Forfar Athletic 1 Raith Rovers 1
Barry Smith and his Raith Rovers players must be growing a little weary of inclement weather conditions.
After the Stranraer match had been abandoned due to Stair Park being lashed by monsoon-like rain last time out, Rovers were looking to get back to winning ways against a Forfar Athletic side who hadn’t won a league game since the beginning of August.
However, they failed to adequately adapt to a wind-swept Station Park, and could only leave with a point after a 1-1 draw.
John Herron had nudged the away side in front in the 58th minute, but they were forced to see out the game with just ten men, after Iain Davidson was dismissed with a little under 20 minutes remaining for pulling back Ousman See inside the area, a decision which allowed Mark Millar to equalise from the spot.
There was just one change from the damp squib of the previous week, with Kevin McHattie returning to the left-back slot as Jamie Watson dropped to the bench, which allowed Jason Thomson the chance to revert back to his more familiar surroundings on the right of the back-four.
If the former Hearts and Kilmarnock full-back was hoping to ease himself in gently to proceedings, he’d have been sorely disappointed though, as Forfar began brightly, with Jamie Bain and Marc Scott doubling up on McHattie in the early stages.
Rovers had toiled at Station Park last term, struggling to overcome Cove Rangers in a League Cup tie in the opening game of the season, as well as being bundled out of the Challenge Cup by Forfar at the same venue, and they were looking tentative in the early phases of this latest Angus visit.
The majority of the game was taking place in Raith’s final third, despite them playing with the wind in the opening half, and while Graeme Smith was only called into action once, to tip wide a shot from newly acquired Dunfermline loan signing, Conner Duthie, it was a strangely lethargic start from the league leaders.
Despite that, they should have taken the lead in the 13th minute, after Michael Kennedy gifted possession to Bobby Barr on their left-hand side, before bringing him down and earning a booking.
Lewis Vaughan’s resultant free-kick was latched onto by Liam Buchanan, but his downward header from inside the six-yard-box was a little too close to Loons ‘keeper, Michael McCallum, who saved well with his legs.
That appeared to kick-start some Raith momentum, and they created a flurry of decent chances as the half wore on.
On another day, one or more may have been seized upon, but on this one, the strikers were frustratingly profligate.
Greig Spence, Vaughan and especially Buchanan were all wasteful in that first 45 minute spell, and whilst the performance had been bitty and disjointed at times, it was evident that the home side could be exposed at the back.
Part of the problem had stemmed from Raith playing the ball from back to front quickly, and whilst it was understandable to a degree considering they were playing with the wind, thumping long balls to a diminutive forward line isn’t normally a recipe for success.
The hope was that the half-time interval would allow for the wrinkles in the performance to be straightened out, but there was a gnawing sense of foreboding as Rovers started the second period in a similar fashion to the first.
Forfar now had the wind behind them, and they possibly should have taken the lead in the second half’s opening moments, when Dylan Easton, who had been Forfar’s creative hub, teed up David Cox on the right wing, but Murray Mackintosh was unable to steer his deep cross past Smith.
As is normally the case, Vaughan was looking Raith’s best bet, and he went close to opening the scoring on two occasions.
The first was a rifled, 25-yard drive that pinged just over the bar, while the second, from the edge of the area brought a decent, but comfortable save from McCallum.
The deadlock was broken just before the hour mark though, as Herron prodded home his first goal since arriving at the club.
A throw-in next to Forfar’s left-corner flag was worked to Thomson, and with the Forfar defence caught shorthanded at the back-post, his cross was turned in by the Rovers midfielder, to give the league leaders a platform to build on.
Initially it looked like they’d do just that, with Vaughan running at the backline and teeing up Buchanan, whose shot from just outside the area was well held by McCallum.
However, rather than stretching their lead, the game was turned on its head in the 72nd minute, after some dreadfully slipshod defending allowed Forfar an equaliser.
There should have been little danger from a clearance up the park, but despite a sizeable head-start on See, Davidson misjudged the flight of the ball, and with Smith electing to retreat, rather than come and claim, the Forfar substitute now had a clean run at goal.
Davidson’s untidy challenge left referee, Graham Beaton with little option but to brandish the red-card, and Mark Millar made no mistake from the penalty spot, cleanly striking it into the bottom corner.
From a position of strength, Rovers were now left facing a rather difficult looking closing spell.
Raith had a penalty shout of their own when Herron went tumbling over inside the box, but at the other end, Easton probably should have done better with a snap-shot from inside the area which just grazed the outside of the left-hand post.
Rovers certainly weren’t happy to settle for a point, but it was Forfar who came closest to taking all three, when Scott McBride’s header floated just wide of the target with almost the last touch of the ball.