Own goal saves Raith from defeat in Airdrie

Raith celebrate as Airdrie defender Jordan McGregor lies dejected after conceding a 92nd minute own goal. Pic: George McLuskie
Raith celebrate as Airdrie defender Jordan McGregor lies dejected after conceding a 92nd minute own goal. Pic: George McLuskie

Airdrieonians 2 Raith Rovers 2

A last-gasp equaliser is often hailed as a point gained, or a draw that feels like a victory.

That was not the case for Raith Rovers, however, after a disappointing 2-2 scoreline in Airdrie that left them five points behind Ayr United in the League One title race.

Rovers may still have a game in hand, but that will only be to their advantage if they avoid a repeat of this abject performance.

With the temperature hitting minus six as the game entered injury-time, substitute striker Jonny Court pressured defender Jordan McGregor into putting through his own net to deny the home side a victory they would have deserved.

"It's frustrating because we know the boys are capable of far better than that," said manager Barry Smith.

"We didn't control the game the way we should have. We can pat them on the back because they kept fighting and working hard, but we have to be better than that."

With most teams opting to sit in against Smith's men so far this season, Airdrie sprung a surprise with an attack-minded 3-4-3 system that Raith simply never got to grips with.

"We didn't use the ball well enough to exploit the way they played," Smith added.

Defensively, where Raith are often strongest, they were as poor as they have been all season, while players also looked uncomfortable in possession with heavy touches and misplaced passes a frustrating feature throughout.

The subzero temperatures undoubtedly had an affect -- and made the adjustment to astroturf even more challenging than normal with slippy underfoot conditions -- but Airdrie handled it better, and played with much more energy and positivity. They certainly appeared a better side than some of their heavier defeats would suggest.

The ones who really had to endure the brutal cold were the 450 souls who opted to shiver in the stands rather than watch the game on the BBC Alba from the comfort and warmth of their homes. Fair play to them, particularly the Rovers fans who travelled.

Smith fielded an unchanged side, and Raith almost took the lead inside two minutes when defender Dave McKay headed Lewis Vaughan's corner against the outside of the post, but that was a false dawn as Airdrie went on to dominate the first half.

The home side took a firm grip on the game and went close when captain Scott Stewart raced onto a low ball across goal and dragged an effort narrowly wide from 16 yards.

Rovers took the lead two minutes later somewhat against the run of play as Greig Spence grabbed his third goal in as many games, turning in the box and stabbing the ball past Rohan Ferguson after being picked out by Vaughan.

Airdrie levelled almost immediately with a terrific move, sweeping play from left to right and catching the Raith defence napping, as Stewart's measured ball across goal was turned home at the back post by Jake Hastie.

The loss of the second goal on 37 minutes summed up Raith's night as they had possession in Airdrie's half, only for Jason Thomson and Liam Buchanan to leave the ball to each other and watch as it rolled out the park.

Airdrie broke quickly thereafter, with Hastie racing towards the box and when his 18-yard effort was parried by Graeme Smith, Cammy Russell pounced to turn the rebound home from a tight angle.

The big 'keeper should arguably have pushed the ball past the post, but he was also entitled to expect one of his defenders to follow in, rather than standing like statues as the striker turned home the loose ball.

A rethink was required at half-time, and although Raith reappeared with the same 11, Bobby Barr was swiftly introduced, and Liam Buchanan forced a goal-saving block after latching onto Dario Zanatta's cross.

However, the first half pattern was soon re-set with Rovers struggling to break down the Diamonds, while looking vulnerable themselves at the back.

A well-struck Vaughan free-kick which brushed the side-net on 75 minutes was as close as the visitors came, while Willis Furtado saw an effort deflected over the bar at the other end.

The bright spot from Raith's performance was the sub appearance of Court, who finally started to ruffle the feathers of the Airdrie defence, and got his reward in the 92nd minute, albeit with an assist rather than a goal.

It was his telling contribution that brought about the equaliser as he attacked Jason Thomson's inswinging cross only for defender McGregor to get the final touch as it flew into the net.

The late fightback deserves praise, and one point was certainly more welcome than none, but to win this title, Raith need to able to go to venues like this and claim three points more often than not.

Airdrieonians: Ferguson, Brownlie, MacDonald, McGregor, Watt, Edwards (McIntosh 80), Stewart, Cairns, Russell (Fry 90), Hastie, Furtado. Not used: Brown, Allan, Mason, Higgins, Leighton.

Raith Rovers: Smith, Thomson, Watson, Murray, Spence (Court 69), Robertson, Buchanan, Vaughan, Matthews (Barr 49), McKay, Zanatta. Not used: Osei, Davidson, Berry, Lennox.

Referee: Don Robertson

Attendance: 450.