Rovers fail to turn up the heat

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THROW together a missed penalty, a red card, an own goal and blizzard conditions and you have Raith Rovers most insufferable 90 minutes of the season.

Just over 1100 supporters braved the bitter cold to endure Rovers poorest result of the season thus far, and Grant Murray’s first defeat to a team from the bottom half of the table. And it was a defeat that was entirely self-inflicted.

KIRKCALDY ; Stark's Park ;'Raith v Hamilton ; JASON THOMSON'Photo ; WALTER NEILSON

KIRKCALDY ; Stark's Park ;'Raith v Hamilton ; JASON THOMSON'Photo ; WALTER NEILSON

Rovers failed to turn up the heat until the second half, and then blew their big chance to take a crucial lead as captain Allan Walker failed to convert a 53rd minute spot kick.

Then, with the game petering out towards a goalless draw, Rovers pressed the self-destruct button.

First Dougie Hill was sent off for a third time this season, then Brian Graham added to his goal tally, only this one came at the wrong end as his OG gave Hamilton a last-minute lead.

Just to make sure they completed the suicide mission with complete efficiency, Davie McGurn then spilled an injury-time free-kick from Stevie May into the back of the net.

It was a defeat that allowed the teams below Raith to further close the gap, leaving the struggling Kirkcaldy side another bad result away from being dragged into a relegation battle.

The major talking point afterwards, however, was the game-changing red card for Hill. There will be some fans who refuse to sympathise with a player who has now racked up more sending offs in half a season than some manage in an entire career.

He went in with two feet and perhaps, by the rule-book, he had to go, despite winning the ball. But put it this way, what would the reaction have been had he pulled out of a 50-50 challenge with seven minutes left?

Tackling is a major part of his game, but strict rules often leave aggressive players like Hill in a no-win situation, and manager Murray now has a real dilemma over whether to keep faith with the tough-tackling defender.

All the late drama may have been avoided had Rovers actually bothered to show up for the first half.

With frequent and heavy snow showers making playing conditions difficult you could excuse players for not producing their best, but at least Hamilton gave it a go.

The visitors forced three corners inside two minutes, one of which required Jason Thomson to clear a header off the line, while McGurn was called to make several saves.

On too many occasions at home this season Rovers have needed the half-time break to get motivated, and it was the same again as they started the second half with much more purpose.

They almost took a 47th minute lead but Walker and Grant Anderson got in each other’s way from a Brian Graham cut-back, before a Jonathan Page trip on Walker handed Rovers a penalty.

Walker grabbed the ball and took the kick himself, but Kevin Cuthbert made a good save, diving to his right.

Cuthbert had to make another two excellent saves from Raith’s wingers as first Anderson, and then Smith, were denied with attempts from inside the box.

Both sides appeared to run out of steam in the closing stages until Hill’s red card handed Hamilton the initiative, and Graham then gifted them the points by clumsily heading a corner kick into his own net in the 89th minute.

Hamilton made it 2-0 with the last kick of the ball as May fired a powerful free-kick straight at McGurn, who couldn’t hold on and the ball trundled over the line.

MATTHEW ELDER

Twitter: @mattelder_ffp