Winter slide continues as Raith concede four to Falkirk

Chris Johnston (centre) celebrates his opener with Raith team mates Ryan Hardie (left) and Bobby Barr. Pic: Michael Gillen
Chris Johnston (centre) celebrates his opener with Raith team mates Ryan Hardie (left) and Bobby Barr. Pic: Michael Gillen

Raith Rovers 1 Falkirk 4

There will be plenty soul-searching at Raith Rovers tonight after Monday's derby defeat was followed by this grim 4-1 home loss to Falkirk.

While the result might suggest the Kirkcaldy men were blown apart, they simply conceded poor goals in an evenly contested match, with goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert having a rare bad day at the office.

The 3-1 half-time lead certainly flattered the Bairns, but after losing a sloppy fourth goal straight after the restart, a Raith side bereft of confidence and lacking in leaders was well beaten long before the full-time whistle was blown.

Without a win in eight, and with cracks appearing in the defensive strength that had been partly making up for the recent lack of goals, there is reason to be concerned, especially with a gap now opening to the top four, and teams below closing in.

After a run of just two goals in 10 and a half hours, boss Gary Locke fielded a new look attack, dropping Declan McManus and Rudi Skacel to the bench to give new signings Ryan Hardie and Ryan Stevenson their first start, and the impact was immediate.

Rovers looked a bigger threat right from kick-off, winning two corners inside the opening three minutes, with Stevenson's long range effort deflected wide, while he also got his head to a Bobby Barr delivery but his effort looped wide.

The bustling striker was involved again in the sixth minute, coming off worse in a challenge for a cross ball with Falkirk keeper Danny Rodgers and requiring lengthy treatment before groggily returning to the park to set up the opening goal.

Despite clearly suffering the effects of the head knock, Stevenson managed to win a ball on the edge of the Bairns box, before playing Johnston in behind the defence to clip the ball over the advancing goalkeeper, who got a touch but couldn't keep it out.

So far, so good for Rovers - 1-0 up and playing well - but things fell apart in spectacular fashion over the next half an hour.

Falkirk had barely threatened when Ross Callachan fouled John Baird on the edge of the box in the 16th minute. Up stepped Myles Hippolyte to curl a stunning free-kick over the wall and into the postage stamp corner, leaving Cuthbert with no chance.

It became a double blow for Rovers a few minutes later as Stevenson, who had provided a much-needed presence in attack, had to go off, replaced by McManus, a striker who has been struggling to deliver the goals to match his overall hard-working displays.

Rovers confidence was shaken but there was no indication of the collapse to come as a flowing one-touch move on 22 minutes finished with Johnston setting up Callachan for a shooting chance inside the box. The midfielder's effort was spilled by Rodgers then hacked clear by the Bairns defence.

Sixty seconds later Raith were in the Falkirk box again - this time Johnston playing Hardie through on the angle - but a weak effort was easily held by Rodgers.

Then came the sucker punch at the other end as Bob McHugh controlled a pass and turned Kyle Benedictus all in one motion to create space inside the box before thumping a low effort beyond Cuthbert, who seemed to fall asleep at his near post, to put the visitors 2-1 up.

The key moments of this game arrived 10 minutes before half-time - and it involved both goalies as a stunning save at one end was followed by suspect 'keeping at the other.

Raith looked set to equalise as McManus met Johnston's cross flush on the forehead six yards out, but Rodgers pulled off an incredible one-handed stop to preserve the Bairns' lead, and leave the substitute exasperated.

The visitors raced up the other end and Sibbald turned his marker 25 yards out before firing a low shot straight down the throat of Cuthbert, whose midguided attempts to save with his legs ended up with the ball in the back of his net.

Cuthbert has been exceptional for Raith for a season and a half now and the veteran number one will hope to put this down as a rare off day.

It proved a costly error as in that moment, Rovers confidence completely drained away, heads went down, and disappointment in the stands quickly turned to anger as three successive crosses failed to even reach the Falkirk box - poor delivery being a feature of recent games.

A team that had scored just twice in the previous seven fixtures now required the same number of goals in 45 minutes just to rescue a draw.

But any hopes of a comeback were dashed almost straight after the restart as lacklustre defending allowed Tony Gallacher to reach the by-line unchallenged before pulling back for an unmarked Sibbald, whose effort from 18 yards was deflected past Cuthbert by a poorly positioned Benedictus.

And that was it - game over - with Falkirk able to park the bus and comfortably see out the remainder of the match against a team devoid of ideas, but full of errors.

Aside from Mark Stewart, who showed some passion after coming off the bench, and one or two others who at least showed some determination, most of the Rovers team had lost all heart and looked like they simply wanted full-time.

The defeat leaves Locke's men five points adrift in the race for the top four, although a team without a win in eight should possibly be more concerned by the fact they are now just a point ahead of Dunfermline and Queen of the South, and six points from relegation trouble.

Raith went on a similar bad run last season, winning just one of 13 league games between October and February, before coming good for the run in. If this team is to do something similar, there needs to be a lot more character shown than was on display at Stark's Park this afternoon.

Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Thomson, Davidson, Benedictus, McHattie (Stewart 57), Thompson, Johnston, Callachan, Stevenson (McManus 20), Hardie, B.Barr. Not used: Skacel, Roberts, Coustrain, Lennox.

Booked: Benedictus.

Falkirk: Rodgers, Muirhead, Taiwo, Kerr, Baird (Shepherd 77), Sibbald, Hippolyte, Grant, McHugh, Gallacher, Watson (Gasparotto 81). Not used: Kidd, Leahy, Miller, Craigen, Thomson.

Booked: Watson, Hippolyte.

Referee: Andrew Dallas.

Attendance: 2202