Raith Rovers 0 Falkirk 0
There was a mixture of satisfaction and frustration at Stark’s Park on Saturday as Raith Rovers kept a clean sheet at home for the first time in 11 months with a goalless draw against Falkirk.
While the shut-out had been a long time coming and was most welcome, the general consensus afterwards was that this was a missed opportunity to bag another three points.
Falkirk have had a slow start to the season and on Saturday looked like a side still in transition following the arrival of a new manager and several new players over the summer.
They were a shadow of the team that played Rovers off the park in April and there was some disappointment in the home stands, and in the home dressing room afterwards that Rovers had not been able to see them off.
Rovers created the best of the game’s rare openings in the 65th minute with Jamie MacDonald’s near post save in a one-on-one with left back Rory McKeown the key moment in the game.
The final 10 minutes were probably the most disappointing from a Raith perspective as it was the visitors who appeared to push harder for the late winner.
But with Rovers six points ahead of the Bairns and desperate for that elusive home clean sheet, it’s perhaps understandable that they tried to protect what they had.
The team is still taking baby steps back in the right direction after spending the first half of this calender year in an alarming downward spiral, so a 0-0 draw against a traditionally close rival is far from disastrous.
Grant Murray even suggested afterwards that preventing Falkirk from scoring in the closing stages was more important than scoring themselves.
“When the game goes so long and it’s so close it’s more important that you don’t lose one,” stressed that Raith manager.
“Yes, we wanted to push and get that winner but we had to get the balance right, and defensively I thought we were sound.”
It was another solid performance from the back four following on from the previous week’s 1-0 victory in Livingston.
Laurie Ellis continued to roll back the years showing that, alongside a younger, quicker Paul Watson, he can still be an asset at Championship level.
The back four, and the team as a whole, appears to have benefited from Laurie’s experience in the last two games.
There was one change to the line-up that beat Livingston as Calum Elliot failed to shake off an injury and on-loan Rangers winger Barrie McKay came in for his first start.
It meant a tweak to the formation as Christian Nade was deployed in a lone striker’s role with Martin Scott playing in the hole between midfield and attack.
It was a system that never quite clicked, however. For all the effort on show - and there was plenty of it - the team lacked the creativity required to break down Falkirk, not helped by Rovers’ most creative player of the season thus far, Ryan Conroy, having his quietest game thus far.
Aside from McKeown’s big chance, McKay had a few bright moments, Scott had a couple of sniffs of goal, and Nade had a a handful of headers that he failed to trouble the ‘keeper with.
There was also a Jason Thomson thunderbolt from long range that produced an excellent save from MacDonald.
Falkirk were mostly restricted to long range efforts themselves as they struggled to breach the Raith back four, although Ross Laidlaw had to react superbly to finger-tip a Tuder Jones header over the bar as Falkirk’s best attempt came from a 68th minute corner kick.
In the end, neither side could argue with a point apiece.
Raith Rovers: Laidlaw, Thomson, McKeown, Watson, Ellis, McKay, Moon (Vaughan 86), Fox, Scott, Conroy, Nade (Stewart 70). Not used: Anderson, Callachan, Matthews, Bates, McGurn.
Falkirk: McDonald, Shaughnessy, McCracken, Taiwo (Durojaiye 45), Alston (Bia-Bi 73), Smith, Sibbald, Grant, Leahy, Loy (Boulding 82), Tudor Jones. Not used: Vaulks, Maybury, Cooper, Bowman.
Referee: Des Roache