Rovers tied in knots by fleet-footed Livi

LIVINGSTON’S position as promotion outsiders would suggest that their style of football does not always produce results, but it certainly works against Raith Rovers.

Six times these teams have faced each other since being reunited in Division One at the start of last season, and six times Raith players have gone home without their win bonus.

0313009 SSFF livingston raith 'Brian Graham scores the only goal for Raith - Raith Rovers against Livingston FC at Almondvale, Livingston

0313009 SSFF livingston raith 'Brian Graham scores the only goal for Raith - Raith Rovers against Livingston FC at Almondvale, Livingston

Saturday’s game may have been closer than some previous encounters – Rovers lost 3-0 and 4-0 to the Lions last season – but this was another tough afternoon for the men from Kirkcaldy.

Once again, Rovers were tied in knots by this fleet-footed young side, particularly through central midfield where they had few answers to the home side’s impressive passing and movement.

Rovers were not completely out-played though; they had decent spells of their own, particularly down the right where Jason Thomson had his best game of the season marauding forward from full back.

But while Livi’s invention helped them amass 18 attempts on goal, more often than not, Raith ended up lost down blind alleys, particularly after they fell 2-1 behind early in the second half.

If this was a match to establish the outside promotion credentials of either team, then Livingston look better equipped to mount a late push to catch the top three.

Rovers were chasing shadows in the early stages, and Stefan Scougall came close to an 11th minute opener as Davie McGurn finger-tipped his 20-yard drive onto the post.

It had been one-way traffic before Raith announced themselves in the 16th minute with Brian Graham’s strike from the edge of the box, which brought out a brilliant tip-over from Andy McNeil.

Livingston carved out chances with alarming regularity, but McGurn kept the score blank until the 29th minute.

Marc McNulty peeled away from Simon Mensing to cut the ball back for Iain Russell to finish at the back post, despite Dougie Hill’s best efforts to stop the ball crossing the line.

Rovers enjoyed their best spell of the match in the aftermath of losing the opener, and after Graham brought out another save from McNeil with a 25-yard free-kick, he eventually got the better of the Livi stopper, stabbing home a rebound after a Pat Clarke header had been saved.

Having netted his 20th goal of the season, Graham looked in the mood for more, and he let fly with a dipping left-foot shot from fully 30 yards only to see it crash off the crossbar.

Rovers had the momentum going into the break, but they switched off at the start of the second half and it cost them the points.

A corner kick wasn’t properly cleared and when the ball was returned to the box for a second time, defender Craig Barr wasn’t picked up, and he drilled a low finish beyond McGurn.

Raith huffed and puffed thereafter without managing to stretch the home defence, and in the end they were lucky not to concede a third as Livi hit them on the break.


Twitter: @mattelder_ffp