Late equaliser sees Raith Rovers' Highland hoodoo continue
A late strike from Reece McAlear denied Raith Rovers a rare victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle as the teams drew 1-1 in the Highlands.
The Kirkcaldy side had taken the lead in the first half through a fabulous drive from Ethan Ross but Billy Dodds’ side improved in the second half and a draw was probably a fair result, though it will feel like a defeat for John McGlynn’s men who haven’t beaten Caley side in 22 years.
Raith made two changes from the derby draw with Dunfermline.
Tom Lang and Matej Poplatnik dropped to the bench with defenders Christophe Berra – returning from suspension – and Frankie Musonda slotting in as Rovers deployed a change of formation with three at the back, with Reghan Tumilty and Liam Dick playing as wing backs.
New signing, striker Jamie Gullan, was among the subs at the Caledonian Stadium where supporter numbers were still restricted to just 500 due to Covid-19 guidelines.
After just three minutes there was a Raith claim for a penalty when a Ben Williamson shot looked as though it could have hit an Inverness arm, but referee Don Robertson waved play on.
Williamson had another attempt on 10 minutes which went wide as Raith had the better of the early exchanges and they took the lead in sensational style on 23 minutes.
Ross picked the ball up on the halfway line and with the defence backing off, strode forward and unleashed a goal of the season contender into the top of the net from 25 yards.
Two minutes later Caley had the ball in the net through Billy McKay but thankfully for Raith it was ruled offside.
On 35 minutes Raith went close when a rasping, low drive from Ross Matthews was turned around the post by Inverness 'keeper Mark Ridgers.
Two minutes later Ross passed up a good chance when a deflection from a Matthews shot landed at his feet but with time and space he side footed a poor attempt wide of goal.
The first half ended with Ross's wonder strike separating the sides, though Raith had been the better side during the first 45.
Caley made a double substitution at the break, with former Raith striker Manny Duku coming on, as they tried to get back into the match.
But it was Raith with the first chance after just 90 seconds of the second half as Matthews flicked over from a downward header from Berra, before Ethon Varian almost got onto the end of a low cross from Ross.
Five minutes into the half, the influential Ross went off injured to be replaced by Gullan making his first appearance as a permanent Raith player after three previous loan spells at Stark's Park.
Two minutes later McKay went close with a header for the home side who were now looking more of a threat, sub McAlear then hit a shot over as Caley pushed for an equaliser.
Gullan hit a curling shot wide just after the hour mark with Duku having a go at the other end but his attempt was easily saved by Jamie MacDonald.
A break from defence ended with a Reghan Tumilty shot going wide of goal on 69 minutes, then Sam Stanton had another effort shortly after but Ridgers saved comfortably.
Caley were pushing men forward in an attempt to find a goal and it was a gamble which paid off with five minutes to go, McAlear scored with a low drive which went past MacDonald and into the net.
As the match passed the 90 minute mark both sides had the chance to win.
Sub Aaron Arnott could have snatched it for Raith but Ridgers saved his shot, Caley broke immediately and at the other end MacDonald did well to block from McKay.
Though a point away at Inverness is never a bad result, it’s now four Championship matches without a win for Raith.