Raith Rovers lose further ground despite battling back to earn draw in Airdrie

Euan Murray plants a header beyond David Hutton. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Euan Murray plants a header beyond David Hutton. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Airdrieonians 1 Raith Rovers 1

In different circumstances, battling back to earn a draw away to an in-form Airdrie side might be considered a decent result.

But in the context of falling 13 points behind in the race for the League One title, it was two points Raith Rovers could not afford to drop.

"It's Arbroath's league to lose," admitted John McGlynn after the match, which is only stating the obvious when you consider that the Kirkcaldy side would need to win all remaining 15 league games and hope Arbroath lose at least four, and draw one. You certainly wouldn't put money on it.

While this was a game Raith can take positives from, some of the inconsistencies that have prevented them from embarking on a winning run were also on show, with the second half performance a considerable improvement on the first.

Things started encouragingly with the tempo of Rovers play forcing the home side back, and resulting in a Kyle Benedictus header requiring a goal-line clearance.

But the concession of an eighth minute penalty in Airdrie's first attack underlined this team's tendency to shoot themselves in the foot.

Iain Davidson attempted an ill-advised tackle on Kyle Wilkie in the box and while Rovers protested that the decision was a soft one, the midfielder's fall convinced referee David Munro to point to the spot.

Leighton McIntosh's spot kick was sweetly struck into the corner of the net, and beyond the reach of Robbie Thomson despite the 'keeper guessing correctly.

The loss of the opening goal certainly knocked Rovers off their stride, draining some of the energy they had started the game with, and the performance became disappointingly disjointed and error-strewn.

It took an important save from Thomson to prevent the visitors from falling further behind as defender Scott Robertson burst through a static defence and into clear space in the box, only to see his shot blocked by the foot of the 'keeper.

Airdrieonians 1 Raith Rovers 1: As it happened

The half-time break was required to refocus, and Raith upped their game for the second half, playing more of their football in advanced areas, but despite constant pressure, they were struggling to find the answers to a well-drilled Airdrie defence.

Changes were required and Liam Buchanan was first to go, replaced by Nathan Flanagan with 25 minutes left.

It was the second switch that proved pivotal as Daniel Armstrong, surprisingly ineffective by his recent standards, was replaced by Tony Dingwall, who came on for his debut having signed from Ross County the previous day.

Eager to get on the ball, the winger proved to be the livewire the team needed and his impact was instant.

His first involvement was a cross to the back post where Chris Duggan headed down for Lewis Vaughan, but the striker hooked the ball over the bar from six yards.

Dingwall's next delivery was a peach, sending a teasing ball between defence and goalkeeper that was begging to be attacked, and right back Euan Murray duly obliged, racing into the box to power a header beyond David Hutton for a 72nd minute equaliser.

The goal gave Rovers an extra lift and they almost took the lead on the 80-minute mark, with Vaughan meeting Flanagan's cut-back at the near post but Hutton somehow kept out his effort with a stunning reflex save.

Four minutes later, Hutton denied Vaughan with another superb save after the striker had picked up possession in midfield and weaved his way into the box.

Raith continued to push for a winner right through until injury-time, when they almost conspired to lose it.

A broken down attack allowed Airdrie to counter, and with the outnumbered defence floundering, Gillespie raced back to concede a free-kick right on the edge of the box.

Daryll Duffy took it and sent a thunderous strike towards the top corner that looked set to burst the net, only for Thomson to dive full stretch to claw the ball away for a breathtaking save.

From the corner, Thomson performed heroics again, flying across his line to push away a bullet header from Sean Crighton, and Rovers were spared defeat.

In the end, both managers were pleased with the effort shown from their team, but there is no doubt Raith will have been more disappointed by the outcome.