Rovers made their final away trip of the season to Ayr with the Raith fans fearing the worst for Ian Murray still struggling to field a strong side with only a goalkeeper and one outfield player on the bench and, once again, a makeshift starting eleven.
Despite Ayr having a couple of early chances when Reading fired a shot from 25 yards past the post and Ashford seeing his shot hit the post, the Rovers were arguably the better side in the first half, and more than a match for the home side who still had a playoff place to aim for.
Connor McBride went on a run from the half way line to the edge of the box before trying his luck but he sclaffed his shot and it went past the post, and at the other end it was all hands to the pump with every Rovers player doubling back to help the defence, Ethan Ross covering for Ross Millen who himself was helping out the make shift central pairing of Liam Dick and young Adam Masson, and Kieran Ngwenya did brilliantly to get a timely interception on an Akinyemi ball into the box to send it clear.
Ayr should’ve taken the lead when McGinty sent a long ball out wide to Mullin on the right who turned his man to send a low ball hard across goal to Akinyemi but he somehow managed to sky the ball 10 feet over the bar from 6 yards out, a let off for Rovers but no more than they deserved in a first half where they had more of the ball than the home side.
Rovers started the second half on the front foot and a slick one two between McBride and Stanton saw Sam striding up the bye-line into the six yard box but his cut back was a bit too fast for Akio who got a touch but could only send it into the air where it was headed clear by Ashford.
This was a brave showing by Rovers who were at least winning on corners, but they were hit by a sucker punch when Mullin sent a free kick high into the box where it was headed clear by Stanton, but only as far as McGuire who passed to McGinty at the edge of the box and his cross back into the danger zone was met by the inrushing Frankie Musonda who sent an unstoppable header past the helpless Jamie MacDonald.
Once again the Rovers failure to deal with high balls into the box cost them dear and although Ross Millen tried to get them back on level terms, firing a free kick just over the bar, the game ended in defeat, but unlike previous weeks, there were no complaints from the travelling fans who knew every Rovers player to a man had given his all in a game where they had nothing to play for but pride.
They may have headed home to Kirkcaldy pointless, but their pride was very much intact.
© Eddie Doig 2023
Ian Murray spoke to RaithTV after today’s game:
Raith Rovers head west for the second successive week, as they look to end their winless run at Somerset Park against Ayr United.
Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Morton made it five games without a win, while their hosts are also without a win since defeating Cove Rangers in March.
However, the Honest Men can still book a promotion playoff spot between now and the end of the season, as they current sit just one point behind fourth place Partick Thistle, and three third placed Inverness, having played a game less than the Caley Jags.
Lee Bullen’s side looked good odds for a potential title bid and a trip to Hampden earlier in the season, but a run of just five league wins since December, and a defeat to Falkirk in the Scottish Cup quarter final derailed their quest for silverware.
Raith won the first encounter between the sides this season in thrilling fashion, coming out on top in a five goal thriller in September.
Kyle Connell and Sam Stanton had Rovers two up at Stark’s Park by the interval, but Ayr hit back in the second period two equalise through Brad Young and Andy Murdoch.
However, a late rocket from Scott Brown saw Rovers claim all three points.
It was a different story at Somerset Park in December, when a Josh Mullin brace saw Ayr run out 2-0 winners, and the two sides played out a tepid 0-0 draw at Stark’s Park in their most recent meeting in February.
Saturday’s match referee will be David Munro.
Ayr United wins: 55
Raith Rovers wins: 58