th minute, but it was little more than a consolation as Rovers ran out the winners.
It was a tighter affair last month at Gayfield, with both teams drawing a blank in a 0-0 draw.
Rovers do hold the the upper hand in the most recent meetings, but only just, with three wins and five draws from the last 10 meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Steven McLean.
Head-To-Head Home League Record:
Raith Rovers Wins: 22 | Arbroath Wins: 9 | Draws: 10
Raith Rovers Goals: 76 | Arbroath Goals: 44
Raith Rovers: D-W-L-L-D-D | Arbroath: D-W-W-W-D-L
Raith Rovers: Dario Zanatta 9 | Ethan Ross 6
Arbroath: Michael McKenna 12 | Anton Dowds 5 | Joe Nouble 5
Raith Rovers: 7/5 | Arbroath: 7/4 | Draw: 11/5