Raith fail to make game in hand count with defeat in Stranraer

Raith badge.
Raith badge.

Stranraer 1 Raith Rovers 0

Rovers struggled against a tenacious Stranraer side who have had to reinvent themselves after a mini clear-out of players to cut expenditure.

Stranraer kicked off and pegged the Rovers back in their own half from the start, it was only when the hosts had taken the lead that they ventured into the opposition final third.

McGowan was first to test the Rovers defence, forcing his way down the left and his cross come shot being held by Smith, the Rovers stopper launched the ball up the park to the lone Spence who was held off by the towering Neill, who along with left back Robertson was the scourge of the Rovers attack all game.

Davidson was on his mettle today, something the rest of the team must aspire to, he had to be on his best as he was up against Okoh who was a livewire most of the game.

Stranraer broke the deadlock on the ninth minute with a move on the right, the ball falling to Turner whose cross was half cleared by Smith who clattered into Dave McKay only managing to punch the ball down into space where on-loan Angus Beith was on hand to lash the ball into the net from six yards.

Losing a goal seemed to help the visitors as they started to make headway into the Stranraer half with more purpose, although long balls into Spence and Buchanan were easily dealt with by the aforementioned Neill and Robertson who towered over the Raith strike-force.

Rovers were a better unit when they could create space, a Thomson run and cross to the unmarked Matthews saw him lay off to Spence at the edge of the area, his turn and shot was covered as Belford knelt to smother the ball.

Hamill had a 30-yard free kick which sailed over the bar much to the upset of the home crowd, a minute later he made up for it delivering a pinpoint pass to Turner at the edge of the box, his shot going just over the bar.

Rovers best move of the half came from a clearance. Barr in the middle of the opposition half and back to goal, back-heeled to the on-rushing Buchanan who ran onto the ball and blasted straight to the out-rushing keeper whose block ran out for a throw, from which Davidson crossed deep into the box where Buchanan was again denied by Belford.

The game had been played at pace and was physical in nature but Hamill, who is a bit of a pantomime baddie in the eyes of the Rovers support, notched it up when just before half time brought down Vaughan with a late tackle, seconds later he scythed him down again with the only sanction being a tête-à-tête with referee Mr. Millar.

The second half opened quietly but the pace picked up when the eventual Stranraer man of the match, Jamie Hamill, found his favourite team mate Turner who caught out the Rovers defence with a low shot from the left corner of the box which was held by Smith at the near post.

Raith started to gain a degree of momentum, Robertson breaking up a ridiculous game of head tennis finding Buchanan up-field whose shot was cleared wide. From the corner Buchanan’s attention forced Belford to palm wide for another.

Vaughan curled the ball into Murray whose header looked to be going in at the back post but Belford, who looked to be diving in slow motion just got a fingertip to the ball to send it wide.

Up the other end, Beith and Woods combined in a move that ended with Turner striking from the edge of the box and Smith turning the ball behind for a corner, from which Smith was misplaced for the cross and Matthews headed the ball off the line.

On the 58th minute Barry Smith decided to change things, Buchanan making way for new signing Willis Furtado, whom the previous week had netted for his old side Airdieonians on the same pitch.

His introduction saw him receive the ball, hold up and turn his defender, something that Buchanan and Spence had struggled to do up till then.

Furtado continued to harass the Stranraer back four but it was not his day, given time to bed in with his new team mates his inclusion in the team should pay dividends in the long run.

Both teams continued to press then hit on the break, Okoh, Turner and Beith for the home side, the latter being highly rated by manager Stevie Farrell, whom in his after-game talk indicated he is in talks with parent club Hearts to retain his services for the remainder of the campaign.

The 70th minute saw Johnny Court come on for Scott Robertson, who had treatment for a leg knock but was clearly in pain.

Court moved up front to partner Spence but both were pushed to make inroads on the Stranraer defence, in fact it wasn’t until the last few minutes of the game when Court found Barr on the edge of the box where he over-hit a cross to Spence who was tearing in at the back post.

It was all hands to the pumps in the remaining minutes, Vaughan with a 30-yard free kick going straight to Belford and a Murray with a shot at the near post being denied
once again by the Stranraer stopper.

The last push saw a cross from Davidson pushed wide by Murray with a rushed shot from the edge of the box.

Barry Smith confessed that the team didn’t start well and they never really got any better, although unhappy with the performance he was confident that the team will give a positive reaction next Saturday away to Alloa.

Stranraer: Belford, Robertson, Neill, Woods (90), Okoh (67), Dykes (83), McGowan, Turner, Beith, Hamill, Thomson. Subs, McLaren (GK), Agnew (90), Lyon (83), Anderson (67), Gray, Elliott, Holland.

Raith Rovers: Smith, Thomson, Murray, Spence, Robertson (70), Buchanan (58), Vaughan, Barr, Matthews, Davidson, McKay. Subs: Lennox (GK), Herron, Osei, Court (70), Hendry, Furtado (58), Watson.