Raith denied ugly win as Brechin grab late equaliser

Kevin Nisbet prepares to take the penalty kick which gave Raith the lead at Glebe Park.
Kevin Nisbet prepares to take the penalty kick which gave Raith the lead at Glebe Park.

Brechin City 1 Raith Rovers 1

Raith Rovers had to settle for a point after conceding a late equaliser to Brechin City in a scrappy encounter at Glebe Park.

Rovers led after 64 minutes through a Kevin Nisbet penalty - his 10th goal of the season and fourth from the spot - after a controversial award from referee Scott Millar that left most of the ground baffled.

The Kirkcaldy side looked on course for an ugly win until, four minutes from time, poor marking from a free-kick into the box allowed Brechin an equaliser as substitute Boris Melingui glanced home a close range header.

On the balance of play, a draw was the correct outcome with Brechin enjoying the better of the first half, while Raith improved after the break, albeit neither side could claim they put in a particularly impressive showing.

For Kevin Cuthbert, it was a chance to throw his hat into the ring for the manager's job, and while the players certainly put in a shift for him, he would have hoped for a victory and a better overall performance to convince the doubters over his inexperience.

In his second game in charge, the caretaker boss certainly put his stamp on things, making the bold decision to change from the 4-4-2 system that was the staple of Barry Smith's reign, instead lining up in a 3-5-2 formation to match the home side.

Cuthbert also dropped two young defenders - Dave McKay and Jamie Watson - to the bench, bringing in Iain Davidson and Liam Buchanan in favour of a more experienced line-up as he looked for a reaction to the 5-0 mauling at Ross County in the Irn-Bru Cup last week.

The changes certainly provided Raith with a solid base at the back, but with top scorer Nisbet shoehorned into a right wing-back role, and Lewis Vaughan unable to find space in a crowded midfield, the team's forward play was lacking at times, particularly in the first half where home 'keeper Connor Brennan was not required to make a save.

The home side looked much the more threatening in the opening exchanges with Kieran Wright called into action as early as the third minute to push behind a swerving long-range effort by Jordan Sinclair.

The game was being played at 100mph, but Nat Wedderburn's attempts to slow things down almost cost his team a goal in the 15th minute when his tame pass back forced Wright to come off his line and slide tackle Callum Tapping to prevent the midfielder from scoring.

It was the home side's turn to be let off the hook on 22 minutes when Brennan failed to get distance on a clearance, playing the ball straight to Buchanan 25 yards from goal, but with the 'keeper frantically sprinting back to his goal, the striker opted to pass to a blatantly offside Chris Duggan. The flag went up, and the chance was gone.

Brechin almost made Raith pay a minute later when Andy Jackson bulldozed his way into the box and teed up Callum Hendry on the left side of the box, but Wright made an excellent save with his legs at the near post.

Rovers lost Euan Murray to injury on the half hour, with Nathan Flanagan taking his place in the left wing back position.

The half ended goalless and Raith had some issues to address during the interval, mainly concerning their lack of composure on the ball, and non-existent goal threat.

The visitors' first serious attempt on goal arrived five minutes after the restart with Vaughan drawing a foul 30 yards from goal, and his dipping free-kick effort required a touch from Brennan to take it over the bar.

Raith were starting to string some attacking moves together - something they failed to do in the first half - and the lively Duggan was unfortunate to be denied by the offside flag on 56 minutes following a sharp one-time finish after being picked out in the box by Nisbet.

A minute later, Buchanan was replaced by Lewis Milne, a move which saw Vaughan pushed up front, and more into the game.

Things were beginning to look more encouraging and seven minutes later, Raith were awarded a penalty when Duggan was challenged by two defenders as he went for a header, but as Brennan was diving low to his right to push the effort away, referee Millar was pointing for a penalty.

There was very little to suggest a foul had taken place - just a standard challenge for the ball between striker and defenders. Rovers were pleasantly surprised - Brechin were incensed - but Nisbet kept his cool to expertly dispatch the penalty despite Brennan guessing the right way.

From a game that looked to have 0-0 written all over it, Raith were now looking good for the win with Brechin restricted in the main to efforts from distance as they pressed for an equaliser.

Raith could have helped themselves in the closing stages by keeping the ball in the Brechin half for longer spells, but they were unable to pick the right passes.

With 86 minutes on the clock, a needless foul conceded 40 yards from goal gave the hosts a chance to send the big men forward, but it was one of the smallest men on the park, Melingui, who got his head to the ball, and although Wright got a touch, he could not keep it out.

Teams will find it difficult at Glebe Park this season, but nonetheless, Raith will be disappointed with the outcome, particularly having led so late on, although the team remains unbeaten in the league, and within touching distance of leaders Arbroath.

For the club the decision is now whether to give Cuthbert another chance to show he can find a winning formula, or move to appoint a new manager ahead of the home match against Montrose next Saturday.