Raith effort in vain as winless streak continues in Greenock

Raith boss Gary Locke is enduring a tough run of form. Pic: Michael Gillen
Raith boss Gary Locke is enduring a tough run of form. Pic: Michael Gillen

Morton 2 Raith Rovers 0

Their performance may have deserved better, but Raith Rovers fell deeper into a rut as they crashed to a third straight defeat - and fell nine points behind Morton - following a 2-0 defeat at Cappielow this afternoon.

Another game without hitting the net also leaves the team to reflect on a return of just three goals, and no victories, in nine league matches - worrying stats which make Rovers the worst team in the division since the end of October.

Raith may be smack-bang in the middle of the table - six points away from play-offs at both ends of the league - but make no bones about it, the Kirkcaldy outfit are currently heading in one direction. Downwards.

If there's any positives then there was plenty grit and determination on show in Greenock - exactly what you would want and expect from a side desperate for points - but on a day when Raith needed the breaks to go their way, they all went against them.

Both Morton's goals came against the run of play - and both had an element of good fortune. For the first, a Ross Forbes cross evaded everyone and ended up in the back of the net, while the second came after an attempted clearance from Ryan Stevenson hit a team mate to keep Morton on the attack.

Jason Thomson was the only victim from the 4-1 home defeat to Falkirk. After an out of sorts performance the previous week, the club captain dropped to the bench to accommodate the return of Jean-Yves M'voto, with Iain Davidson shifting to right back.

In an otherwise unchanged XI, Ryan Stevenson recovered from the head knock that forced him off the field after just 20 minutes the previous week to take his place in attack alongside Ryan Hardie.

Aggressive pressing in the early stages from a fired-up Rovers deprived Morton time on the ball, and allowed the visitors to seize an early foothold in match.

Hardie had the first glimpse of goal on four minutes as he chested down a Stevenson cross in the box, but with his back to goal he couldn't get a shot away.

At the other end, Forbes curled an 18 yard effort into the arms of Kevin Cuthbert, but Raith continued to make the early running, and Stevenson teed up Chris Johnston in the box, but from a narrow angle, the winger's weak effort was an easy pick up for 'keeper Derek Gaston.

After their positive opening, Rovers were sucker punched as Morton took the lead in rather calamitous circumstances.

Forbes delivered an inswinging cross from the right that both M'voto and Lawrence Shankland challenged for. Neither won it, catching Cuthbert by surprise, and the static 'keeper could only watch in horror as the ball curled inside his far post.

The goal summed up the contrasting recent fortunes of the two sides, and knocked the stuffing out of the visitors for a spell as Morton enjoyed their best period of the half, albeit without threatening to add to their tally.

But as half-time approached Rovers were starting to regain some of their earlier mettle and only the fingertips of Gaston prevented Bobby Barr levelling affairs in the final action before the break as the winger's run and shot from the edge of the box was blocked, before his second attempt was touched over by the Morton 'keeper.

Rovers determination to get back on level terms continued into the early stages of the second half.

From a deep Johnston corner on 51 minutes, Kyle Benedictus nodded back across goal to Ross Callachan who redirected it goalwards only for a defender on the line to chest the ball down and boot it to safety.

Three minutes later, a Barr cross was only cleared as far as Callachan 20 yards out whose first time volley took a deflection but rather than deceiving Gaston, it actually helped him as it took the sting out of the drive allowing him to dive and hold.

Raith continued to press and fashioned their best opening on 57 minutes as a sharp turn and pass from Johnston released Hardie into the box, whose low shot was parried by Gaston and scrambled behind for corner.

The pressure failed to produce an equaliser, and Morton started to threaten to extend their lead with Aiden Nesbitt firing straight at Cuthbert from the edge of the area, before Forbes hit the by-line and drilled a ball across goal that M'voto did very well to divert away from goal.

Locke responded by introducing Mark Stewart from the bench in place of Johnston, a striker for a winger and a switch to three up front, but no sooner had the change been made, the plan was out the window as Raith conceded again.

Stevenson found himself back helping the defence but his clearance hit against the back team mate M'voto, allowing Morton to set up another attack and Mark Russell dinked a lovely ball to the back post where an unmarked Shankland couldn't miss with a close range header.

From then on, Morton's long unbeaten home record was never in any doubt, despite Raith's best efforts to mount a comeback.

Johnston and Stevenson were replaced by McManus and Roberts and there was one or two half chances, with Stewart forcing a near post from Gaston with 10 minutes left, but Morton's defence was equal to anything Raith had to offer.

Raith take a break from their league woes next week as Hearts visit in the Scottish Cup - but a far bigger match looms the following week as Dumbarton travel to Stark's Park. The season is still salvageable, but it must start then.

Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Davidson, M'voto, Benedictus, McHattie, B.Barr, Callachan, Thompson, Johnston (Stewart 65), Hardie (Roberts 75), Stevenson (McManus 75). Not used: Brennan, Thomson, Skacel, C.Barr.

Booked: Davidson.

Morton: Gaston, Kilday, O'Ware, Doyle, Oliver, Forbes, Lindsay, Nesbitt (Tidser 87), Shankland (Lamie 90), Russell, Murdoch. Not used: McGowan, Scullion, Orr, Tiffoney, Strapp.

Referee: Gavin Duncan

Attendance: 1957