Raith show nerve to overcome tricky Airdrie test

Jason Thomson was Raith's goal hero for the third week running. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Jason Thomson was Raith's goal hero for the third week running. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Raith Rovers 2 Airdrie 0

Raith Rovers overcame a test of nerve at Stark's Park this afternoon with a hard fought win over a well-organised Airdrieonians.

Compared to recent weeks this was a clunky performance from the league leaders as they struggled to find space or create openings against their fellow full-timers, who packed the midfield and looked to hit on the break.

But free-flowing or not, Rovers are continuing to find ways to win matches and late goals from Jason Thomson and substitute Dario Zanatta ensured the Kirkcaldy side maintained their six point lead at the top of League One.

The match also marked the end of Lewis Vaughan's remarkable goal-scoring run, and his hopes of setting a new club record, although he came agonisingly close to making it 12 games in a row with a shot against the crossbar.

With a goal in each of his last three games, right back Thomson joked afterwards that it's now up to him to pick up the baton!

Rovers were unchanged from the 5-0 win at Hampden the previous week, which meant midfielder Scott Robertson continued to deputise at centre-half, where he looked uncomfortable at times, but used all his experience to help see out another clean sheet.

There was a mix-up in the Raith defence inside three minutes as neither centre-back dealt with a bouncing ball, and striker Willis Furtado nipped in to toe-poke an effort towards goal that Graeme Smith did well to block with his foot.

Raith struggled to get forward in the early exchanges but left back Euan Murray took matters into his own hands on eight minutes when he surged up the park to fire a volley from the edge of the area that forced Rohan Ferguson into a diving save.

Furtado was proving a real handful and on 16 minutes he showed great pace to leave Robertson for dead but the angle was too tight and his shot hit the side-netting.

A minute later, Vaughan came tantalisingly close to extending his scoring streak to 12 games as he rattled the underside of the bar with a cannon of a shot from 18 yards after playing a neat one-two with Liam Buchanan.

At the other end, Furtado was continuing to win the battle with the Raith centre-halves as this time he escaped Iain Davidson but his low angled drive was saved by Smith.

The big striker had another attempt on goal on 40 minutes, forcing Smith to dive and push his 20-yard effort wide.

Airdrie would have been the happier side at half-time, but Raith were much more on the front foot at the start of the second half.

Despite this, the home side still had a huge let-off in the 50th minute as Robertson was short with a pass back, but Smith came to the rescue as he managed to get just enough on Furtado's effort to touch the ball onto the outside of the post.

That was Airdrie's last real threat, however, as Raith started to slowly turn the screw.

A great chance was wasted when Bobby Barr played Buchanan through on goal, who looked onside, but Vaughan, who was offside, got there first and fired over as the flag went up.

John Herron then blasted a volley narrowly wide from a half-cleared corner before Greig Spence made way for Zanatta, and the on-loan Hearts youngster put himself in contention for a starting position with another impressive showing from the bench.

Raith were working hard for a breakthrough, and it eventually came on 73 minutes. Vaughan's corner was placed on top of 'keeper Ferguson, who dropped the ball under pressure, and Thomson hooked home an overhead kick from close range.

Airdrie's attacking threat had all but diminished and Raith were comfortably seeing out time, before Zanatta made absolutely sure of the points with a low finish from the edge of the area after cutting inside and beating his man.

Turning these type of games into a victories is what will decide whether Raith win this league or not.

There's still a long, long way to go, but the signs after seven games are encouraging.

Raith Rovers: Smith, Thomson, Murray, Robertson, Davidson, Matthews, Herron, Barr, Vaughan, Spence (Zanatta 58), Buchanan (Berry 87). Not used: Brian, Osei, Court, McKay, Watson.

Airdrie: Ferguson, McIntosh, MacDonald, Brownlie, McGregor, Watt, Cairns, Fry, Furtado, Russell (Allan 76), Stewart. Not used: Kerr, Tierney, Edwards, Truesdale, Cowie, Thomson.

Referee: Mat Northcroft

Attendance: 1726