Immense relief for Rovers as victory ends winless run

Greig Spence celebrates his and Raith's second goal against Morton. Pic: Neil Doig
Greig Spence celebrates his and Raith's second goal against Morton. Pic: Neil Doig

Raith Rovers 2 Morton 1

Before Christmas, when Raith were still challenging the top three, this home game against Morton did not jump out as a potentially season defining fixture.

That was what the team faced on Saturday though as failure to end a 10-game winless run against the side sitting miles adrift at the foot of the table would have left Grant Murray and his players in a very uncomfortable situation.

Not only in terms of league position, but also in terms of their relationship with the increasingly discontented Raith support.

It was a huge relief therefore for everyone at the club that Rovers managed to get the three points, although true to form, they did it the hard way, coming back from a goal behind at half-time to get the crucial win.

The hero of the hour did not even start the match - Greig Spence came off the bench early in the second half to score a double, resurrecting his own season, as well as the club’s, in the process.

Rovers brought John Baird back into the line-up after the striker was ineligible for the previous week’s Scottish Cup action, while Ross Callachan dropped out the squad due to illness.

The pressure on the team to deliver the victory was enormous and it only intensified in the 18th minute when Morton took the lead in a rare attack.

Rovers defence switched off allowing Archie Campbell a free run to the by-line and his cut-back found Rowan Vine, also unmarked, near the corner edge of the penalty box.

With time on his hands the striker was able to tee himself up to hit a stunning volley across the face of goal and inside the far post, leaving Lee Robinson with no chance.

Rovers were now in serious trouble and while they went on to dominate the rest of the half, they could find no way past the ‘Ton defence.

The half-time boos said it all – Raith were losing a must-win game against a team that looked every bit like a side 13 points adrift at the bottom.

Murray had to act - and five minutes into the second half he made the switch that changed the game, bringing on Spence for Gordon Smith.

However, it took a debatable penalty 20 minutes from time for Raith to get themselves out of jail as Grant Anderson was dragged down as he made his way into the box.

The initial contact from Marc Fitzpatrick appeared to be outside the box, but Anderson managed to stay on his feet before eventually tumbling in the area.

Referee Craig Charleston pointed to the spot, and Spence grabbed the ball, before keeping his cool to send Derek Gaston the wrong way.

Spence’s non-stop running had brought a new dimension to Rovers attack and he latched onto Baird’s through ball to smash home the winner 10 minutes from time.

With so much at stake, it was inevitable that Rovers wouldn’t coast to victory - there were nervy moments to endure as pure desperation set in during the last five minutes.

Robinson made a superb save in the 87th minute to tip over an Aiden Fulton volley, and then sub Gary O’Connor hit the side-netting.

When the referee eventually blew for full-time, the release of pressure was immense. A win at last.

Raith Rovers: Robinson, Thomson, Booth, Moon, Watson, Hill, Anderson (Vaughan 71), Fox, Baird, Smith (Spence 52), Cardle. Not used: Donaldson, Ellis, Mulllen, Matthews, Laidlaw.

Morton: Gaston, Imrie, (Fulton 45), Fitzpatrick, Taggart, Cole, Findlay, Robertson, O’Brien, Campbell, Vine, McCormack (O’Connor 86). Not used: O’Ware, Caraux, Knight, Russell.

Referee: Craig Charletson

Attendance: 1308