Nine-man Raith Rovers lose to Inverness in injury time

Matej Poplatnik scores to put Raith 2-1 ahead. (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)Matej Poplatnik scores to put Raith 2-1 ahead. (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)
Matej Poplatnik scores to put Raith 2-1 ahead. (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)
Two late goals consigned nine-man Raith Rovers to an undeserved 3-2 defeat at Stark’s Park against play-off rivals Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

It was impossibly cruel on John McGlynn’s side who looked well on course for the win before referee Colin Steven brandished the first of three red cards in Rovers’ direction with 20 minutes to go.

Quite frankly, the man in the middle - who has a habit of sending off Raith players - had an absolute shocker.

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Raith made one change to the team that began last week’s 1-0 win in Dumfries, with Ethan Ross in for Jamie Gullan who dropped out completely, however a number of first teamers recovered sufficiently from the Illness bug that had swept through the dressing room at Stark’s Park to make it on to the bench.

The match started with Raith employing an attacking 4-4-2 line up in a match that would have a huge bearing on them claiming a top four place, but with only a minute gone Caley almost took the lead.

Joe Hardy outpaced Christophe Berra to latch on to a forward pass and his angled shot smashed against the woodwork and bounced clear.

It was a lucky escape for Raith but 10 minutes later they would open the scoring.

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A Frankie Musonda header from an Ethan Ross corner was cleared to the edge of the box where Aidan Connolly picked it up and his shot took a deflection on its way to the net past Cameron Mackay in the Caley goal.

With 18 minutes gone a superb double save from Jamie MacDonald preserved Rovers’ lead when he saved firstly from Hardy, then denied Shane Sutherland on the follow up.

60 seconds later MacDonald had to look alert again, bravely diving at the feet of Aaron Doran, but was injured in the process and had to be stretchered off. Referee Steven deciding to take no action against the Caley player.

MacDonald was replaced by Robbie Thomson whose first act was to pick the ball out of the net when Shane Sutherland knocked it in from a corner.

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However, it wouldn’t be all square for long as Rovers regained the lead on the half hour mark when Matej Polatnik latched on to a long ball from captain Kyle Benedictus and made no mistake with a low finish.

Just a minute later and Connolly passed up a good chance with an effort that went way over the Inverness goal.

Berra limped off injured to be replaced by Reghan Tumilty before a Connolly corner almost crept in at the far post after coming off the head of an Inverness defender.

In first half injury time Mackay did well to push over a direct free kick from Ross as the first 45 came to an end with Rovers well on top and deserving of their advantage.

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The second half kicked off with no changes to either side and with Rovers shooting towards the home support.

Two minutes in and Doran went down in the Raith box but with the away fans shouting loudly for a penalty, referee Steven waved play on.

At the other end Ethon Varian picked up a loose ball on the edge of the Caley box and his deflected effort almost crept in but the spin took it narrowly wide.

He turned provider just moments later playing the ball through for Poplatnik whose shot clearly took a deflection which sent it wide, but referee Steven awarded a bye kick.

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Raith were well on top but were almost made to pay when a long ball found Billy MacKay one on one and he poked his effort past Thomson, but thankfully for the home side it trickled wide.

Immediately Rovers responded and Ross forced Mackay into a great save from a fierce shot.

But the match was about to swing in Caley’s favour in no small part due to some highly questionable refereeing.

The home side were reduced to 10 men after Bendictus and Kirk Broadfoot squared up to each other after the former was harshly adjudged to have committed a foul.

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Referee Steven sent the Rovers captain packing whilst Broadfoot only received a yellow.

Musonda cleared a scrambled effort from Sutherland off the line before Samuels shot over, but to their credit Raith didn’t look like they were a man short at any stage during the remainder of the match.

However, in the final two minutes it all fell apart.

A Reece McAlear corner fell to sub Logan Chalmers and his deflected effort left Thomson with no chance to make the final score 2-2.

With the match in injury time and Caley now in the ascendency the same player struck again with a low drive to grab an extremely fortunate winner for the visitors.

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Ben Williamson was then sent off for a second booking for dissent, with ref Steven also showing McGlynn the same card after the final whistle.

The result left Raith four points behind Caley who moved into third place, but they gained a point on Partick in fourth after they were thumped 4-0 at home by Hamilton.

Rovers will feel rightly aggrieved at getting nothing from the match where they were up against it throughout, losing their keeper and central defensive pairing during the 90 minutes, but can take heart from an impressive performance.

Unfortunately for them, the same cannot be said for Mr Steven…