Disappointing Defeat for Rovers

Those of a Raith Rovers persuasion will almost certainly seek to banish thoughts of this afternoon’s first division clash against Livingston as quickly as possible, as the home side went down by two goals to nil at Stark’s Park today in a surprisingly one-sided encounter.

Despite heavy rainfall earlier in the morning, the playing surface looked in remarkably good condition at kick-off, although it was Rovers who made heavy weather of the opening exchanges, as Livingston dominated proceedings in terms of possession and scoring chances.  Rovers, who named an unchanged starting eleven from the midweek draw at Falkirk, struggled as their opponents pinned their hosts back deep inside their own half for lengthy passages of play.

Despite this, it was Rovers who, against the run of play, created a chance to take the lead after ten minutes.  Brian Graham latched on to slack play by the Livingston defence, although the big forward hesitated at the vital moment and the chance was lost.

The Lions quickly responded by exerting pressure on the Rovers defence, forcing a series of corner kicks.  The feeling persisted that a goal was inevitable and, sure enough, with eighteen minutes played, the visitors took the lead.

From a corner kick, Allan Walker deflected a shot against the arm of team-mate Brian Graham, and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, to the chagrin of the home support.  If Rovers’ sense of injustice at the award was perhaps understandable, Livingston striker Iain Russell was unmoved, and he drove his penalty kick low into the corner of the net, evading a valiant attempt by David McGurn.

Walker picked up a yellow card prior to the restart for dissent, and he was quickly followed into the referee’s notebook by Eddie Malone as Rovers’ frustrations threatened to boil over.

The pattern of the opening twenty minutes continued, as Livingston swarmed all over the hosts, spraying passes across the pitch at will.  By contrast, Rovers struggled to retain possession, and forays in the direction of the McDermid stand were few and far between.  David McGurn produced a couple of blocking saves to ensure that the deficit was not increased further.

However, the Rovers keeper could do nothing to prevent the visitors doubling their advantage with ten minutes of the opening period remaining.  The home defence failed to clear their lines following a Livingston corner kick, and the ball fell invitingly for Stefan Scougall.  The Lions striker’s shot looked harmless enough, but a deflection off Laurie Ellis resulted in the ball bouncing agonisingly beyond the grasp of McGurn into the net.

Brian Graham then tried his luck with a free-kick, although his shot from 30 yards sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.  Rovers’ insipid first half performance could have gone from bad to worse shortly afterwards, but for a brave block from Eddie Malone, although this did little to lift the spirits of the Rovers faithful as the teams headed for the relative comfort of the dressing room at the interval.

In truth, any rational assessment of the opening 45 minutes would have concluded that Rovers could count themselves fortunate to be only two goals in arrears, such was the paucity of their performance.

Grant Anderson was replaced by Greig Spence at the start of the second half, as Rovers sought to find a way back into the match.  Pat Clarke dropped back into midfield, and, for a while at least, the move appeared to pay dividends as Rovers finally put pressure on the Livingston defence.  Graham headed an inviting Jason Thompson cross narrowly wide of the target, before Spence forced a save from Andy McNeill with a low shot from ten yards.  Another header from Graham flew narrowly over the bar with McNeill in no-man’s land, before a shot from Stuart Anderson was deflected wide of the post with the keeper beaten.

Pat Clarke then fired in a low shot from a free-kick which caused panic in the Livingston box, although the ball stubbornly refused to cross the goal line as the home support prepared to celebrate.  Perhaps this was the point when the Rovers fans sensed this would not be their day.

Not that Rovers had the time to feel sorry for themselves.  Although the home side enjoyed better possession than the first half, Livingston continued to look dangerous on the break, and frequently carved open a static-looking Rovers midfield as they went in search of a match-clinching third goal.

Clarke then made way for new signing Josh Watt as Rovers stepped up their offensive efforts, although the pattern of the match changed little.

Man of the Match Jason Thomson and Graham both went close before Grant Murray made way for Dougie Hill, as the match drifted towards its inevitable conclusion.

In the end, Rovers can have few complaints about the outcome, and this must go down as a bad day at the office for the home side.  Despite an improved performance in the second period, the damage was done during an utterly dominant opening 45 minutes from the West Lothian men, who displayed an attacking verve and pace which Rovers simply could not contain, far less match.

It will be of little consolation to Rovers that Livingston, despite their recent managerial travails, cut a dash more impressive than has been witnessed at Stark’s Park this season so far.

More often than not, the better side prevails, and even the most blinkered of Rovers fans would concede that Livingston were worthy winners on this occasion.

Report - Donald Ramsay


Photographs copyright Tony Fimister and Ian Martin



Grant spoke to Davie about a  disappointing 90 minutes

Live Updates

Rovers team news: starting Xi unchanged from Tuesday. Hill returns to the bench
Rovers kick off shooting towards the McDermid stand
Rovers fail to deal with a cross. Russell shoots straight at McGurn
Andrew shoots well wide of Rovers goal
Livi work the ball wide, but the cross is deflected by Malone to McGurn
Graham is well marshalled in the box and the move breaks down
G Anderson breaks free and heads for the Livi box. Outmuscled by his marker
Neat interplay between Graham and G Anderson. Clarkes pass to Hamill is cut out and Livi clear
Livi awarded a penalty for handball. Vocal objection from the South Stand
Russell scores from the spot, low to Mcgurns left
Walker and Malone booked for dissent and a late foul in quick succession
Scougall cuts in and McGurn saves well from a firm shot
Fine run up the wing by Anderson. Good shout for a pen - handball but nothing given
Comedy of errors: McGurn slices a pass back to Scougall who runs the ball out of play
Scougall shoots, McGurn has it covered but a wicked deflection off Ellis' head sees the ball go in
Graham's free kick clears the goal and lands near the pie stall - straight down the stairs
A lot of midfield toing and froing, highlighted by some silky Hamill touches
Booth crosses for Russell, whose shot is bocked
HT sub: Spence on for G Anderson
Near thing for Rovers - Graham stretches to reach a deep Thomson cross but heads it just wide
... shortly followed by two tame Spence shots straight at McNeil
Rovers vastly improved since the break, need to turn this into goals though
Livi sub: McNulty on for Jacobs
Good looped cross from Hamill, Graham beats the keeper to it but can't hit the target
Stuart Anderson drive deflected just wide
Free-kick for hands just outside the box, driven in by Clarke and seemed to hit a Livi hand in a goalmouth stramash - not given though
Rovers sub: Watt on for Clarke
Livi sub: Mullen on for Russell
Good run and shot by Thomson, wide again though
Livi sub: Talbot for Scougall
Great ball from Laurie puts Graham in, but his shot is well saved
Rovers sub: Hill on for Murray
McGurn called into action for the first time in a while, he parries a Booth shot wide
MOTM is Thomson
+3 FT Better second half, but no cutting edge and didn't make up for an atrocious first 45