Raith Rovers retain top spot in Scottish Championship despite deja vu at Airdrie

Lightning struck twice for Raith Rovers as they lost for only the second time this Scottish Championship campaign on Saturday – to the same opposition, by the same scoreline and at the same ground as on the prior occasion.
Adam Frizzell and Raith Rovers' Dylan Easton in action during the Fifers' 1-0 loss at Airdrie's Excelsior Stadium on Saturday (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group)Adam Frizzell and Raith Rovers' Dylan Easton in action during the Fifers' 1-0 loss at Airdrie's Excelsior Stadium on Saturday (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group)
Adam Frizzell and Raith Rovers' Dylan Easton in action during the Fifers' 1-0 loss at Airdrie's Excelsior Stadium on Saturday (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group)

That unwelcome helping of deja vu might fall a long way short of conferring Inverness Caledonian Thistle-like bogey team status on Airdrieonians, current Raith manager Ian Murray’s previous club, but it’s seen them take seven points out of a possible nine against the Fifers so far this season.

That concession of three points on the road hasn’t cost Raith their top-dog status in the division, however, as nearest challengers Dundee United lost at the weekend too, by 3-2 at home to Greenock Morton, leaving the Kirkcaldy club three points clear in pole position, with 44 points from 20 fixtures. United have a game in hand, though, and a goal difference 21 better.

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Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Airdrie’s Exclesior Stadium ended the 16-game unbeaten run in all competitions the Kirkcaldy club had been on since losing there in September to a 73rd-minute Callum Gallagher goal.

Nikolay Todorov celebrating after scoring to make it 1-0 to Airdrie against Raith Rovers at the weekend (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group)Nikolay Todorov celebrating after scoring to make it 1-0 to Airdrie against Raith Rovers at the weekend (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group)
Nikolay Todorov celebrating after scoring to make it 1-0 to Airdrie against Raith Rovers at the weekend (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group)

This time round, a 24th-minute Nikolay Todorov header, from a Mason Hancock cross, past visiting goalkeeper Andrew McNeil was enough to earn victory for player-manager Rhys McCabe’s hosts in front of a crowd of 2,118.

That made it two goals in two games versus Raith for Todorov, 27, as the Bulgarian striker also came up with a 55th-minute equaliser at Stark’s Park in November after Callum Smith had put Murray’s men in front 11 minutes before.

To add insult to injury, the visitors also had defender Ross Millen sent off six minutes into stoppage time at the end of a game unlikely to rank among their highlights of this season.

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Raith assistant manager Colin Cameron now wants to see the same response he and Murray got after their team’s last loss – and unbeaten run stretching into double figures.

Airdrie player-manager Rhys McCabe on the ball versus Raith Rovers on Saturday (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group)Airdrie player-manager Rhys McCabe on the ball versus Raith Rovers on Saturday (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group)
Airdrie player-manager Rhys McCabe on the ball versus Raith Rovers on Saturday (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group)

“We’re disappointed,” he told Raith TV afterwards. “We’ve lost a game of football.

“We’ve not had to deal with that too often this season but it’s never nice losing.

“We’re all disappointed because we know we were below the standards that we’ve set this season, and in this league if you drop below the standards you’ve set, you’re not going to win.

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“When we’re at it, it’s quite free-flowing and we create chances, but I don’t think we created too many chances today.

Raith Rovers' Daniel O'Reilly and Airdrie goal-scorer Nikolay Todorov vying for the ball on Saturday (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group)Raith Rovers' Daniel O'Reilly and Airdrie goal-scorer Nikolay Todorov vying for the ball on Saturday (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group)
Raith Rovers' Daniel O'Reilly and Airdrie goal-scorer Nikolay Todorov vying for the ball on Saturday (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group)

“We huffed and puffed in the second half, early on especially, and in the last few minutes we put them under a little bit of pressure but not really. I don’t think their goalkeeper really had a save to make over the course of the 90 minutes, so that was disappointing from our point of view.

“We’ll dust ourselves down. I know what the boys are like and they’ll want to put that right.

“At this moment in time, we’re hurting because we’ve lost and we never want to do that.

“Last time we suffered a defeat was here and hopefully we can do the same thing we did after that – go on a 16 or 17-game unbeaten run, from now to the end of the season.”