Raith Rovers 2 Morton 1
A dramatic injury-time winner from Raith Rovers captain Jason Thomson secured a record-equalling 2-1 win over Greenock Morton at Stark’s Park this afternoon.
The skipper scrambled the ball over the line in the 94th minute to maintain the club’s 100 per cent home record under Ray McKinnon, who is now the first Raith manager since Peter Hodge in 1907 to win his first seven home games in all competitions, and the first since Bob Bennie in 1933 to start with five home league wins.
The hard-fought victory also lifted Rovers up to second place in the Championship table, nine points behind leaders Rangers, to put the cap on an impressive first quarter of the season.
Mark Stewart had given Raith the lead in the last minute of the first half, but Thomas O’Ware looked to have rescued a point for Morton with an 82nd minute equaliser, the first league goal conceded at Stark’s Park this season.
The away goal shattered Raith’s status as the only senior club left in Britain yet to lose a league goal at home, but they showed remarkable spirit to pick themselves up and push hard for a winner, earning their reward at the death.
McKinnon celebrated the last gasp goal as much as the fans in the stands, and the animated boss was like a 12th man for his team as he continually urged them forward from the sidelines, particularly after Morton’s equaliser.
“My job is to find ways to win,” he said.
“We’re at home and a point is nothing to me - we’d rather have the three - so we went for it and we got it.
“I’m absolutely delighted.”
Raith seemed out of sorts for the opening 20 minutes, struggling to retain possession for any length of time as Morton took a foothold in the match.
However, the resilience that has been the bedrock of the team’s good start was in full evidence as the home defence snuffed out some dangerous Morton attacks, allowing the rest of the players to eventually settle into the match.
Lewis Toshney did more than most to get his team going with some driving runs from defence and it was from his cross that Rovers fashioned the game’s first clear chance on 40 minutes.
The ball was knocked down by Jon Daly into the path of James Craigen who drew a point-blank save from Derek Gaston with his close range effort.
Another ball into the box from Toshney set up the next chance on 44 minutes, and again it was from a Daly knock-down as Mark Stewart saw an effort deflected wide.
From the corner, Raith took the lead as Ryan McCord’s deep cross was headed down by Thomson to Stewart who fired home on the spin from six yards for his third goal of the season.
The half-time whistle sounded only a few seconds later, and Rovers could have gone 2-0 ahead early in the second half as Kyle Benedictus saw a header cleared off the line from another McCord corner.
Morton started to crank up the pressure and missed a glorious chance to equalise in the 68th minute as the ball fell to Stefan McCluskey at the back post, but his goal-bound shot was deflected inches wide.
Rovers’ clean sheet record lived a charmed life on 77 minutes as Ross Forbes drilled a low free-kick into the six-yard box that appeared to take a double ricochet on the goal line before somehow ending up in Kevin Cuthbert’s arms.
New Raith signing Scott Robertson made his debut from the bench as McKinnon looked to shore up his midfield, but Raith’s resistance was finally broken eight minutes from time as Bobby Barr’s corner dropped invitingly in the box for O’Ware to smash a volley high into the net.
McKinnon’s response to the setback was instantaneous as he brought on Craig Wighton for McCord in an obvious message that he would not settle for a point.
This approach was clearly shown in the closing minutes as the Kirkcaldy side had Morton on the ropes and they though they’d grabbed a winner in the 92nd minute as Daly headed home only for referee Bobby Madden to blow for a mystery foul.
Undeterred, Raith made one last push. From a Rory McKeown long throw, Daly’s header drew a save from Gaston, and in the ensuing melee, Thomson managed to stab the ball over the line at the second attempt to spark euphoria on the pitch, in the dug-out, and in the stands.
Another victory built on hard work and team character, and a manager getting the best out of the resources at his disposal - a perfect send-off into the international break.
Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Thomson, Toshney, Benedictus, McKeown, Anderson (Megginson 75), McCord (Wighton 83), Davidson, Craigen (Robertson 75), Daly, Stewart. Not used: Laidlaw, Petrie, Matthews, Wighton, Ford.
Morton: Gaston, Kilday, O’Ware, Miller (Forbes 69), Johnstone, MacDonald (Samuel 58), McCluskey, Tidser, Pepper, Barr, Russell. Not used: Adam, McKee, Scullion, Sabajo, Cairnie.
Referee: Bobby Madden