Rovers fail to heed their football lesson

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YOU might think that after several painful lessons the message would have penetrated by now.

Almost every meeting between these teams over the past 18 months has resulted in Rovers getting a roasting, but Saturday’s performance suggested they have learnt nothing.

Brian Graham has a shot blocked against Livingston

Brian Graham has a shot blocked against Livingston

If this Livingston team was a cut above the rest of the First Division then you could almost excuse Rovers for being so comprehensively outplayed every time they meet - but they’re not.

Livingston have a good team, for sure, and in Stefan Scougall they have the league’s outstanding young player, but they are third in the table, 13 points ahead of Raith – seven of those were taken from the men from Kirkcaldy – and based on their fan base they are unlikely to have a bigger budget.

They are a team that, at home especially, Rovers should be capable of competing with, but the first half was like watching a bunch of amateurs take on Barcelona.

Starting from the goalkeeper, Livi were able to pass their way from box to box, often without a single Rovers players getting remotely close to making a challenge.

Such was the visitors’ dominance that their full backs played virtually the entire first 45 minutes as wingers, leaving the Raith back four and goalkeeper to deal with waves of attacks.

Getting the ball was a big enough problem for Raith, but keeping hold of it seemed just as difficult, such was the lack of options in possession.

Tactically, Rovers were being given the runaround, while individually, the players were performing below the standards they set for themselves in the midweek draw at Falkirk.

It wasn’t until half-time that Raith made the necessary changes, both in terms of team shape and attitude, but by then the damage had been done.

They were two goals down, and an improved second half showing could not make up for the ineptitude of the first.

Despite Livingston’s first half domination, they relied on a bit of luck for both their goals.

Their 19th minute penalty was certainly debatable as the ball travelled through a crowd before striking the hand of Brian Graham.

Ref David Somers felt the Raith striker had deliberately motioned his hand towards the ball, most observers disagreed, but Iain Russell slotted the spot kick past David McGurn.

The Raith ‘keeper made several good blocks but was powerless to stop Livi going two up in the 34th minute as Scougall pounced on hesitation in the defence to stab a shot towards goal. It appeared to be going wide until taking a big deflection, wrong-footing McGurn completely.

Had Livingston been more lethal they could have been four or five ahead at the break, but after switching to a 4-4-2 and bringing on Greig Spence, Rovers were a different team after the break.

They surged forward at the start of the second half, but some good pressure failed to yield a goal, and as the comeback bid ran out of steam, McGurn had to make another great save in the latter stages as Livi hit on the break.

The home support was far from from happy with what they saw and there ought to be a bit of soul-searching at Stark’s Park ahead of the derby match this Saturday.