Raith Rovers sunk by sub's super second-half strike

Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1, Raith Rovers 0

By Ralph Mellon
Saturday, 7th August 2021, 5:31 pm
Updated Monday, 9th August 2021, 9:24 am
Christophe Berra boots a defensive ball clear for Raith Rovers (picture by Trevor Martin)
Christophe Berra boots a defensive ball clear for Raith Rovers (picture by Trevor Martin)

Raith, minus star striker Lewis Vaughan, fell prey to the skills of former hit man Manny Duku, whose lay-off presented Inverness substitute Roddy MacGregor with the chance to score the only goal of the game.

The 19-year-old hit home a cracking volley, worthy of winning any match, with just 10 minutes remaining, to leave Rovers still looking for their first win in the cinch Scottish Championship.

There was a controversial moment a couple of minutes earlier when Rovers sub Ethon Varian was hauled down outside the box by home ‘keeper Mark Ridgers – but the Inverness stopper was only yellow-carded.

At the beginning, Tom Lang had stepped up from the bench for Rovers and Ross Matthews started, as Vaughan and Brad Spencer were out.

Following an even opening spell, the action hotted up around the midway point of the half when Duku just failed to connect with David Carson's delivery into the Raith box.

Rovers converted that let-off into a counter-attack, with Aidan Connolly’s cross being headed clear by Danny Devine.

Duku then left Reghan Tumilty hopelessly caught out after he misjudged a high ball but the former Raith striker was brought down by Christophe Berra, who was yellow-carded.

Matthews was not far away on the half hour with a shot from the edge of the box for Rovers, while Devine of the Caley Jags was booked moments earlier for a challenge on Matej Poplatnik.

There was an impressive flurry of play by Raith in midfield and a lengthy array of passing but not much was happening for them in the final third.

Duku had a splendid chance on 36 minutes to give Caley the lead after a nice through ball from the left by Michael Gardyne but Berra got his body in the way and deflected Duku's shot clear of the target. Tom Walsh's ensuing corner kick was knocked clear by visiting ‘keeper Jamie MacDonald.

Poplatnik almost sneaked in between ‘keeper Mark Ridgers and skipper Kirk Broadfoot with a goalmouth interception that would have humiliated Caley – but they got the ball away.

Seconds from half time, Walsh was only inches away with a right-foot outside flick of the boot from Gardyne's cross.

Inverness re-emphasised the threat they posed with chances within seconds of the restart for Duku and their match-winning goalscorer last week, Shane Sutherland.

Matthews of Raith was cautioned on 53 minutes for a challenge on Scott Allardice, while Roddy MacGregor came on after 62 in place of Reece McAlear for Caley.

Raith then replaced Poplatnik with Varian after 66 minutes, while Dylan Tait went off on 72 minutes in favour of Blaise Riley-Snow – who brought out a save from Ridgers with his first touch seconds later.

MacDonald made a great save from an excellent Duku free kick in 67 minutes, having denied his ex-comrade with a fine save from a shot minutes earlier.

There was almost a breakthrough for Raith in 78 minutes when a defensive mix-up let Varian through but the sub was brought down outside the area by Ridgers as the at-fault defenders scampered back to clear. Referee Alan Muir flashed a yellow card at the Caley goalkeeper.

There had been very little between the teams but Inverness produced what proved the killer blow after 80 minutes. An attacking move saw the ball played to Duku, whose flick was volleyed home from 20 yards by substitute MacGregor.

Duku was cautioned a minute later for a late challenge on Lang, while Aaron Doran replaced Walsh seconds after the goal.

Ridgers made a fine save at the feet of Varian as he made his way methodically into the box – and had to time his interception very carefully, as he was on a caution for that earlier foul on the Raith man.

James Keatings took over from Dario Zanatta for Rovers on 85 minutes, while Duku made way for the home side’s Lewis Hyde on 87 minutes.

There was pressure in the closing stages from Raith late on, in the form of long throw-ins into the box by Liam Dick and lengthy kicks upfield by MacDonald, but Rovers could pierce the blue rearguard to grab a draw.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle: Ridgers, Carson, Devine, Broadfoot, Deas, Allardice, McAlear (MacGregor 62), Walsh (Doran 81), Gardyne, Sutherland, Duku (Hyde 87). Subs – MacKay (GK), Harper, McKay, Jamieson.

Raith Rovers: MacDonald, Tumilty, Dick, Berra, Benedictus, Connolly, Matthews, Zanatta (Keatings 85), Lang, Tait (Riley-Snow 72), Poplatnik (Varian 66). Subs – Thomson (GK), McKay, Fotheringham, Arnott.

Referee: Alan Muir.