Raith rue contentious late penalty award in Cliftonhill draw

Raith defender Euan Murray celebrates his first half equaliser at Cliftonhill. Pic: Walter Neilson
Raith defender Euan Murray celebrates his first half equaliser at Cliftonhill. Pic: Walter Neilson

Albion Rovers 2 Raith Rovers 2

There was anger and frustration for Raith Rovers after a disputed penalty decision at Cliftonhill saw victory snatched from their grasp in the final minute.

For the second week running Raith showed their mettle, fighting back from a goal down to lead a tricky game, and they looked set to collect a fourth straight victory until disaster struck in injury time when referee Gavin Duncan pointed to the spot after a coming together between Jason Thomson and Albion's Sean Higgins.

The Raith right back insisted afterwards it was never a foul, but Alan Trouten stroked home the penalty for his second contentious goal of the afternoon, with the Raith defence also claiming in vain that the striker had used his hand to control the ball before firing the home side into a 10th minute lead.

The referee also incensed the home side, failing to award them a clear corner just a minute before Raith broke up the park, won a free-kick and scored their equaliser shortly before half-time. Key decisions went for and against each side, but both agreed afterwards that this was a less than impressive performance from the officials.

The manner and timing of the equaliser left the Raith changing room deflated afterwards.

"Having watched it back, it's not a penalty," said boss Barry Smith. "I asked the referee about it, but it's pointless.

"We lost a poor first goal, although it looks like a handball, but the boys have done excellent to get themselves back in front and unfortunately a decision at the end cost us.

"We dominated the second half - they were hardly in our half - and I didn't feel there were any real problems, but we've got to kill the game off and see it out."

Many had expected Raith to start with the team that finished against Airdrie the previous week, given the improvements in performance after Scott Robertson came off the bench and Lewis Vaughan pushed up front.

However, Robertson missed out altogether having picked up a knee strain in training towards the end of the week, which meant Raith's top scorer, somewhat frustratingly, remained in midfield for another week at least.

He has proven a capable midfielder, but given his goal ratio when played in the final third, it would certainly benefit Raith's cause if they could find a system that allows him to venture further up the park, where his talents can be better put to use.

Albion took a 10th minute lead when Thomson was caught on his heels, allowing Trouten to nip into the box and stroke the ball past Aaron Lennox via the inside of the post, with Raith's handball claims falling on deaf ears.

Raith fashioned a decent chance to equalise on the 18 minute mark when John Herron broke through from midfield but when the chance to shoot presented itself he hesitated and his effort was blocked for a corner.

Liam Buchanan dragged a shot narrowly wide from 18 yards on the half hour mark, and a minute later Albion went close to doubling their lead when Kane Hester found alarming space in the Raith box to chip Lennox, but the ball sailed just wide.

The equaliser arrived five minutes before the break from a Vaughan set-piece as his pinpoint delivery to the back post was matched by an emphatic bullet header from Murray which left Kieran Wright with no chance.

Rovers would have been grateful to get into half-time all square after an uncomfortable first half, where Albion's willingness to push bodies forward, combined with the absence of a defence-minded midfield player, leaving the back four exposed too often.

Raith managed to iron out some of the kinks at half-time, gaining much more control of possession after the break, which negated the Albion threat, but the visitors were largely frustrated in their efforts to get in front, with Albion's on-loan Aberdeen defender Harlain Mbayo succeeding where most have failed in recent weeks in keeping a tight leash on dangerman Willis Furtado.

The league leaders also struggled to get quality balls into the box, with the pitch certainly playing it's part with several untimely bobbles affecting the delivery from wide areas, but the team persevered and got their reward, albeit fortuitously, in the 81st minute.

Smith brought striker Greig Spence off the bench, as well as midfielder Ross Matthews allowing Vaughan to venture further forward, and perhaps the extra bodies in the box made a difference as Murray's cross from the left skimmed off the head of defender Marr, looping over the reach of goalkeeper Wright and inside the far post.

Albion looked to be heading towards a sixth straight defeat, but a combination of slack defending and questionable refereeing came to their rescue.

A free-kick was played into the Raith box in the 92nd minute and when the defence hesitated, Trouten nipped in, tangled with Thomson, and the two players fell to the ground.

The loud appeals from the home fans were followed by the shrill of the referee's whistle - a penalty.

Thomson held his head in disbelief, Trouten sent Lennox the wrong way, and two points were thrown away.

Ayr's comfortable home win over East Fife cut Raith's lead at the top of League One to six points, but the Kirkcaldy side will take comfort from the fact that, in spite of today's slip-up, they remain the masters of their own destiny with 10 games remaining.

Albion Rovers: Wright, McLaughlin, McLeish, Marr, Mbayo, Holmes (Queen 84), Fisher, Davidson, Higgins, Trouten, Hester McMullin 64). Not used: Gallagher, Guthrie, Potts, Watters, O'Kane.

Raith Rovers: Lennox, Thomson, Herron (Hendry 90), Murray, Benedictus, Buchanan (Matthews 70), Vaughan, Barr, Davidson, Zanatta (Spence 77), Furtado. Not used: Smith, Court, McKay, Watson.

Referee: Gavin Duncan

Attendance: 519