Points more important than the performance

ANY football club that has gone five games without a win would gladly sacrifice a performance for the points.

That is why Raith Rovers won’t be overly concerned if they don’t get many plaudits for this ugly win in Hamilton on Saturday.

Rovers got the result they badly wanted, but only after playing their part in as poor a game as you’ll ever see at this level.

It was so bad that the teams could easily be brought to trial for bringing the principles of the ‘beautiful game’ into disrepute.

Any credit on offer should be reserved for the Rovers defence for keeping a clean sheet just seven days after conceding four in a Fife derby, albeit they were up against a Hamilton side that offered very little going forward.

Grant Murray rang the changes, not only in terms of personnel but also team shape as he switched to a 4-3-3 formation - a system that worked so well in a League Cup tie in Dingwall earlier in the season.

Laurie Ellis returned to the line-up and restored a sense of order and calm to a back four that was so brutally exposed by Cowdenbeath.

Simon Mensing moved into a midfield holding role, and was Rovers best player on the day.

An uneventful first half had 0-0 written all over it until, with just seconds left, Rovers grabbed what proved to be the winner.

It was a real mess of a goal, in keeping with the overall standard of play, as Hamilton’s defence made a hash of clearing their lines, allowing Greig Spence to completely mishit an attempted shot, slicing the ball straight up into the air.

It fell kindly for the alert Allan Walker who stuck out a boot and the ball rattled against the underside of the bar, bouncing down well over the line before rebounding back out. It was clear to almost everyone in the stadium that a goal had been scored – but seemingly not to the assistant referee looking along the line, or to referee Brian Colvin himself.

We all waited for the officials to award the goal, but they hesitated until Hamilton defender Mikey Devlin smashed the ball into the net in frustration, effectively making their minds up – and sparing them from potentially botching up an easy decision!

Neither team had played well, but Rovers arguably deserved their lead having had a stonewall penalty kick turned down minutes earlier when Brian Graham tumbled to the ground under the challenge of Martin Canning.

Graham’s general hold-up play was the feature of the first half as he gave the Accies centre-halves the runaround, but the lack of cutting edge from both teams ensured neither goalkeeper was exerted.

It was a surprise then when David McGurn failed to re-emerge for the second half, being replaced by Ross Laidlaw, having seemingly picked up an injury from taking an occasional goal kick.

If you assumed the standard of play could only improve in the second half you were wrong – it got worse.

The game turned into a competition for giving the ball away, with Rovers guilty of surrendering possession often and cheaply.

Most First Division teams, at home, would punish a team who kept giving them the ball back, but fortunately for the visitors, Hamilton had ran out of ideas long before the full-time whistle.

The hosts applied some pressure, but Laidlaw was not not forced into a single save as Rovers defended solidly against a team that offered little, although credit must be given to manager Murray, who had Hamilton watched, and got his tactics spot on.

But if Rovers can go away from home and win with a performance that left so much to be desired, it doesn’t say much for the standard of this year’s first division.