Perfect ten sends Raith top of the table

Raith Rovers 2 Forfar Athletic 1

Saturday, 6th January 2018, 9:13 pm
Updated Saturday, 6th January 2018, 9:18 pm
Greig Spence celebrates the opening goal with Ross Matthews. Pic: Walter Neilson, Fife Photo Agency

Raith Rovers are back on top of League One after completing a perfect 10 with a narrow victory over bottom of the table Forfar Athletic.

The win extended Raith's 100 per cent home record to ten games, while Ayr's defeat at home to 10-man Arbroath meant the Kirkcaldy side moved one point clear of their title rivals with two games in hand ahead of next week's top of the table clash at Stark's Park.

As Barry Smith acknowledged afterwards, Rovers are now "in a good place" after, at one point, falling eight points behind the Somerset Park side, but with 17 league games still left, the current position is nothing to get carried with.

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Raith's current form, however, with 12 hard-fought points secured in the last 14 days, starting the same 11 each time, is certainly encouraging and maintaining the formidable home record will only stand them in good stead down the stretch.

Rovers played good stuff at times and had enough second half chances to make this a more comfortable scoreline against a Forfar side who showed, in glimpses, that they can be a dangerous outfit, as proved by their recent victory at Somerset Park.

The visitors certainly started brightly and Euan Murray was called to make a goal-saving challenge inside two minutes as a Forfar corner fell kindly for Michael Travis just six yards out.

Rovers soon started exert some authority with Iain Davidson striding out of defence on 11 minutes to start a move that ended with Dario Zanatta's 18-yard piledriver being spilled by Michael McCallum before being mopped up by the defence.

Raith's opener arrived just two minutes later with a well-worked move which started with goalkeeper Graeme Smith picking out Liam Buchanan from a kick-out.

The striker controlled brilliantly, turned and fed Ross Matthews down the right wing, whose low cross was perfect for Greig Spence to steer the ball home from six yards for his sixth goal in seven outings - a striker in form.

Rovers lead lasted just nine minutes though as they were punished for slack marking. David Cox produced some neat footwork before crossing for Josh Peters who found acres of space in a packed box to shoot home on the turn from 12 yards.

Just as they did in Tuesday's Fife derby, Raith's response to a setback was to step up a gear and they got their noses back in front four minutes later, albeit with a helping hand from the Forfar defence.

Zanatta, who tormented the defence all afternoon, sent over a dangerous ball to the back post where Forfar's trialist left back, in attempting to steer it behind for a corner kick, only succeeded in putting into his own net.

That was the only gift given by the Forfar defence, however, as they prevented Raith extending their lead with several blocks and interceptions, although more clinical finishing would have put the hosts out of sight in the second half.

The visitors looked dangerous for a spell after the break, helped by the introduction of the sub Dale Hilson, recently signed from St Mirren, but apart from a Peters effort that sliced wide, Raith were never in real danger.

In fact, the longer the match wore on, the more dominant Raith became with Scott Robertson and Lewis Vaughan bossing the middle of the park.

The best chance came on 69 minutes when Zanatta was played through by Buchanan but was denied by McCallum, the ball looping up off the 'keeper's leg and onto the roof of the net.

Dave McKay also went close with a snapshot from a corner, while Ross Matthews also tested McCallum with a low effort from the right side of the box that the goalie gathered at the second attempt.

Raith kept trying, but never quite managed, to put Forfar away and with six minutes left Vaughan nut-megged a defender on the edge of box but his shot trickled inches wide.

By full-time, Raith had a complete monopoly on possession with a dispirited Forfar team running out of steam.

The scoreline kept it tense, but in truth Raith were never uncomfortable, and cheers from the home fans at full-time were extra loud, safe in the knowledge that their team were back where they want to be ... and where they hope to stay.

Raith Rovers: Smith, Thomson, Murray, Spence, Robertson, Buchanan (Court 89), Vaughan, Matthews, Davidson, McKay, Zanatta. Not used: Lennox, Osei, Herron, Hendry, Watson, Berry.

Booked: Davidson

Forfar Athletic: McCallum, Bain, Trialist (Hilson 45), Whyte (McNaughton 71), Travis, Malone, Cox, Millar, Aitken, Peters (See 68), Duthie. Not used: Cregg, Lochead, McBride, Adam.

Booked: Millar, Duthie, Cox

Referee: Greg Aitken

Attendance: 1775