Alloa Athletic 0 Raith Rovers 1
Raith Rovers manager Ray McKinnon has had the Midas touch this season when making the right changes at the right time.
But even he was surprised by how quickly his substitutions paid off in the victory over Alloa yesterday afternoon.
McKinnon’s double change - bringing Mitch Megginson and Grant Anderson off the bench with 12 minutes left - was timed to perfection as Anderson scored with his first touch to seal a fifth league win on the trot.
While the goalscorer will get the headlines, his fellow sub played an equally important role as it was from Megginson’s brilliant run and shot that Anderson got the all-important rebound.
On his changes, McKinnon said: “I was hopeful, but I wasn’t expecting it to be instant!
“I just wanted an injection of pace on both flanks and luckily it worked for us.
“I’m really proud of the players for digging in, keeping going and getting the result.”
A hard-fought match could have gone either way but this Raith team just keeps finding ways to win.
Scott Robertson was handed his first start, taking the place of Ryan McCord, and the midfielder covered every blade of astroturf in a powerhouse performance. If this is what he is like half-fit, then Raith have bagged a quality signing.
The other change from the win over Morton prior to the international break saw Craig Wighton replace Anderson as the manager changed to a 4-3-3 system.
Raith had the best opportunities in the first half, with three chances falling their way inside a three-minute burst.
Mark Stewart forced a flying save out of Andy McNeil in the 15th minute with a dipping volley, and from the corner, Craig Wighton saw an effort blocked on the line.
A minute later, Jon Daly stretched to reach Stewart’s cut back, sending the ball sailing over the bar from six yards when he ought to have scored.
Alloa threatened towards half-time and Kevin Cuthbert was fortunate to escape unpunished when he left his box to make a clearance, only to fire the ball against Robert Crawford.
The ball spun but towards the empty Raith goal but fortunately Lewis Toshney was able to rush back and head the ball behind before it crossed the line.
Rovers lost Toshney to injury during the half-time interval, with McCord coming off the bench, and Iain Davidson moving from midfield into a centre-half position he is more than accustomed to.
The change appeared to unsettle the defence at first as Michael Chopra was left unmarked in the box twice in three minutes, but the striker was unable to make the most of the opportunities.
He headed straight at Kevin Cuthbert from Michael Duffy’s cross in the 54th minute then, three minutes later, the Raith keeper foiled Chopra again with an excellent point-blank save.
At the other end McNeil flapped at a high ball and was lucky that Daly’s flick landed wide of the post, and the big Irishman went close with a powerful header from a Ryan McCord free-kick but was unable to keep his effort under the bar.
Raith were beginning to look frustrated when both teams made a double switch in the 78th minute.
It was the visitors’ changes that paid immediate dividends as Megginson drove into the box, playing a one-two with Stewart, and after his attempt was blocked on the line, fellow sub Anderson knocked home the rebound.
Eddie Ferns came closest to equalising for Alloa two minutes from time but after jinking past Rory McKeown and Kyle Benedictus, his shot lacked the power to beat Cuthbert.
Raith held on for another excellent win that keeps them second in the Championship ahead of the visit of third-placed Hibs next week - a match that has all the makings of a Stark’s Park cracker.
Alloa Athletic: McNeil, Doyle, Reintam, Marr, Hamilton, Flannigan, McAusland, Holmes, Crawford, Chopra (Ferns 78), Duffy (Layne 78). Not used: Hetherington, O’Brien, Williams, Hoggan, Crawford.
Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Thomson, McKeown, Toshney (McCord 45), Benedictus, Robertson, Davidson, Craigen (Anderson 78), Wighton (Megginson 78), Stewart, Daly. Not used: Petrie, Matthews, Ford, Laidlaw.
Referee: Andrew Dallas