Zanatta penalty kick seals win for Raith Rovers against Kilmarnock
A penalty by Dario Zanatta took Raith Rovers’ unbeaten sequence to 15 games as they edged past ex-Premiership side Kilmarnock.
The 57th-minute spot kick was virtually all that separated the sides in a game which always seemed likely to be close.
John McGlynn’s side showed a good deal of invention in the first half but survived two missed chances as Kilmarnock’s threat increased, by Blair Alston and Oli Shaw, which really should have been converted.
The Raith manager said afterwards the win was probably merited “for spirit, camaraderie, work, attitude, fighting, blocking shots, defending and the art of defending. We did all that very well.”
He added: “Our last two performances have not been great but I thought we passed the ball better today. We were back more like ourselves.
"As the half went on, I thought we had some good movement and Killie got a bit of a grip towards the second half of the first half.
"We had to defend and make sure we did not concede, and still caused a little bit of a threat at the other end in moments.”
McGlynn thought Raith started the second half very well and, after the penalty, it was about defending and keeping a clean sheet.
"We did that and we had two or three little moves afterwards,” he added.
McGlynn also said he did not think the 57th-minute incident involving Killie’s Dylan McGowan was a penalty kick, despite the ball bouncing up and hitting the player’s hand.
The gaffer added he hated those kind of penalty decisions, for and against, but the handball rule was a lottery these days and referee Willie Collum technically had to make the award.
However, in McGlynn’s opinion, it was not a penalty kick and that kind of ruling was a horrible way to lose a game.
Rovers began this second versus third Scottish Championship clash with Zanatta and Ethan Ross restored to the starting XI after last weekend’s scoreless draw at Arbroath, while Frankie Musonda and Kyle Benedictus watched on from the bench.
Killie saw very little of the ball early on and Ethon Varian cleverly stole possession for Raith on the right flank after six minutes but his curling cross-cum shot drifted wide of the left-hand post.
Earlier, Aidan Connolly cleverly juggled a cross pass from the left on the edge of the box before shooting but his effort was always going wide.
A touch of nervousness in the Raith defence after 10 minutes saw a clearance charged down and Blair Alston was presented with a good chance for Kilmarnock. Home ‘keeper Jamie MacDonald, however, got down well to make a very good low save.
Killie were forced into a change after just 13 minutes with the injured Brad Lyons replaced by Rory McKenzie.
The reliable Christophe Berra, later named man of the match, was back to head clear a cross from Brandon Haunstrup, after good work down the flank by Fraser Murray, as Kilmarnock came forward.
A neat move from Rovers should have had a better outcome after 29 minutes. Dylan Tait sent a crossfield ball to Reghan Tumilty, who moved skilfully into the box and passed to Zanatta but the Canadian shot over the top.
Tommy Wright’s side then threw away the best chance of the half soon afterwards. Murray threaded a delightful pass through after Tumilty had lost the ball to put Oli Shaw in the clear but he flicked it over the bar when he should have scored.
Killie poured forward again in the 37th minute and another lucky deflection in the box fell Scott Robinson’s way. Control, however, was tricky and he scrambled the ball wide.
Killie’s defence had to look lively to clear an effort from Connolly a couple of minutes before half time, when he received the ball from Zanatta on the right.
After a Raith header from a corner kick went wide in the opening moments of the second half, Zanatta powered into the box but had his effort blocked by a prostrate Jack Sanders, while Connolly fired an angled shot over from a good position moments later.
At the other end, Robinson crossed low from the right after a Killie break on 51 minutes but there was no one there to meet the delivery.
In the 57th minute came the breakthrough when the ball struck McGowan on the hand and Rovers were awarded a penalty. Zanatta shot down the middle past Zach Hemming from the spot.
A slightly deflated Kilmarnock made a double substitution 10 minutes later, with Callum Hendry replacing Robinson and Chris Burke deputising for Alston.
With 10 minutes or so remaining, Raith boss John McGlynn sent on Matej Poplatnik in favour of scorer Zanatta, while Aaron Arnott took over from Tait.
There were some wayward attempts on goal from both sides in the second half and Killie sub Burke worked hard to plant crosses in the Rovers box.
Indeed, a Burke free kick from the right almost brought an equaliser for Killie with five minutes left but enough dark blue shirts were in the box to block the danger.
Raith Rovers: MacDonald, Tumilty, Dick, Berra, Connolly, Matthews, Zanatta (Poplatnik 79), Lang, Tait (Arnott 79), Varian, Ross (Riley-Snow 90). Subs not used – Thomson (GK), Musonda, Benedictus, Mitchell.
Kilmarnock: Hemming, Hodson, Haunstrup, Murray, Alston (Burke 67), Shaw, Robinson (Hendry 67), Sanders, Murray, Lyons (McKenzie 13), McGowan. Subs not used – Walker (GK), Burrell, McArthur.
Referee: Willie Collum.