Ten-man Raith Rovers stay top despite losing two-goal lead at Clyde

Jamie Gullan fires Raith into a two-goal lead at Clyde. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Jamie Gullan fires Raith into a two-goal lead at Clyde. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Clyde 2 Raith Rovers 2

There were mixed emotions for Raith Rovers as they held onto top spot in League One despite losing a two-goal lead at Clyde.

The Kirkcaldy outfit were at their free-flowing best in a first half they dominated, and with more clinical finishing could have added more goals to the strikes from Kieron Bowie and Jamie Gullan, which both came from outside the box.

However, the game completely changed after the break, with both tactical and personnel changes putting Clyde firmly on the front foot, and by the time Raith were reduced to 10 men, the home side had already recovered the two-goal deficit through a double from David Goodwillie.

Steven Anderson's dismissal came with 15 minutes remaining, making the point gained more welcome than it otherwise might have been, although the failure to manage the game properly at 2-0 up makes this more a case of two points dropped.

Rovers, missing no fewer than eight players, were unable to fill the bench with striker Lewis Allan and defender Dave McKay ruled out after picking up knee and back injuries to add to the already lengthy absentee list.

It meant only two changes from the side that defeated Glenavon the previous weekend with David McGurn reclaiming his place in goals, while Jamie Gullan returned in place of the injured Grant Anderson.

In front of an excellent travelling support approaching the 500 mark, Rovers made a bright start with Bowie signalling his intent with a couple of pot shots from outside the area, one of which was blocked, the other sailing high over the bar.

The youngster made it third time lucky in the 10th minute - and there was certainly some luck involved as his 22-yard strike took a wicked deflection off a defender to loop over David Mitchell and into the net.

But having picked up the ball at the halfway line, turned, and drove at the home defence, Bowie certainly earned his slice of good fortune with positive attacking play.

Having scored the opener, the recently turned 17-year-old then set up Rovers' second with a brilliantly threaded pass in behind the defence for Gullan to latch onto.

The on-loan Hibs forward still had plenty to do, but lived up to his 'Hammer' nickname as he cut inside a defender and drilled a powerful effort low and hard past a motionless Mitchell from the edge of the D.

Clyde were effectively a one-man team in the first half, and Goodwillie, despite having to do it all on his own, still carried a threat, such is his quality at this level.

But almost all the traffic was heading in the opposite direction, with Dan Armstrong firing straight at Mitchell from inside the box, before John Baird passed up the type of chance he normally devours, slicing a shot wide from just six yards after latching onto Regan Hendry's defence-splitting pass.

Bowie also came close to getting his second, but from Armstrong's cut back, he couldn't get the ball past Mitchell from six yards, and although the ball broke to Baird in front of a gaping goal, he was denied by a last-ditch block.

Rovers were using the full width of the pitch to great effect as they finished the first half in firm control, but three substitutions, and a much more aggressive attitude, saw a completely different Clyde team emerge for the second half.

It took a disputed goal on 54 minutes to bring them back into the game when Rovers defender Iain Davidson appeared to be shoved as he attempted to defend a back post cross, and the ball fell for Goodwillie to steer a low effort beyond McGurn from 12 yards.

Davidson was booked for his protests, but the goal stood.

The Raith 'keeper made an incredible save just 60 seconds later, changing direction and diving full stretch to finger-tip a Goodwillie header past the post, but now swimming against the tide and struggling to get any foothold in the game, Raith needed to make a change.

It came on 68 minutes as Kyle Benedictus replaced Gullan as John McGlynn switched to three at the back, but almost immediately the substitute defender was caught the wrong-side of Goodwillie, who raced clear to toe-poke the equaliser beyond McGurn.

Rovers made a second change to try and spark a reaction, Tony Dingwall replacing Armstrong, but Goodwillie was now running the show, and after picking the ball up in space, and driving past Hendry despite being fouled, he was crudely stopped in his tracks on the edge of the box by Anderson.

Having picked up an earlier booking for dissent - Raith were less than happy with a number of decisions from Peter Stuart - a second yellow card was inevitable, although had the referee chosen to penalise Hendry for the first foul, he could have spared the veteran defender.

Goodwillie blasted his free-kick straight into the arms of McGurn - either side of the 'keeper and he would have struggled to deal with the power - but with the midfield already being overrun with 11 men on the park, Rovers now had a fight on their hands to escape Broadwood with a point.

If anything though, the red card seemed to re-energise Rovers as they enjoyed their best moments of the second half in the time that remained.

With 10 minutes left, Dingwall did well to win possession and set up Baird for a shooting chance in the box which Mitchell did well to block with his legs.

Bowie had an even better chance in the 87th minute, but having done the hard work by turning his man, driving past another into a clear shooting position just eight yards out, he blazed over the bar.

Baird also had the ball in the net - and was racing away to the Raith fans in celebration after heading past Mitchell - but he was flagged offside.

There were also one or two scares at the other end, with Raith's jittery defence grateful for the offside flag on a couple of occasions, and for Barry Cuddihy firing high and wide after racing onto a Chris Johnston cross in the final minute.

A highly entertaining match ended with both sides left to regret their 45-minute performances, and a draw, which allowed Rovers to extend their unbeaten run to seven matches, was the correct outcome.

With one goal keeping Raith ahead of East Fife at the top of the table, it promises to be a Fife derby cracker at Stark's Park next week.