Horror show sends Rovers back to square one

Christian Nade holds off the attentions of Keaghan Jacobs. Credit -  Fife Photo Agency -

Christian Nade holds off the attentions of Keaghan Jacobs. Credit - Fife Photo Agency -

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Raith Rovers 0 Livingston 4

After all the progress made since Christmas, Raith Rovers have gone all the way back to square one after another Stark’s Park horror show against the league’s bottom club.

Things seemed to have picked up since that alarming 5-1 defeat to Livingston in early December - the arrival of Maurice Malpas as director of football kick-started a good run of league form, as well as a brilliant cup win at Ibrox, bringing some real positivity back to the club as well as giving Rovers an outside chance at the play-offs.

Only last month, a run of three home victories in the space of a week had everyone on a high.

But since the 1-0 defeat to Falkirk on April 4 effectively ended any promotion hopes, Rovers have reverted back to the type of form that raised serious concerns before Christmas.

And on Saturday, in the final home game of the season, Rovers plunged to new depths with a near repeat of that humiliation in December - only this time without the excuse of playing most of the match with 10 men.

It was Rovers’ fifth straight loss - making this their worst run of the season - and the performance bordered on the unprofessional with a clearly unmotivated side simply going through the motions.

It was an unacceptable way to finish off the season in front of your home fans, whose full-time boos were only drowned out by applause when popular goalkeeper David McGurn, an unused substitute, threw his gloves into the crowd.

His recent absence from the team, and the uncertainty over his future at Raith, is a serious bone of contention among the support.

Notwithstanding his countless top drawer saves across seven years of service, the team’s record with McGurn in goals, compared to without, show that he should be considered indispensable, part-time or not.

It was Rovers’ fifth straight loss - making this their worst run of the season - and the performance bordered on the unprofessional with a clearly unmotivated side simply going through the motions.

Livingston arrived at Stark’s Park knowing that defeat could send them down to League One, and it was clear from the early exchanges that they were the only ones up for the challenge.

There was a break in play on 10 minutes as Rovers had Calum Elliot stretchered off with a knee injury following a hefty challenge from Livi captain Jason Talbot. The striker has had no luck with injuries throughout his career and here’s hoping that this latest setback is not as serious as it looked.

After the delay, Livi continued to apply pressure on a hesitant Raith defence, forcing a series of corners before eventually making one of them count, albeit controversially, in the 21st minute as the Railway Stand linesman ruled that a Calum Fordyce header had crossed the line before Ryan Conroy booted the ball clear.

It looked a very close call, impossible to tell from video replays, with Raith players insisting the ball hadn’t crossed the line, while Livi insisted that it had. To say the decision affected the game though would be far-fetched.

Anyone who thought this would give Rovers a wake-up call were sorely mistaken as they continued to make life easy for the relegation threatened visitors with their lack of application.

Rovers were lucky not to fall further behind as Talbot missed a sitter, scooping the ball over the bar from six yards, but even the half-time team talk failed to spark Rovers into life, and within 10 minutes of the restart they were 3-0 down.

An unconvincing Kevin Cuthbert spilled a simple catch to gift Craig Sives an open net in the 49th minute, before an embarrassing lack of marking in the Raith box saw Danny Mullen head home from close range six minutes later.

A number of home fans had already headed for the exits by the time Craig Barr headed into his own net for Livi’s fourth in the 72nd minute to put the seal on a sorry display.

Such was Livingston goalkeeper Darren Jamieson’s lack of involvement the visitors could have plucked a supporter from the stand to wear the gloves with no impact on the scoreline.

That was until the 88th minute when sub Lewis Vaughan was tripped in the box, only to see his penalty kick attempt saved spectacularly by the Livi shot-stopper.

And with that, a season of football at Stark’s Park came to a close. After suffering through Saturday’s shambles, perhaps we should all be thankful for that.

Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Thomson, Barr, Watson, McKeown, Conroy, Fox, Callachan, McKay (Anderson 62), Elliot (Nade 11), Stewart (Vaughan 78). Not used: Hill, Scott, Matthews, McGurn.

Livingston: Jamieson, Fordyce, Gallagher, Sives, Talbot (McKenna 73), Keaghan Jacobs (White 57), O’Brien, Pittman, Kyle Jacobs, Hippolyte (Glen 53), Mullen. Not used: Boulding, Walker, Sekajja, Donaldson.

Referee: Kevin Graham

Attendance: 1766