Raith Rovers' persistence pays off with late treble against Montrose

Kieron Bowie steers Raith's opener past Montrose goalkeeper Allan Fleming. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Kieron Bowie steers Raith's opener past Montrose goalkeeper Allan Fleming. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Raith Rovers 3 Montrose 0

Raith Rovers returned to the top of League One with a margin of victory that looked unlikely heading into the final quarter of an hour.

For approaching 80 minutes the home side had struggled to break down a well-drilled Montrose side, but three late goals was the team's reward for going the distance on a hot afternoon in Kirkcaldy.

A patient passing game had worn down the opposition, and when the gaps eventually opened, Rovers' quality shone through with Brad Spencer's killer pass, and Kieron Bowie's deadly finish, breaking the deadlock.

The goal completely changed the complexion for the remaining 10 minutes, and the returning Jamie Gullan added a second four minutes later, living up to his 'Hammer' nickname with a thumping long-range finish, while trialist Boris Melingui got the third in injury-time.

A good day for Rovers was further enhanced in the shape of Falkirk's surprise defeat at Clyde which allowed the Kirkcaldy side to move back to the top of the table.

It could have been a more comfortable match for the hosts had Grant Anderson taken a glorious chance to open the scoring after six minutes, but after finding himself completely unmarked six yards out, he was denied at point-blank range by Allan Fleming.

Thereafter, Rovers made life difficult for themselves by playing themselves into trouble at the back as Montrose harried and pressured them into mistakes.

On 24 minutes, a loose pass from Kieran MacDonald was picked up by Josh Skelly, who forced David McGurn to spill his powerful drive, but alert defending from Iain Davidson ensured the danger was cleared.

Two minutes later Martin Rennie delivered a terrific ball to the back post where Graham Webster should have done better with a diving header which he sent over the bar as the visitors threatened to take the lead, as they had done at Falkirk Stadium the previous week.

At the other end, a Cruyff turn from Bowie had the home fans purring, but like much of the opening 45 minutes, the attack fizzled out.

It took until the final minute of the half to get a clear look at the away goal, with Spencer's ball over the top finding Anderson, who did well to create the chance for himself, chipping the first defender, then sprinting past the next, but from a good position in the box, he fired over the bar.

The pattern continued into the second half, and John McGlynn decided an early change was required, with on-loan Hibs forward Gullan replacing Anderson, and Bowie moving through the middle alongside Lewis Allan, who had looked in need of support.

Within a minute, Bowie had a penalty claim as Sean Dillon, in the act of slipping, manouvered his body between the Raith striker and the ball forcing him to the ground, but referee Scott Lambie saw nothing untoward.

Montrose were less of an attacking threat after the break, however, McGurn had to look lively to push away a Webster header from an Iain Campbell free-kick.

At the other end, Allan did well to ride a challenge and set up a dangerous attack, but Regan Hendry dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box.

Rovers continued to push and probe, even going more direct at times, but with the home side ultra-focused in their defending, and chances few and far between, it was difficult to see where a goal was coming from.

But home perseverance paid off on 80 minutes when Spencer worked a neat one-two with Gullan before threading the ball through to Bowie, who still had plenty to do but, on his weaker right foot, he steered the ball beyond Fleming at his near post.

The goal was the teenager's reward for his tireless efforts in stretching the Mo defence, and such is his importance to the squad, you have to keep reminding yourself he is just a 16-year-old boy. It was also his last involvement as he was promptly replaced by Melingui.

Memories of the previous week in Stranraer, when Rovers turned a winning position into a losing one in the final seven minutes, suggested the match was not yet won.

However, any tension was removed when Gullan collected the ball in space and fired a powerful low strike past Fleming from 25 yards on 84 minutes.

A late cameo up front for defender Dave McKay led to a third goal in injury-time as he harried the Mo defence into a mistake, which left fellow sub Melingui with a one-on-one with Fleming, and he took his time before firing into the bottom corner.

Equally as pleasing, given the number of goals conceded recently, was the clean sheet at the other end, and Rovers will need a few more of those if they are to maintain a strong title challenge this season.

Raith Rovers: McGurn, Miller, MacDonald, Davidson, Benedictus, Hendry, Allan (McKay 90), Anderson (Gullan 56), Matthews, Spencer, Bowie (Trialist 81). Not used: Munro, Mendy, Watson, Tait.

Montrose: Fleming, Ballantyne, I.Campbell, Dillon, Allan (R.Campbell 76), Waddell, Webster, Cregg, Skelly (McLean 70), Rennie (Lyons 65), Milne. Not used: Johnston, Lennox.

Referee: Scott Lambie

Attendance: 1437