'I've never seen the boys so angry' - Raith rage at ref after defeat to Saints

Raith badge.
Raith badge.

St Mirren 1 Raith Rovers 0

Raith Rovers had the dishonour of becoming the first Championship side to draw a blank against St Mirren this season, going down 1-0 to the league's bottom club in Paisley yesterday afternoon.

Rovers recent problems in the goal-scoring department were manifest as the Buddies kept their first clean sheet of the league campaign, leaving Rovers to reflect on a barren run of just one goal in their last four fixtures.

The defeat also brought an end to Raith's six game unbeaten run, putting extra emphasis on the points dropped in recent draws that have left the Kirkcaldy side with a meagre haul of just three points from a possible 12 against the bottom four clubs.

It leaves Gary Locke's men needing points from Dundee United and Hibs in forthcoming games or run the risk of falling adrift in the top four race.

After the match, referee Barry Cook was the target for Rovers' frustration after the whistler failed to award a penalty deep into injury time when Declan McManus appeared to be blatantly tripped while in the act of shooting.

Locke fumed: "I've never seen the boys so angry in the dressing room.

"It doesn't matter if it's the first minute or the last minute, if it's a penalty you're expecting the referee to give it.

"As a manager, when you try to get an explanation and you don't get one that's certainly frustrating.

"I felt we played well in the game and created chances - we just didn't get the big decisions."

The decisive goal arrived just two minutes into the second half when Raith's unsettled defence - with a double enforced change as a result of Kyle Benedictus' suspension - were caught cold from a simple throw-in routine.

Iain Davidson moved to centre-half with midfielder Ross Matthews covering at right back, and it was the out-of-position youngster who seemed to lose concentration as winger Lewis Morgan was allowed to cut into the box unchallenged to thump an unstoppable effort past Kevin Cuthbert.

Despite the result, Raith's performance was an improvement on recent dismal showings - there was much more link-up play through midfield with young Rangers loanee Jordan Thompson having his best game for some time.

However, it wasn't until the introduction of Bobby Barr from the bench that Raith really started to look dangerous. The winger's powerful running has been sorely missed since he picked up a knee injury against Falkirk - and it's no coincidence that Raith have struggled since.

Rovers went into the match on the back of an 11-day break, long enough for Joel Coustrain to lose his starting place despite scoring in the 1-1 draw against Ayr United. Scott Roberts, on loan from Ibrox, took his place.

The first half was an evenly contested affair - both sides had periods of decent possession without looking particularly threatening.

Raith did have the ball in the net on six minutes but Mark Stewart had ran offside before cutting the ball back for Chris Johnston to tap home.

With defences on top, the teams were restricted mainly to shots from distance, with neither goalkeeper called into serious action before the break.

St Mirren ended the half on the front foot, and this continued after the restart, with Morgan's opener giving Saints the lead for the first time at home in the league this season.

It was a nightmare start to the second half for Rovers and they struggled to regain a foothold until Barr's 58th minute introduction, replacing Roberts, who threw a water bottle into the dugout in frustration, presumably with himself after struggling to impact the game.

Morgan went close to doubling Saints lead on 61 minutes with a shot from a tight angle that forced Cuthbert to claw the ball away from under the bar.

The first chance he got, Barr ran straight at the heart of the home defence, resulting in him being fouled 25 yards out. Kevin McHattie's free-kick hit the wall, and his second attempt was deflected wide for fruitless corner

It was 65 minutes before Raith registered an effort on target as Thompson's 20 yard curler was held by Scott Gallagher - but the Saints keeper was certainly busy thereafter as the visitors pinned the hosts back.

On 72 minutes, Johnston delivered a ball to the back post where Barr forced a point-blank save from Gallagher. The rebound fell straight to McManus six yards out but the striker seemed off balance as he fired into side net and a big chance was gone.

It was almost game over for Rovers as Lawrance Shankland's back post cross found Kyle McAllister unmarked six yards out but his header hit the bar with Cuthbert beaten.

Raith's best chance of an equaliser arrived with 11 minutes left as Barr led a pacy counter attack before threading Stewart through on goal with just Gallagher to beat, but the 'keeper made a great block to deny the striker as he pulled the trigger.

Raith brought Lewis Vaughan and Rudi Skacel off the bench for Matthews and Stewart, switching to three at the back, and they were almost caught out on 88 minutes as Saints sub Ryan Hardie found space in the box to force a low one handed save from Cuthbert.

As a result Saints won a corner and subsequently kept the ball at the corner flag for almost three full minutes, much to the frustration and the embarrassment of the Rovers players trying to win the ball back.

With crucial minutes eaten up, Raith launched one final assault on the St Mirren box deep into injury-time. Barr won a free-kick, then floated the ball in and as Saints struggled to clear, McManus tumbled under the outstretched leg of Gary McKenzie.

Raith players surrounded referee Cook - who brandished at least two bookings for dissent - before blowing for full-time.

Penalty or not, the bigger issue for Raith is to address why they have allowed so many points to slip against teams at the bottom end of the table.

St Mirren: S.Gallagher, Naismith, Irvine, Mackenzie, Quinn (McLear 70), Sutton (Hardie 79), Shankland, McAllister, Gordon (Webster 18), Morgan, Magennis. Not used: Langfield, Clarkson, C.Gallagher, Walsh.

Booked: Quinn.

Raith Rovers; Cuthbert, Matthews (Skacel 79), Davidson, M'voto, McHattie, Callachan, Roberts (B.Barr 58), Stewart (Vaughan 79), McManus, Johnston. Not used: Lennox, Osei, Coustrain, Crawford.

Booked: McHattie, Stewart, Callachan, Davidson, McManus.

Referee: Barry Cook

Attendance: 2630