Repetition leads to loss of football appetite

4812029 SSFF airdrie raith 'tackle on Grant Anderson that led to Jack Boyle's second yellow card & sending off -  Airdrie United against Raith Rovers at the Excelsior Stadium, Airdrie
4812029 SSFF airdrie raith 'tackle on Grant Anderson that led to Jack Boyle's second yellow card & sending off - Airdrie United against Raith Rovers at the Excelsior Stadium, Airdrie
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THE more things are repeated, the less interesting they become.

That can certainly be said for matches between Airdrie and Raith Rovers.

The teams met for the fourth time this season - and the third time this month - at the Excelsior Stadium on Saturday.

Previous games had been full of goals and excitement, particularly the recent cup replay at Stark’s Park, which Rovers won 4-3 after extra-time.

But like sitting down to the same dinner three nights running, any appetite for this fixture had gone, and we all forced down a tasteless 0-0 draw that not even a red card could add any flavour to.

The familiarity between the teams made for a dreary contest, and the lowest turn-out at Airdrie this season, just 747, suggested the fans were sick of the sight of each other as well.

And here’s the best bit, the teams have still to play each other twice before the end of the season. If ever there was an advert for league reconstruction, this was it.

Rovers lacklustre first half performanced suggested there was some form of hangover from the previous week’s Fife derby.

Without suspended pair Allan Walker and Dougie Hill, manager Grant Murray was forced into a number of changes that saw Joe Hamill and Stuart Anderson paired in midfield after spells on the bench. Their rustiness showed as Rovers lacked drive in midfield, particularly in the first half, during which they created the square root of nothing.

The first half was a straight contest between Airdrie striker Paul Di Giacomo and Raith goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw, with the shot-stopper coming out on top.

Three times Di Giacomo tested the Raith number one, twice with decent attempts from 20 yards, and one close range effort to the near post. Each time Laidlaw proved equal to the task.

Raith lost Laurie Ellis to injury in the 36th minute, which meant another reshuffle as his replacement, Reece Donaldson, went to left back and Eddie Malone moved to centre-back.

The first half came and went without a single Raith attack worth noting. They were a team badly in need of a half-time pep talk.

Murray’s message appeared to get through as Raith started the second half with more purpose and after Grant Anderson had skied a Brian Graham knock-down, Jason Thomson burst into the box and forced Grant Adam to save at his near post.

It had taken Raith 57 minutes to register a shot on target, but they came close again a minute later when Graham looped a header over the Airdrie ‘keeper only for defender David Lilley to boot the ball away from the gaping goal.

Raith’s failure to pick up a second ball on the edge of their own box almost cost them in 61 minutes as Jack Boyle was first to react to a headed clearance.

He broke into the box but with available team mates screaming for a cut-back, he blasted the ball into the side-netting. A let-off for Raith, and Boyle knew it.

The Airdrie midfielder lost the head, picking up two quick bookings in as many minutes as he wiped out both Andersons to leave his team down to 10 men for the last 25 minutes.

More used to the numerical disadvantage in recent weeks, Rovers were unable to make the extra man count, and even flirted with losing the match as Airdrie threatened on counter-attacks.

Sub Greig Spence had the best, and only real chance to win it for Raith with four minutes left, but after racing onto a Graham lay-off, he shot straight at Adam from 12 yards.

Aside for the clean sheet for Laidlaw, the solid performances of defenders Malone and Mensing, and the occasional flash of skill from Grant Anderson, this was not a match Rovers will look back on with much fondess.

MATTHEW ELDER

Follow on Twitter: @mattelder_ffp