Chairman resigns, manager future uncertain after Raith play-off exit

Dejected Raith boss Barry Smith heads for the tunnel after his team's play-off defeat to Alloa. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Dejected Raith boss Barry Smith heads for the tunnel after his team's play-off defeat to Alloa. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Raith Rovers 1 Alloa Athletic 2 (Alloa win 4-1 on aggregate)

Their campaign slogan was Roaring Back, but Raith Rovers will be staying in League One for another season after suffering a play-off exit at the hands of Alloa Athletic.

A 4-1 aggregate defeat to Jim Goodwin's impressive part-timers was followed by the immediate resignation of chairman Alan Young, while the future of manager Barry Smith, whose remit was to deliver promotion at the first attempt, is now also uncertain.

Raith can have few complaints having been beaten by the better side over two legs, with the failure to clinch the league title in front of a packed Stark's Park last weekend ultimately proving too big a setback to recover from.

Following the 2-1 second leg defeat at Stark's Park this afternoon, the first casualty came in the boardroom as, in a statement issued shortly after full-time, chairman Young said: "I have today tendered my resignation as chairman of Raith Rovers. I have also resigned as a director.

"I take full responsibility for our failure to return to the Championship this year and would wish the club all success for the future."

Raith boss Smith was faced with anger from the stands as he made his way down the tunnel at full-time, head bowed, with some calling for his resignation, but the 44-year-old expressed a desire to remain at the helm for another crack at promotion.

"Everybody's extremely disappointed that we've not got Raith Rovers into the Championship," he said.

"I've got another year's contract, and I've still got full belief in myself, the players, and any players that we bring in, that we'll get the club promoted.

"It's then down to them (the board) what decision they make."

For the majority of players, who are now out of contract, the future is equally uncertain.

The financial consequences of another season in League One are sure to hit hard, and whether the club will remain full-time, at the same time as pressing ahead with its plan for an artificial surface, remain to be seen.

With no chairman now in place, and owner John Sim currently out the country, the club is effectively rudderless, although the Press understands a board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, where important discussions over the club's future will take place.

One thing is certain, clear direction and leadership is now required from those in charge of the club's affairs, with the right structure quickly put in place both on and off the park that will give the club the best possible chance of going up at the second attempt.

Raith went into today's second leg needing to overturn a two-goal deficit following a disastrous first leg in Alloa in midweek.

Having failed to hit the net in successive games against the Wasps, Smith rang the changes, bringing strikers Jonny Court and Willis Furtado into the starting XI, along with midfielder John Herron, and switching to a 4-3-3 formation.

Kyle Benedictus also returned to the defence at the expense of Iain Davidson, suspended following his red card in the first leg, as the manager made five changes in total.

The early signs were encouraging as Raith motored forward with Court's height and physical presence giving the Alloa back four a different test to the one they had experienced in the previous two fixtures.

The midfield were getting forward at every opportunity too - something that had been lacking in the first leg - and there was a decent penalty shout in the sixth minute when Herron was barged over in the box but referee Stephen Finnie pointed for a goal kick instead.

Scott Robertson found himself in the left wing position on 14 minutes, and he picked out Lewis Vaughan on the edge of the box but his shot under pressure was held by Neil Parry.

Despite their positive approach, Raith were again finding Alloa's defence a tough nut to crack, with the best chance falling to Regan Hendry on 26 minutes but after he controlled Court's cross at the back post, a defender made a vital block on the six-yard line.

It was typical of Alloa's defending over the three games as they continually denied Raith clear openings in the penalty box, but the onus was on the Kirkcaldy side to come up with the formula to break them down, and in that regard, they were found wanting again.

Vaughan tried his luck from distance and wasn't far away, but Raith's pursuit of a first half opener was beginning to run out of steam when Alloa put a a dagger through the heart of their promotion hopes by taking the lead on 39 minutes.

Benedictus appeared to tug striker Ross Stewart on the corner edge of the box, and referee Finnie pointed for a free-kick. Up stepped Jordan Kirkpatrick to curl a stunning effort over the two-man wall into Graeme Smith's near post top corner.

If Raith had a mountain to climb before, then now had Everest.

A glimmer of hope was produced eight minutes after half-time when, finally, after more than two-and-a-half games, they found a way through the Alloa rearguard.

Bobby Barr was introduced from the bench to provide the cross that defender Euan Murray headed against the bar, only to power a volley into the net from the rebound.

A minute later, Alloa had a lucky escape after Parry dropped a cross at the feet of Kevin McHattie. Had his effort gone in, instead of hitting the defender on the line, then things may have got interesting.

However, Raith failed to build up any head of steam thereafter, and just seconds after defender Murray was thrown up front in a last throw of the dice, Alloa broke upfield and striker Stewart had all the time in the world to pick his spot past Smith, and hammer the final nail in Raith's coffin.

Alloa deserve all the credit for their performances - not only in the play-offs but in denying Raith the title last week - and manager Goodwin praised the Rovers fans for applauding his team off the park at full-time.

"I'd like to say thank you to the Raith fans that stuck around after the game," he said. "I've never seen that before and I thought that was a really nice touch and a class act.

"The players certainly appreciated that, but I think it speaks volumes about what my team have done against difficult full-time opposition."

For Raith boss Smith, there was only dejection.

"The bigger disappointment is that we had the league in our hands last Saturday," he said.

"Trying to lift the boys after that wasn't easy, but I still think that they gave everything.

"When it gets to the play-offs it's a bit of a lottery and for as much as I can't fault the players for effort and endeavour, the way we lost at Alloa probably cost us overall.

"I'm not taking anything away from Alloa, they did well and I wish them all the best in the play-off final."

Raith Rovers: Smith, Thomson, McHattie, Benedictus, Murray, Herron, Hendry, Robertson, Vaughan, Furtado, Court. Not used: Brian, Buchanan, Matthews, McKay, Zanatta.

Alloa Athletic: Parry, Taggart, Crane, Graham, McCart, Fleming, Cawley, Robertson, Stewart, Kirkpatrick, Flannigan. Not used: Monaghan, Goodwin, Wilson.

Referee: Stephen Finnie.

Attendance: 1831 (286 away)