Quick Triple Undoes Rovers
The Rovers fans at Firhill where surprised to discover a goalkeeping crisis. They will have travelled knowing that Ross Laidlaw would be stepping in for the suspended Dave McGurn. However the keeper was injured, instead Allan Fleming from Kelty Hearts was in goal and youngster Alasdair Adams on the bench. The Rovers also had Dougie Hill out suspended and Ellis returning from injury on the bench. The Raith back four were Thomson on the right and Donaldson came in on the left as Malone slotted in at centre back with Grant Murray picking himself. Partick had no such problems with recent addition Steven Craig the only Jag who’d not started 6 or more games.
Kickoff had to wait for the signal from the broadcasters and the home side started with a succession of throws in front of the Raith fans. Paton eventually shot well wide. Grant Murray committed the first foul as the home side tried to get forward quickly, Grant mis-timed the challenge and will have been disappointed to see a yellow card so early. Fleming punched away a cross under close attention from a Partick man. Reece Donaldson was booked for his first foul just before heavy rain began.
Partick continued to have the better of the opening stages with a break ending with a shot wide then Erskine skied his effort from 19 yards. Ever eager Allan Walker got a bit of space but his cross shot went across goal and out at the corner flag. Lawless played in Welsh who’s drive from 25 yards was just over. Raith got forward down the right with Stuart Anderson and Jason Thomson combining but the latter’s cross was too deep. Welsh had a more wayward effort then Grant Anderson and Brian Graham combined but Archibald did well to block wide. The Rovers got more into the game but without creating any chances of note. Stuart Anderson was booked after a tackle on the now wet pitch – the third Raith man having to hold back after a caution. This raised the ire of the Raith fans. Moments later another Thistle foul saw no action taken… This didn’t improve the Rovers fans view of the officials.
A Raith corner pinged about in the home box but ended up falling safe in the 31stminute. O’Donnell blatantly shoved Clarke to the ground after a throw right in front of referee but the whistler saw no need to get his pen out for a home man.
A Rovers flick header from Pat Clarke saw Fox dive well to claw the effort away, a good save. Jason Thomson was then on the end of a heavy, but unpunished foul from Bannigan. Graham got onto Clarke’s header and teed up Hamill whose shot was blocked wide. Stuart Anderson played a great ball to Walker wide left but Malone headed his cross wide. O’Donnell shot but Fleming dived to push it away and the chance was snuffed out. As the half ran down Grant Anderson’s pace saw him taken out by Bannigan (him again) as the wide man ran at the box with support. The whistle blew but Charleston surprised the crowd by not getting his cards out for this home man either. Malone’s low free kick was taken by Partick keeper Fox at the second attempt.
The Rovers started the second half pushing with Clarke shooting low. Walker made space and Grant Anderson’s cross found Hamill at the far side, he paused and put the ball back across goal when a shot was a much better option. In the 50th minute Partick saw Craig get wide left and his pass found Chris Erskine who’s touch was good and he shot across goal to make it 1:0. It was their first meaningful play of the half, the Rovers having started well. Only three minutes later Welsh found Erskine with a cross field ball and ex-Rover Steven Craig who was a yard ahead of his man slid the ball in from 5 yards. 2:0 in the 52nd minute.
Clarke shot wide after Graham played him in then Erskine fluffed an effort. The Rovers pushed forward on the left through Graham, he was supported by Donaldson. Brian’s pass was not firm enough and a Jag got to it just before Reece. A long ball forward and the break was on and Chris Erskine got forward with time to cut into the box and place a shot past Fleming to make it 3:0. It was described by the PA as a wonder goal, which it wasn’t.
The game was over as a contest at that point. Play was broken up by substitutions and some visiting fans were distracted by items thrown at them from the Thistle support. In the 77th minute ironic cheers from the travelling fans greeted the only booking of a home man when Welsh’s lunge felled Donaldson the youngster having eluded his first foul. David Smith and Brian Graham combined to win a corner in the 80th minute. It was well delivered and Graham rose to head home however the referee saw some reason to disallow it. What it was wasn’t obvious as no Thistle fans or players had called for a foul.
Erskine shot wide then Walker cut inside and his shot was well pushed over by Fox – a clip worthy of both their highlight collections. There were few other incidents in the last five minutes, sub Smith was fouled but by Balatoni but no more ink was used by the ref.
The emergency goalkeeper Fleming was not to blame for any of the goals and Donaldson did well coming into the reshaped back four. The Anderson’s and Walker worked hard in midfield and Graham tried up front. Clarke ended up making a few valuable defensive contributions on the left and his flick header forced the save of the game.
The Rovers are out of the Challenge Cup however there are three more important competitions to concentrate on. Apparently Billy Brown tipped the Rovers at half time, perhaps next time he’ll keep his mouth shut!
Report – John Mainland, Pictures – Eddie Doig
Photographs copyright Eddie Doig.