Victory At Last
Raith recorded their first win in 9 games and their first home win since November with a deserved 2-1 win over Partick Thistle today.
After a week which saw 2 consecutive away defeats to Livingston and Hamilton, John McGlynn changed his side round once more as he searched for a vital and elusive victory. As a consequence, the starting XI had an almost back to basics look about it. Baird and Graham were restored as the front pairing while Davidson was moved forward to the middle of the park alongside Grant Murray. This allowed Dougie Hill to partner Laurie Ellis in the centre of defence.
Shooting downhill in the first half, much to the dismay of the home support, Raith made their intentions clear straight away, playing early balls to Graham while Baird hoped to pick up on his partners flick ons and knock downs. After a scrappy opening it took until the 8th minute before a half chance was created. A long free kick into the Partick 6 yard box was headed down by Graham into the path of Baird but was flicked away from him as he shaped to shoot.
Two minutes later Reece Donaldson had the games first shot, striding forward after winning the ball in the oppositions half he weighed up his options before deciding to go alone, sending his shot high over the bar.
Whilst the home side had looked the better in the opening stages they were making life difficult for themselves by gifting possession cheaply. As a result Partick looked dangerous on the break with Chris Erskine in particular looking to pounce on any opportunity to test out right back Donaldson.
For all Raith’s pressure they were creating little more than half chances. A free kick was nodded into the 6 yard box by Murray but it bounced into the keepers arms. The defensive midfielder was again the next to threaten but he sliced his 20 yard shot wide after good work from Baird.
Willie Dyer was the next unlikely candidate to have a go, his wild shot sailing into the home stand after excellent work out wide from Donaldson, Walker and Baird.
Partick’s first chance came after 22 minutes and it almost led to the first goal. A free kick into the Rovers box appeared to deflect off a defenders head and just slipped past McGurn’s left hand post.
The home fans relief was short lived however as Partick took the lead 5 minutes later, and as has been the case recently it was a goal that should have been avoided.
A loose pass in midfield was pounced upon by Stephen O’Donnell who seemed to have all the space in the world down Raith’s left hand side. As he advanced to the bye line unimpeded he drilled in a low cross that was turned in from point blank range by Kris Doolan.
The goal seemed to stun Raith and they were almost 2 down a few minutes later. A one-two between Cairney and Erskine was desperately cleared for a corner from which Partick hit the bar, with Rovers again failing to deal with the cross ball effectively.
Thistle however didn’t look particularly comfortable at the back either and Rangers loanee Darren Cole in particular was struggling to cope with Brian Graham’s physical presence.
It was from this combination that Raith almost found their equaliser. A free kick was misjudged by Scott Fox and his defenders and as he lay on the ground Davidson’s header looped just wide.
The final chance of the half fell to Graham as he latched onto a long ball forward. The pass however was always taking him away from goal and his effort was easily gathered by Fox.
While Raith had been the better side in the first half they’d yet to really trouble the Partick keeper and with the second half only a few minutes old they almost went 2 down. David Rowson managed to thread the ball through to Erskine despite stumbling over as he played the pass. McGurn however stood up well and blocked the wingers 15 yard effort.
As news began to filter through that Ayr were taking control against Livingston, the mood around Starks Park seemed to darken as they realised that defeat would see them sink to the bottom of the league.
On the park though the players were starting to reassert their authority. Davidson was having a great game in the middle of the park, closing down the Partick players in his inimitable style and not giving them any time in possession. His tenacity freed up Hamill in the 55th minute, his clever ball inside to Baird allowed him to cross to Graham at the back post but the chance was blocked.
The ex-Morton man was not to be denied though and he restored Raith’s parity in the 63rd minute with a wonderful strike. A free kick out wide on the right appeared to be delivered slightly too deep at first but it found Graham in a few yards of space and he met it first time to smash a sumptuous volley past Fox and into the corner of the net. It was an equaliser that was thoroughly deserved.
Manager John McGlynn then made his first change replacing Allan Walker with his namesake Jamie. The introduction of the on loan Hearts youngster gave Partick left back Aaron Sinclair something to think about as he immediately tried to run at the full back and take him on.
The match ebbed even further into Raith’s favour after 68 minutes as Partick were reduced to ten men. Brian Graham seemed incensed about what appeared to be an off the ball incident. Missed by the referee but witnessed by the assistant, Partick centre half Paul Paton was given a straight red card much to the delight of the home fans.
Raith almost took advantage of their numerical supremacy immediately. Dyer played in Baird who beat his man once, then twice before shooting just wide from the edge of the box.
Partick boss Jackie McNamara shuffled his pack by withdrawing Kai Naismith and replacing him with Scott Robertson but within seconds Raith had taken the lead and again it was down to a lovely finish.
With 18 minutes remaining Graham played the ball out wide to Dyer and his cross into the box took an awkward bounce which Baird met with his head, guiding the ball cleverly over the advancing Fox and just under the bar.
5 minutes later Brian Graham left the field to a standing ovation, replaced by Pat Clarke.
The final 15 minutes saw Raith retreat somewhat, seemingly unsure whether to stick with what they had or go for the killer third goal. With the club in desperate need of a win it wasn’t a huge surprise that this was the case. Hill and Ellis had to look sharp to repel the Partick attacks which although never an onslaught were still sustained enough to send ripples of discomfort through the Raith support.
Despite this Rovers almost snatched a breakaway third. Jamie Walker played in John Baird but under pressure from the Partick keeper and defender he was forced wide and couldn’t get his shot away.
The final whistle brought as much relief as it did joy for the home fans who must be thankful for their fixtures with Partick Thistle this season as they’ve brought a maximum return of 9 points from the 3 encounters. With vital games coming up against Morton, Queen of the South and Ayr United in successive weeks John McGlynn knows that this needs to be the start of the revival.
Photos: Tony Fimister
John McGlynn was delighted to get the first win of 2012 and is now looking for the team to put a wee run together.
Jackie McNamara thought it was a horrible game after watching his team lose to Rovers for the third time this season.
Brian Graham was delighted to get his second goal of the week and hopes the team can now push on and get themselves up the table.
Raith Rovers FC Would like to thank Keytech and Towergate Insurance for their support. If you’re interested in matchday opportunities for your company or group, please contact our Commercial department.