Rovers Warmed by Away Win
The Rovers support at Airdrie was no doubt limited by the very cold conditions and not one but two inspections. The car park resembled a base camp as fans zipped up jackets, put on hats and gloves and some more prepared than others got blankets out and headed for the turnstiles. The Rovers starting line up was missing Ellis and Graham, apparently due to illness, with Hill and Spence coming in from the start.
It took a while for me to get my pen to work but it did in time for Watt and Thomson to combine wide and the latter’s cross was headed over by Walker. At the other end Donnelly flashed a header across goal from Warren’s low cross. The piles of snow around the pitch were already proving to be effective ‘ball boys’! McLaren got wide on the far side and his deep cross didn’t look threatening but Bain muscled past Malone and just got enough on the ball to sneak it past McGurn. Perhaps Eddie was taken by surprise by the home man but it was a soft goal to lose.
Blockley was injured losing the ball to Malone and the stretcher was brought on. Surprisingly he then got to his feet and returned to the plastic pitch five minutes later. Lamie shot wide from 22 yards after a corner as the Rovers struggled. The best forward progress in blue during this period was by a bit of plastic sheeting or cagoule! Spurred on by the cold breeze it’s progress down the channel was better than the visitors managed. Clarke had a low free kick at the keeper then ex-Rover Boyle shot wide after a home break. In the 25th minute Watt cut in from wide and his 18 yard shot was held low by Thomson – Airdrie’s 4th keeper of the season. Trying to get into the match a Rovers corner was flicked on by a defender but Clarke was unable to put his reflex effort on target.
The home side were still having the better of a poor game and McLaren’s cross from a good position was too strong. Home defender O’Neil slid in on Walker and received an accidental head knock. He was clearly not sure what was going on and it was no surprise when he was convinced to have a seat on the stretcher and was replaced by Lilley. During the delay it looked as if Malone took something with water from the Raith bench, that and Hamill who was listed as a sub but who didn’t warm up seemed to indicate options were very limited for Murray and Smith. In the 36th minute the Rovers nearly got an equaliser they hadn’t deserved when Mensing passed wide to Watt and his low cross found Spence at the front post. Greig’s first time flick beat Thomson but came back off the foot of the post and fell kindly for the young keeper. The home side responded with a corner followed by a drive from outside the box forcing a good save from McGurn pushing away the effort. The ball went to McLaren who’s low shot was at McGurn. The game was still lacking a spark and a local had obviously decided to avoid the match and was instead flying a kite outside the ground!
The Rovers managed a flurry before the half with a couple of corners the second of which saw Walker vigorously bundled off the ball in the box. In the 43rd minute the Rovers equalised when a short ball to a defender was closed down by Greig Spence. Robbing the centre half Greig scampered towards goal and despite being closed down by the keeper and a defender he sneaked the ball into the side netting from 6 yards. This lifted the Rovers and Watt had a good run and cross as time ran out.
Most of the fans nipped out of the wind into the concourse where it wasn’t warmer as such but perhaps a bit less cold. Discussion raged about the fact that there had been two soft goals and the Rovers hadn’t really got going yet. Blockley didn’t come out for the second half but unhindered the home side saw McGurn alertly flick a header over after only 45 seconds. Malone – trying no doubt to make amends for his uncharacteristic slip-up – ran into the box but was well tackled by Lilley. The home defender was then booked for a foul on the ever eager Spence as the Rovers tried to break. The Rovers fans were disappointed when Walker was penalised for the slightest contact on the keeper seconds after Spence was man handled in the box by a home man.
The game hadn’t improved McGurn took a low cross then Jason Thomson was booked. Watt had a cross shot tipped over before Grant Anderson replaced namesake Stuart which moved Walker into the middle. McGurn claimed another free kick then Lamie was booked for hoofing the ball away after being penalised for fouling Spence. In the 77th minute Walker played a great pass wide to Grant Anderson who shrugged off McLaren’s attempted foul and ran for goal before calmly slotting the ball low into the far corner. The keeper was exposed but he was perhaps slow to move off his line to narrow the angle. McLaren was rightly booked for his attempt to take out the Rovers scorer.
Hetherington shot wide and the home side threw big centre half Buchanan up front as the game became stretched. An Anderson low cross was pushed away by the home keeper and McLaren shot optimistically from 25 plus yards with better options in front of him. At the death Spence did well again running into the box but his cross hit Clarke and it went across goal and out for a throw.
Greig Spence put in the best performance on the day as he continued his impressive goals to game time ratio. This was an important result breaking a run without an away win but I’m sure the cold will feature more in fans memories than the game itself.
Report – John Mainland, Pictures – Eddie Doig
Match highlights kindly provided by Robin Jack at Airdrie TV
Photos copyright Eddie Doig edited by Tony Fimister