Forfar Athletic 3, Raith Rovers 2
Raith Rovers saw their undefeated league record disappear after relinquishing second-half control on Saturday to their Station Park hosts.
Rovers led 2-1 at the break but made an indifferent start to both halves, which was to mastermind their downfall in the second.
By their own admission, they failed to exert the same authority in the second 45 as they had done in the first and were slower to the ball than their opponents, who also won a lot of the first and second-phase possession.
A few good opportunities were also missed by the Lang Toun side, while Forfar, who made numerous errors of their own, won what had been an energetic and evenly-matched encounter in the 81st minute.
Rovers made a foray into the Forfar box as early as the fifth minute, with Darren Whyte clearing for the hosts. Raith then appealed in vain for a penalty after Kevin Nisbet went down, sandwiched by a couple of defenders, before Dale Hilson hit the side netting with a shot at the opposite end.
Forfar ‘keeper Marc McCallum was shown a yellow card in just eight minutes after venturing a long way out of his box to make a hefty challenge on Raith’s Ross Matthews.
Shortly afterwards, Thomson made a fine save from a shot by Dylan Easton.
Raith were frequently trying to knock the ball forward and create chances from midfield, while Forfar seemed reasonably robust in defence - and it was the home side which went ahead in the 16th minute.
Assistant manager John Baird collected a lay-off from Meechan and tried a hopeful volley from outside the box, which struck the post. Hilson collected the rebound first and controlled the ball well to score.
Nisbet managed to break Forfar’s offside trap after a good through ball by Flanagan in the 23rd minute but he shot wide after the intervention of Forfar defenders.
In the 28th minute, Darren Whyte hooked the ball away in a defensive move which Forfar turned into attack, ending with Baird volleying narrowly over the bar.
Within a minute, however, Raith were on level terms when Matthews collected the rebound from a blocked Regan Henry attempt and drilled a low shot in off the post.
Nat Wedderburn caused another anxious moment for the hosts with a long-range snapshot which McCallum was relieved to see sail narrowly past.
Forfar’s earlier defensive assuredness deserted them with a blunder in 32 minutes which gifted Rovers the lead.
Kevin Nisbet took possessionand kept cool to run through and chip over the advancing McCallum.
Forfar tried to grab the initiative early in the second half as, firstly, Hilson started and almost finished a slick attacking venture, heading wide from a cross by Baird.
Then Baird again showed his menace with volleys from the edge of the box, bringing out a fine one-handed save from Thomson in 51 minutes.
At the opposite end, Flanagan found himself with space in the box to try a shot, but it didn’t particularly trouble McCallum, whose performance was increasing in confidence.
A Forfer blunder in midfield enabled Raith to create another opening in the 57th minute but Nisbet ought to have done better with an angled drive from inside the area.
Another promising Raith attack in 65 minutes involving Watson, Flanagan and substitute Liam Buchanan, on for the injured Henry, ended with a weak header by Nisbet straight at the ‘keeper.
To Raith’s dismay, Forfar burst through the glaring autumn sunshine to grab an equaliser in the 67th minute. Dylan Easton skipped through the rearguard and managed to evade the attention of Iain Davidson before blasting home from six yards.
A draw possibly would not have been unfair on either side but Forfar scored what proved the winning goal with nine minutes remaining.
The Raith defence stood off as Forfar advanced and were made to pay as Thomas Reilly played a good through ball to Mark Hill, who, in similar vein to Nisbet’s goal for Raith earlier, scored with a good, composed shot.
In 78 minutes, Buchanan put Nat Wedderburn through for a great opportunity but McCallum possibly got a touch to send the ball spinning across the face of the goal.
Wedderburn was booked in the 84th minute for a heavy challenge on Reilly, while Kyle Benedictus had a header saved and also nearly dispossessed McCallum from a set piece, as the Forfar supporters grew enraged at the time being added on by referee Barry Cook.
Afterwards, Raithi manager John McGlynn said: “It’s always disappointing when you lose a game, especially when you are 2-1 up at half time.
“We didn’t really start the game particularly well - we have started better than we did today.”
McGlynn thought Raith reacted well to going behind and controlled the first half well but didn’t show the same form in the second period. They had a good couple of chances which, unfortunately, could have made the difference.
“We didn’t win enough first balls or second balls - Forfar won more second balls, which got them going towards our goal,” he added.
“We felt in control at half time but did not continue that control throughout the second half, even though we felt we had chances that could have won the game.
“There’s a long long way to go - it’s disappointing but we just have to react to this now. We’re at home next week to Brechin, so the preparation starts now.”
Forfar Athletic - McCallum, Bain, Meechan, Whyte, Travis, Reilly, Hilson, Hill, Baird, Easton (Moore 73), Mackintosh. Subs (not used) Cunningham, Malone, Coupe, Munro, Muir.
Raith Rovers - Thomson, Crane, Davidson, Benedictus, Henry (Buchanan 63), Milne, Matthews, Wedderburn, Nisbet, Flanagan, Watson. Subs (not used) McKay, Berry, Stevenson, Smith, Valentine, Silva.
Referee - Barry Cook.
Attendance - 826.