Double satisfaction for Raith Rovers after victory in Airdrie

Grant Anderson slides in to score Raith's winning goal in Airdrie. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Grant Anderson slides in to score Raith's winning goal in Airdrie. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Airdrieonians 0 Raith Rovers 1

Clean sheets and victories away from home have been hard to come by, but Raith Rovers deservedly got both after a dogged performance in Airdrie.

In a game of few chances, Grant Anderson's strike 10 minutes after half-time was enough to take the Kirkcaldy side back to the top of League One.

Rovers were not at their free-flowing best on a slow and sticky astro, but there was a solidity to the team that has too often been missing on the road, built around the experience of Steven Anderson at the heart of the defence, and the hard work of those around him.

From open play, Airdrie were barely able to lay a glove on John McGlynn's men, only applying some pressure in the latter stages from long throws into the box, which is significant progress for a Raith side that had lost seven goals in losing its previous two away matches.

After his goal-scoring return to the starting 11 the previous week, the absence of Lewis Vaughan from the team sheet was a significant blow although a hamstring strain picked up in training on Friday is not thought to be serious.

His creativity in the number 10 role was certainly missed because for all Rovers' had control of the match, they were unable to translate that superiority into openings, with Anderson doing well to take one of the few chances created.

The only downside was an injury to goalkeeper Ross Munro, who suffered a dislocated shoulder in the first half, although after swift treatment from paramedics on the scene, who managed to pop the joint back into place, it is hoped his recovery can be a quick one.

Rovers bench was boosted with the return of John Baird for his third spell at the club, as well as the return from injury of birthday boy Kieron Bowie, who turned 17 today.

Anderson started the game in sprightly fashion, pouncing on a loose touch in the Airdrie defence to drive for goal, and although his shot appeared to strike the arm of Sean Crighton, referee Steven Reid was unmoved by the penalty claims.

Raith had the ball in the net on nine minutes when S.Anderson headed home a Jamie Gullan free-kick but the offside flag cut the celebrations short.

The closest Airdrie came to scoring came a minute later when a corner kick saw Munro spill a back-post header back into the goalmouth, and in the ensuing melee, Kieran MacDonald did brilliantly to make a goal-line block.

Munro was injured trying to retrieve the danger and was replaced by Davie McGurn.

The game became a real stalemate thereafter with Raith enjoying plenty possession but having nothing to show for it.

Iain Davidson flirted with danger in bundling Calum Gallagher to the ground in the box, but again the referee decided against awarding a penalty.

Airdrie also lost goalkeeper David Hutton to a calf injury, replaced by Reece Willison, but none of the four goalkeepers on the park in the first half had much action to contend with.

The game was there for whoever took the initiative, and Rovers made the breakthrough ten minutes after the break thanks to a patient, purposeful move - and a moment of attacking quality from an unlikely source.

Kyle Benedictus showed great desire to join the attack, and also to avoid the nosebleeds that centre-halves can often experience in the opposition third with a skilful turn taking him to the by-line before his drilled cross was turned into the net from six yards by Anderson.

That's four goals in seven league games for the 33-year-old, who has returned to the club a better player than the one who left in 2016.

A knackered-looking Gullan was replaced by Bowie on 70 minutes, and then there was a scare at the back when S.Anderson was injured in collecting a booking for thwarting an Airdrie attack, but after treatment he was able to continue.

It is always a sign of a good away performance when the home fans start booing and that was the case around 10 minutes from the end as Airdrie struggled to find any way through Rovers' well-drilled rearguard.

Joao Victoria replaced goalscorer Anderson and had a chance to settle the contest in the final minute but Willison made the block.

Airdrie ramped up some pressure in injury-time, Paul McKay's long throws required some desperate defending, while a cheaply conceded corner by S.Anderson in injury-time, over-hitting a passback to McGurn, his first mistake in a Raith jersey, saw goalkeeper Willison come racing up from the back.

As they had all game, Rovers defended their box well and got it clear, forcing Willison into a desperate retreat back up the park, and only a last-ditch block prevented Bowie from scoring a tap-in at the back post after Hendry led the counter attack.

The final whistle came just seconds later, to the delight of a large travelling support.