Alex Samuel hat-trick inflicts fourth loss in row on Raith Rovers

2024 is shaping up to be anything but a happy new year for Raith Rovers after being hit by their fourth defeat on the spin hosting Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday.
Goal-scorer Lewis Vaughan going past Remi Savage during Raith Rovers' 3-2 loss at home at Kirkcaldy's Stark's Park on Saturday to Inverness Caledonian Thistle (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)Goal-scorer Lewis Vaughan going past Remi Savage during Raith Rovers' 3-2 loss at home at Kirkcaldy's Stark's Park on Saturday to Inverness Caledonian Thistle (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)
Goal-scorer Lewis Vaughan going past Remi Savage during Raith Rovers' 3-2 loss at home at Kirkcaldy's Stark's Park on Saturday to Inverness Caledonian Thistle (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

That tally of four losses in all competitions in their five games since Hogmanay is twice as many as the Kirkcaldy club had inflicted on them in the entirety of the season up to that point and that’s a losing streak manager Ian Murray wants to see halted sooner rather than later.

A hat-trick in less than ten minutes from Alex Samuel – on 31 minutes, 36 and 40 – sandwiched by Jack Hamilton’s 25th-minute opener for the hosts at Stark’s Park and what turned out to be a consolation effort from Lewis Vaughan on 52 ended a two-match winning run for Raith against the Highlanders after finally lifting what fans dubbed their Caley curse in September following almost 22 years without a league victory versus them.

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Hamilton’s goal was a close-range header from a Josh Mullin corner and Vaughan’s was a shot through visiting goalkeeper Mark Ridgers’ legs from six yards out following an assist from Zak Rudden, a new loan signing from Dundee.

Raith Rovers manager Ian Murray  after watching his team lose 3-2 at home at Kirkcaldy's Stark's Park on Saturday to Inverness Caledonian Thistle (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)Raith Rovers manager Ian Murray  after watching his team lose 3-2 at home at Kirkcaldy's Stark's Park on Saturday to Inverness Caledonian Thistle (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)
Raith Rovers manager Ian Murray after watching his team lose 3-2 at home at Kirkcaldy's Stark's Park on Saturday to Inverness Caledonian Thistle (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

Welsh striker Samuel, on loan from Ross County, first beat home goalkeeper Kevin Darowski with a right-footed shot, from a Nathan Shaw assist, from the centre of the box after springing the hosts’ attempted offside trap.

The 28-year-old’s next was a shot from the edge of the box, also with his right foot, but the follow-up that earned him Saturday’s match-ball was supplied by his left foot, volleying from the centre of the box from a Cameron Harper corner.

Saturday’s defeat, in front of a crowd of 3,387 – the Fifers’ fourth in their 22 Scottish Championship fixtures so far this season – sees them lose ground on table-toppers Dundee United following their goalless draw at home to Dunfermline Athletic at the weekend. United are now on 45 points to Rovers’ 24 and have a game in hand.

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Manager Duncan Ferguson’s visitors remain third from bottom, now on 24 points from 22 fixtures.

Lewis Vaughan and Remi Savage vying for the ball during Raith Rovers' 3-2 loss at home at Kirkcaldy's Stark's Park on Saturday to Inverness Caledonian Thistle (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)Lewis Vaughan and Remi Savage vying for the ball during Raith Rovers' 3-2 loss at home at Kirkcaldy's Stark's Park on Saturday to Inverness Caledonian Thistle (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)
Lewis Vaughan and Remi Savage vying for the ball during Raith Rovers' 3-2 loss at home at Kirkcaldy's Stark's Park on Saturday to Inverness Caledonian Thistle (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

Next for Raith in the league is a top-of-the-table match at home to Dundee United on Friday, February 16, with kick-off at 7.45pm.

Ahead of that, though, they’ve got a Scottish Professional Football League Trust Trophy semi-final hosting Airdrieonians this Friday at 7.40pm as they go in search of their first win against the North Lanarkshire outfit since February 2020.

Murray, 42, blames a leaky defence for his side’s loss to Caley, telling Raith TV afterwards: “You can’t lose three goals at home and expect to win games. You can’t lose four goals at home against Ayr United and expect to win. You can’t lose two at Queen’s Park and expect to win.

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“You have to be much more resilient than that. You have to be stronger than that. You have to be able to battle through hard times.

Scott Brown in action for Raith Rovers during their 3-2 loss at home at Kirkcaldy's Stark's Park on Saturday to Inverness Caledonian Thistle (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)Scott Brown in action for Raith Rovers during their 3-2 loss at home at Kirkcaldy's Stark's Park on Saturday to Inverness Caledonian Thistle (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)
Scott Brown in action for Raith Rovers during their 3-2 loss at home at Kirkcaldy's Stark's Park on Saturday to Inverness Caledonian Thistle (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

“I’m bitterly disappointed, that’s for sure.

“We had a crazy 15-minute spell when we lost a really poor first goal. It was probably the worst one. Not often this season have a team got in behind us like that and taken our ten outfield players out of the game with one simple pass. It was really poor defensively as a team. Then they scored another two in quick succession.”