Jamie’s Late Leveller Denies League Leaders
Raith Rovers secured what could prove to be a valuable point in a hard-fought 1-1 draw against First Division leaders Ross County at Stark’s Park this afternoon.
Prior to kick-off, a minute’s silence was observed in tribute to former Rovers chairman Peter Campsie, who sadly passed away during the week.
The opening exchanges of the match were largely uneventful, with the majority of play confined to a battle for midfield supremacy. However, County carved the first genuine scoring opportunity after ten minutes, although Iain Vigurs’ shot failed to trouble home keeper David McGurn.
Barely a minute later, Rovers almost snatched the lead. A deep cross by Willie Dyer wide on the left was spilled by Staggies keeper Michael Fraser, and the ball fell invitingly for the loitering John Baird. However, the little striker’s first-time shot from 12 yards flew high and wide of the target.
Chances in front of goal were few and far between, as neither side managed to impose themselves to any meaningful extent. However, mid-way through the opening period, County midfielder Mark Corcoran should perhaps have done better when, from a promising position inside the Rovers box, he pulled his shot well wide of the target.
The visitors started the second half on the front foot, and within five minutes they opened the scoring with the simplest of goals. A pass from wide on the left inside Rovers’ Reece Donaldson found Corcoran in space, and his cross was despatched by former Rover Steven Craig beyond McGurn with the minimum of fuss from eight yards out.
Rovers immediately tried to go on the offensive, and Casalinuovo used his strength to surge past a number of challenges before he was fouled 25 yards from goal. Fraser spilled Walker’s resultant harmless-looking free-kick, and the corner kick came to nothing.
Frustration then crept into the home side’s work, as they struggled to exert meaningful pressure on the County defence. Iain Davidson, who put in a hard-working performance at the heart of Rovers’ defence throughout, picked up the first yellow card of the match for kicking the ball away angrily following the concession of a soft-looking free-kick out at the left touchline.
However, Rovers gradually began to get a foothold on the game, pinning a hard-working County side back into their own half. A whipped cross from Donaldson caused panic in the box, then Walker’s 25-yard free-kick flew narrowly wide of the post with Fraser scrambling frantically across his goal line. Vociferous appeals for a penalty then rang out from the home end, as Casalinuovo tumbled under a sliding challenge in the box, although referee Murray waved play on.
With 15 minutes remaining, Rovers manager John McGlynn replaced Pat Clarke with long-term injury absentee Brian Graham, and Casalinuovo made way for Jamie Walker. The Hearts youngster didn’t take long to make his mark in the game, earning a caution from referee Murray for a foul. Shortly afterwards, County’s Colin McMenamin needlessly followed him into the referee’s book, for refusing to retreat at a Rovers free-kick.
As the match entered the 90th minute, and the Rovers fans began to contemplate another home league defeat, Rovers’ perseverance paid off when they levelled the score. Jamie Walker drove into the heart of the County defence, releasing Graham on the left hand side of the 18-yard box. The big striker raced to the by-line, and his cut-back found Walker, who had continued his run into the danger area. The on-loan Hearts youngster showed commendable composure to slot the ball firmly past Fraser into the corner of the net from six yards out.
Incredibly, Rovers then almost snatched an improbable winner with the final attack of the match, with Fraser acrobatically tipping a rasping 20-yard drive from Baird over the crossbar.
In truth, this wasn’t a game for the purist, it being more perspiration than inspiration for the most part. Nevertheless, given Rovers’ current precarious league position, a draw against the league leaders should perhaps be considered in relatively positive terms.
Written by Donald Ramsay
Pictures by Jim Foy