Raith Rovers 1 Hibernian 2
Raith Rovers lost at home for the first time under Ray McKinnon in a 2-1 defeat to Hibs at Stark’s Park this afternoon.
A crowd of 4114 turned up for the Championship’s game of the day as Raith looked for an eighth successive home win over a Hibs side hoping to go 10 games unbeaten in all competitions.
Raith’s brilliant early season form had prompted the club to appeal to lapsed fans to come to the game and there was a noticeably busier South Stand as the game approached kick-off.
But at half-time, those attending for the first time this season may have wondered what the hype was about as Raith found themselves 2-0 down having performed nowhere near their recent standards in a first half dominated by Hibs.
On this form, Hibs should pose a serious risk to Rangers unbeaten record next week.
However, the Ray’s Rovers side that we’ve been accustomed to turned up in a spirited second half, and came agonisingly close to rescuing a point with only a goal-line clearance denying them an injury-time equaliser.
“We gave everything in the second half to get back in the game,” McKinnon said.
“If you’re going to lose a game that’s the way to lose it.”
The Raith manager was unhappy, however, with referee George Salmond, who turned down three penalty claims in the second half.
“I wasn’t overly impressed with the referee today, especially the decisions against us,” McKinnon added.
Raith had only conceded one league goal at home before this match but an on-form Hibs side would be their toughest test yet on home soil.
The visitors started well and their big travelling support were on their feet after just four minutes when Raith were slow to close down at the edge of their box and John McGinn cracked a stunning effort past a motionless Kevin Cuthbert that found the net via the inside of the post.
It was a nervy start from Raith, who have been flying under the radar so far. Perhaps the big build-up and the big crowd added a bit more pressure.
But just when Rovers were beginning to settle into the game, they conceded a horror second goal - albeit finished beautifully by Jason Cummings.
A high punt forward by goalkeeper Marc Oxley was completely misjudged by centre-half Lewis Toshney and Cummings latched onto it, ignoring claims that he used a hand to control the ball to brilliantly lob the outrushing Cuthbert.
There was angry finger-pointing in the Raith defence just moments later as Iain Davidson headed clear when Cuthbert looked to gather - the hosts really needed to regroup at half-time.
Raith were much more positive after the break, particularly after a double change in the 57th minute that saw two midfielders - James Craigen and Ross Matthews - replaced with two strikers, Mitch Megginson and Craig Wighton.
The change paid off within six minutes as Raith reduced the deficit. Jason Thomson’s left foot cross found Jon Daly lurking at the back post and the striker buried a diving header past Oxley.
There were claims for a Raith penalty - the first of three - in the next attack as Wighton looked set to score only to be crunched by Lewis Stevenson, who appeared to take some of the ball, and plenty of the man, but the referee saw it as a fair challenge.
Wighton was stretchered off with a bad-looking knee injury, replaced by Grant Anderson.
Raith were really enraged in the 82nd minute as the referee again turned down an even louder penalty appeal as Daly’s overhead kick effort struck the hand of defender Paul Hanlon. It felt into the ‘seen them given’ category but again Salmond was unmoved as he was surrounded by protesting Raith players.
Rovers continued to apply pressure and made another, slightly more desperate penalty appeal in the 88th minute as Liam Fotaine appeared to go through the back of Daly as he leapt to win a header in the box. It would been soft.
For all Raith’s second half momentum they had to wait until the fifth minute of injury-time for a clear chance as Scott Robertson’s hooked effort from a Rory McKeown long throw was headed off the line by Fontaine.
Hibs defended stoutly, hanging on through nine minutes of injury-time, to earn a very hard fought three points.
For the second time this season, Raith were applauded off the pitch after losing to the Edinburgh side.
The boos were reserved for the referee.
Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Thomson, McKeown, Toshney, Benedictus, Craigen (Megginson 57), Matthews (Wighton 57, Anderson 69), Davidson, Stewart, Daly. Not used: Callachan, McCord, Ford, Laidlaw.
Hibernian: Oxley, McGregor, Hanlon, Fontaine, Gray, McGinn (Fyvie 87), McGeouch, Henderson (Bartley 80), Stevenson, Malonga (Keatings 74), Cummings. Not used: Boyle, Feruz, Forster, Reguero.
Referee: George Salmond