Raith Rovers stayed second in the league table with a hard fought 1-0 away win over Montrose.
It wasn’t pretty, in all honesty it probably wasn’t deserved but in the end Rovers returned to Kirkcaldy with the three points to stay within a point of League One leaders Airdrie.
The first half was dominated by the hosts who went in a half time wondering how they weren’t two or three goals ahead, but credit has to go to the Rovers defence who kept their shape well and repeatedly threw bodies at the ball for the entire match.
For all they commanded the first half Mo’ didn’t overly trouble Rovers keeper Ross Munro, though it will rankle with the Angus side that when Rovers did score the game’s only goal, it came with their first shot on goal.
Rovers started with a back three of Iain Davidson, Kyle Benedictus and Steven Anderson, five in the middle and a front two of Jamie Gullan and John Baird.
The game’s first half chance came to Rovers on seven minutes when Benedictus headed a free kick narrowly passed the Montrose goal, that would be the only chance fashioned by the visitors in the opening 45.
Thereafter, Montrose dominated, playing some excellent, fast-passing football, though couldn’t find a way past the well organised Rovers rearguard.
In the 23rd minute a free kick from Jamie Gullan found Davidson completely unmarked at the back post but the defender headed the ball into the arms of Mo’s keeper Aaron Lennox when he could have done better.
Seven minutes later Montrose should have taken the lead. A great move saw Craig Johnston played through with just Munro to beat but he put his side footed effort passed the post.
Just a minute later Montrose had the ball in the net but it was ruled out for a handball, then 30 seconds later they came close again but Munro did well to advance from his goal and block what would have been a certain goal.
At this stage it looked like it was only a matter of time before Montrose scored but the Rovers defence held firm.
Half time arrived with boos from the visiting support but Rovers came out for the second half having made the first of three changes that would turn the game.
Grant Anderson replace namesake Steven as Rovers reverted to a back four and looked a far better attacking prospect for it.
On 54 minutes broke from defence and Anderson played a ball to put Gullan clear on the left. Left back Kieran MacDonald cut inside to look for the ball but Gullan’s attempted cross was blocked.
It wasn’t liquid football, but it was a huge improvement on the offensively lacklustre first half.
Two further substitutions followed with Dylan Tait replaced by Tony Dingwall and John Baird making way for Daniel Armstrong.
And the management’s gamble would pay off with the game’s only goal. A corner was cleared to the feet of midfielder Brad Spence whose 25 yard shot flew into the Montrose net.
The goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of the home side, who hadn’t tasted defeat in any of their previous seven league games.
They fashioned one half chance to equalise when an excellent run into the Rovers box by Blair Lyons ended with attempted cross ricocheting onto the base of the post.
Close, but Rovers held on and almost made sure of the points on 90 minutes when Dingwall played Armstrong through but the advancing Lennox blocked.
No matter, referee Barry Cook blew for full time and Rovers had the points – and their third clean sheet in a row.
Speaking after the match manager John McGlynn called it a “massive, massive three points”.
“We had to weather a storm in the first half but I thought we did really well in the second,” he said.
“We’re maybe not firing on all cylinders just now but we’ve kept a clean sheet and got the all important goal that mattered.”
“It’s a hard place to come to and we’re delighted to win the game.”