No case for the defence in Raith Rovers horror show against Ayr United

Matej Poplatnik has his shirt pulled by Ayr captain Sean McGinty during Raith's 4-0 home defeat. (Pic:  Fife Photo Agency)Matej Poplatnik has his shirt pulled by Ayr captain Sean McGinty during Raith's 4-0 home defeat. (Pic:  Fife Photo Agency)
Matej Poplatnik has his shirt pulled by Ayr captain Sean McGinty during Raith's 4-0 home defeat. (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)
Play-off chasing Raith Rovers slumped to a shock 4-0 defeat to Ayr United at Stark’s Park.

John McGlynn’s side went into the match with morale high after a good showing against Partick Thistle last weekend and a superb 2-1 win in midweek at Kilmarnock in the SPFL Trust Trophy semi-final, but the game was more or less over by half time with Ayr - who had lost at home to bottom side Queen of the South last Saturday - 3-0 ahead in what the Raith boss said was a “terrible” defensive display.

There were two changes to the cup semi win - the final confirmed for Sunday, April 3 at Airdrie’s Excelsior Stadium - Dario Zanatta and Ethon Varain dropped out to be replaced by Ethan Ross and Matej Poplatnik with Rovers starting with 4-2-3-1 formation.

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The home side could have opened the scoring with less than a minute played.

Ben Williamson was played in by Poplatnik and probably should have done better but side-footed his effort wide.

However it was the visitors who would get the early goal - Ayr striker Tomi Adeloye poked the ball in at the near post in the second minute.

Rovers were shell-shocked but gradually got back into the game.

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Williamson nodded an effort wide from a good cross by Liam Dick before the same player had a chance to equalise just after the 20 minute mark following a great move down the Honest Men’s left, but his shot was blocked.

Ayr almost made it 2-0 five minutes later, Adeloye with a header which just narrowly missed the target, but they would add a second after half an hour.

James Maxwell was played through with just Jamie MacDonald to beat and he made no mistake low to the keeper’s right.

Moments later and it could have been three.

Captain Kyle Benedictus stuck out a leg to block a cross and the ball went inches past the Raith goal with MacDonald beaten.

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But the third goal for the visitors wasn’t long in coming and it was all too easy.

Mark McKenzie made his way into the box on the Rovers left and his cross was turned in by James Maxwell.

McGlynn instantly made a change, bringing on Sean Mackie for Liam Dick, before MacDonald saved well from a Kerr McInroy free kick.

Rovers were second to every ball at this point and it was a mercy when referee Don Robertson blew for half time, the team departing for the dressing room to a chorus of boos from the home support in the crowd of 1,513.

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The second half began with Jamie Gullan replacing Aidan Connolly as Rovers switched to a front two in an effort to get back into the match.

They came close twice in the space of 60 seconds.

Firstly Ross made a good run into the Ayr box and Ross Matthews slid in to try and get on the end of his cross but put his effort too high.

Then Ross himself had a shot blocked with the ball bouncing centimetres past the United goal.

Poplatnik mishit the ball when presented with a chance shortly after, Adeloye should have done better at the other end but his effort was weak and MacDonald saved.

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Raith made a double substitution with Williamson and Poplatnik going off to be replaced by Aaron Arnott and Ethon Varian but just seconds later Ayr scored their fourth through Sam Ashford, slotting the ball under MacDonald from close range with 25 minutes to go after latching on to a simple ball over the top.

Sam Stanton had a good run and shot which was blocked on 70 minutes but Ayr should have had a fifth when Mark McKenzie was left unmarked at the back post from a McInroy free kick, but shot wide.

Reghan Tumilty hit the post for Rovers deep into injury time but frankly it would have been a consolation goal which was undeserved.

It was an afternoon to forget for the home side who completely went to pieces after the second Ayr goal, and whose goalkeeper, Aidan McAdams, didn’t have a single save to make during the 90 minutes.

The result saw Raith in fifth place in the Championship table with Ayr in sixth place having closed the gap in points to just seven.