Livingston 3 Raith Rovers 0
It’s a long way from the Olympiastadion to the Tony Macaroni Arena, but Munich memories seemed even more distant for Raith Rovers after yesterday’s poor performance in Livingston.
On the 20th anniversary of one of the club’s greatest ever defeats, there was nothing memorable about this 3-0 thumping as Livingston stormed to their first home league win of the season.
Even in defeat, Raith have set a certain standard under Ray McKinnon, but the usual team spark and fighting spirit was sorely lacking as the Kirkcaldy side went down with a whimper.
The strong defence that has been the bedrock of the success so far was breached too easily, while going forward, Raith’s lack of variation, constantly looking for the head of Jon Daly, was as predictable as it was ineffective.
After pointing out that his team gave the ball away eight times in the first 10 minutes, McKinnon admitted that they deserved nothing from the game.
“We certainly weren’t at our best,” he said. “There’s no glossing over it.
“The boys are as disappointed as me because they’ve been at it every game this season, and it’s very unlike them.
“We need to make sure they are refocused for next week, and go again.”
The squad rotation McKinnon promised saw two changes from the previous weekend’s defeat to Hibs with Ross Matthews and James Craigen dropping to the bench, replaced in the starting line-up by Grant Anderson and Ryan McCord.
McKinnon’s pre-match claim that Livingston were in a false position looked justified as the better team won.
Raith’s flat-footed start to the game saw them fortunate not to concede in the third minute as a second ball was collected in space by Liam Buchanan but he dragged his shot wide from 20 yards.
The opener was only delayed until the sixth minute as a high looping cross into the six-yard box was missed by Kevin Cuthbert and Jordan White nodded over the line. The Raith ‘keeper’s claim that he had been fouled looked far-fetched - he was simply out-jumped by one of the tallest strikers in the Championship.
After a poor start, Raith started to get a foothold in the match, and based purely on the first half chances they created, they should have been level by half-time.
Mark Stewart was guilty of missing the best chance on 20 minutes, a real sitter in fact, as Livi ‘keeper Marc Maccallum dropped a cross under pressure from Daly, and the Raith striker fired over the bar from six yards.
Raith fashioned another glorious chance in the 33rd minute as Jason Thomson flighted a cross to the back post where Anderson and Daly were both queuing up to score, only for Anderson to head wide.
Rovers lost Thomson to injury after the skipper landed heavily on his back challenging for a header, with Craig Wighton taking his place, and Anderson moving to an unfamiliar right back position.
There was still time for Raith to create one more opening in first half injury-time as Rory McKeown’s long throw fell to the feet of Daly and his effort was brilliantly saved by the out-stretched leg of Maccallum.
This game was certainly recoverable, but Raith’s woeful second half display ensured there would be no way back.
McKinnon played his trump card early - Mitch Megginson was introduced 13 minutes after the break in place of McCord - which meant Raith had four strikers on the park.
But the game quickly ran away from the visitors as the hosts struck twice in three minutes to kill the match.
Livingston’s second goal came from a 61st minute corner kick as Declan Gallagher climbed highest in a crowded box to power a header past Cuthbert.
Three minutes later, another high ball from the wing wasn’t cleared properly and when the ball was played back into the box, White was left unmarked to fire past Cuthbert.
All three goals came from cross balls that the defence and goalkeeper simply failed to deal with.
The remaining 25 minutes were a dead rubber and many of the 400 travelling Raith fans headed for the exit before full-time.
They will hope this is just a blip in a good season so far, rather than the start of the traditional slump after the clocks go back.
Livingston: Maccallum, Longridge, Gordon, Pittman, Faria, White, Gallagher, Neill, Gibbons (Currie 77), Buchanan (Hippolyte 71), Glen (Sheerin 77). Not used: Millan, Georgiev, Jamieson.
Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Thomson (Wighton 41), McKeown, Toshney, Benedictus, Anderson, McCord (Megginson 58), Stewart, Davidson, Daly, Robertson. Not used: Craigen, Petrie, Callachan, Matthews, Laidlaw.
Referee: Crawford Allan