Arbroath 1 Raith Rovers 1
Arbroath all but ended Raith Rovers title hopes at Gayfield on Saturday as the Rovers were held to a draw by a determined Lichties side.
With Ayr United coming from behind to secure a win over Airdrieonians, it means the Stark’s Park side are now five points behind the Honest Men with only three games remaining.
Saturday’s encounter has a real possibility of being repeated in the Championship play-offs as Arbroath regained third place in the league as Alloa Athletic suffered defeat by Stranraer.
Arbroath showed their intent from kick off with Blair Yule forcing keeper Aaron Lennox into a save after only 60 seconds.
At the other end striker Liam Buchanan’s strike was saved by David Hutton as he latched on to a Bobby Barr cross.
Gavin Swankie should have fired Arbroath into the lead after 22 minutes when he raced in behind the Raith defence but his right footed volley was just wide of Lennox’s post.
It was to be the last action for the game for Lennox as the Australian suffered a thigh injury and was replaced by the experienced Graeme Smith.
Raith were awarded a penalty in the 39th minute as Buchanan was pulled down by Arbroath’s Thomas O’Brien who also received a yellow card for his trouble.
Liam Buchanan kept his composure sending Hutton the wrong way to ease the nerves of his team mates and send the large travelling away support into song.
The goal lifted the pressure on Raith but the half time whistle blew just too early as they started to find some momentum.
Despite an early second half shot from distance from Barr, it was Arbroath who were looking more dangerous as Dick Campbell changed formation pushing three up front.
Iain Davidson, making his 400th Raith appearance, almost scored a spectacular scissor kick goal directly from a Barr corner in the 69th minute but unfortunately team mate Jason Thomson was standing in the wrong place and deflected it away from goal.
Arbroath equalised in the 74th minute when substitute Josh Skelly took a disputed corner kick. His curling left foot cross was cleverly flicked on by Gavin Swankie into the path of Leighton McIntosh who made no mistake from six yards.
A pass back from Kyle Benedictus was picked up by Smith giving the Lichties an indirect free kick from 12 yards out but Smith redeemed himself by blocking substitute McCord’s drive.
Graeme Smith was the Rovers hero again even though he knew little about it as a Skelly strike from six yards cannoned off his face after a long throw created a melee in the Raith box.
With only seven minutes remaining Buchanan should have restored Raith’s lead but he fired over the bar from four yards after connecting to a cut back by Ross Matthews.
There was one final chance for Raith deep in injury time but Thomson’s header was well wide of the Arbroath goal.
Championships aren’t won or lost in one game, but this result surely swung it in Ayr United’s favour.
Arbroath; Hutton, Little, Hamilton, O’Brien, Yule (McCord 67), Whatley (c), Gold (Skelly 72), McKenna, Wallace (Kader 82), McIntosh, Swankie. Substitutes not used: Hester, Denholm, Gomes (GK). Yellow Cards - O’Brien 39, Little 82.
Raith Rovers: Lennox (Smith 24), Thomson, Davidson, Benedictus (c), Murray, Matthews (Court 89), Robertson, Hendry, Barr (Spence 80), Furtardo, Buchanan. Substitutes not used; McHattie, Herron, McKay, Zanatta. Yellow Cards - Murray 50, Barr 73.
Referee: Stephen Finnie