Updated: Nov 8, 2020
For the second time in three games, Rovers stuck five goals past opponents as they raced to victory over Greenock Morton. The match opened with both teams looking to seize the initiative and try to find an early opening. Raith took the lead when Daniel Armstrong waltzed into the box before being brought down by the Strapp. He comfortably dispatched the spot kick and Rovers took completely control for much of the first half.
Shortly after, Frankie Musonda got his second goal in as many games with a backwards header which caught out McAdams. Things quickly went from bad to worse for Morton as veteran Jim McAlister was sent off for a reckless tackle on Armstrong. Rovers ended the half slightly on the back foot and struggled to find the same rhythm they'd had earlier in the match as the Ton went on the offensive. The half ended with a chance as some slack play saw a ball drilled across the six yard box but nobody stepped forward for Morton to finish the chance.
The second half couldn't have started more differently: Rovers grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. Almost immediately, Dan Armstrong picked up a ball at the edge of the box and slotted a ball to Ethan Ross. Ross's cutback found Ross Matthews who picked up his first goal of the day. That turned into a brace when Regan Hendry played a tremendous through ball which was slotted home.
For the rest of the game, Rovers completely dictated the tempo of the game. The likes of Hendry, Tait, Ross and Armstrong are all confident and forward thinking on the ball and they used the numerical advantage with some excellent passing to lethal effect. To cap the afternoon off, Fernandy Mendy rifled home a shot after a stramash in the box fell perfectly at his feet as he continues to stake a claim for a first team place. It's no less than the big man deserves and the social media of the Rovers support showed a collective delight that he was off the mark.
Another five goals, a clean sheet and top of the league (coinciding with Joe Biden becoming President elect) made it a perfect afternoon. But what can we take from tearing apart the Ton?
Rovers were absolutely clinical and Championship clubs will be worried about our presence
Fireworks night might have been on Thursday but it was an absolutely explosive performance by Rovers today. Morton were given a mauling even when they had eleven players on the pitch. As mentioned in our game against Arbroath, the midfield show a real drive and determination to play the ball on the deck - it's a marked difference from McGlynn's previous spell at Rovers where the club were known for their brutalist, effective long ball football.
To get five goals is a high point in any season but to do it twice in three weeks shows a ruthless streak at the club. There isn't one standout player - it's a collective. In the first half Armstrong and Ross dominated proceedings and as the game grew on Regan Hendry showed why he's so highly rated among the Stark's Park faithful. What's more reassuring is that the season has seen eight different goal scorers. This is all without forwards Lewis Vaughan and Gozie Ugwu.
There will be a lot of mid-table Championship clubs who will feel a degree of unease at the emergence of John McGlynn's Rovers version 2. Four games into a shortened season and Rovers are top of the league with the highest goal difference, most goals scored and fewest conceded. For fans, it will be reassuring to see a 9 point gap emerge between themselves and Queen of the South, Arbroath and Alloa.
Admittedly, the next four league fixtures are against Caley, Dunfermline, Ayr and Hearts who (with the exception of Hearts) are all playoff contenders. But moving forwards, with a shortened season it isn't unreasonable for our fans to start asking questions about whether Rovers should be a dark horse for this position. Only time will tell but at the moment fans are happy to watch the displays the players have put on.
One Giant Leap: Daniel Armstrong has reached a new level since the start of the season
Listening to K107 FM's Saturday Sport Show, hosts Graeme Kilgour and Stuart Kirk were running off football clichés. A game of two halves, the better team lost, it is what it is. One which could be used is "Never go back". Rovers have seen cases of this in the past: Jimmy Nicholl's second spell or Gordon Dalziel returning as manager are two which spring to mind. There might have been a chance of repeating this when Daniel Armstrong returned to the club after leaving Ross County following a spell in Dingwall where he had limited playing time (though did pick up challenge cup and league winner's medals).
Armstrong immediately reminded us of what he could do when he unleashed his free kick against Falkirk to bring us back level in his first game back. He scored various goals as the club claimed the league one title at the third attempt, including a vital goal in the final game prior to lockdown. League 1 can be a difficult place for wingers: teams who are lower down the division will play compact formations and attempt to frustrate. There was a spell where we were leaving the fine grounds of Angus with more cruciate injuries than points. But the Championship presents a far more interesting situation as teams will actively look to play attacking football. This provides a degree of freedom for the more creative players.
Armstrong has started this season on fire and reaped the benefits from the more open games. His willingness to cut inside has caused defenders problems and he's scored three goals, provided two assists while winning two penalties in the process. Wingers probably get judged more harshly than any other outfield position on the pitch. If they have a quiet game, fans can be quick to question them and sometimes their graft can go unnoticed. At the moment, it's safe to say that like John McGlynn and Paul Smith, Rovers are definitely better off with the winger in our ranks.
201 and Counting: The evolution of Ross Matthews
It came as little surprise when Davie and Niall announced on RaithTV that Ross Matthews was the Man of the Match. The 24 year old midfielder's free scoring start to the season might have raised some eyebrows but certainly won't get any complaints from the supporters. It's to his credit that he continues to evolve as a player and looks to go from strength to strength.
After debuting in 2013, Matthews gained a reputation for being a tough tackling and industrious midfielder. He was used sparingly by Grant Murray but was given more game time by Ray McKinnon. At times he's been used in different roles across the pitch including on the wing but at the moment he looks to be in his element as a box to box midfielder.
The last couple of seasons have seen Matthews establish himself as one of the most reliable players in the team. He'll happily shuttle about the pitch and shows an excellent work ethic: he's the type of player where you can't ever think of a performance where he's not given his all for the cause.
Under McGlynn and Smith, he's developed the attacking side of his game tremendously. Already this season he has matched his goal tally for last season with three goals where he has made driving runs past the last man to find his way onto passes from the likes of Hendry and Tait. Matthews was recently interviewed by Raith TV on the back of his 200th game for the club in Dundee. With his determination and ability, there's a lot of positives to look forward to.
A better look at Loko: While he didn't get on the scoresheet there's a lot of positives for Lars Lokotsch
The visit to Dundee last week saw the introduction of loanee Lars Lokotsch from Livingston. The Germany striker had a quiet game where he was often restricted as he roamed as a loan striker. Today allowed for the Rovers fans to get a better look at Loko and while he didn't get on the scoresheet there was still a lot to be happy with.
Physically, the forward's imposing presence is similar to Duku. He can act as a target man and win knock downs for the likes of Tait, Armstrong and Ross who can operate in the space he creates. Today saw numerous occasions where he'd pull defenders out from the back line and attempt to win the back closer to the half way line. Defensively, he wasn't a player who looked to shy away from his duties.
With Duku, Vaughan and Ugwu all still on the sidelines, Lokotsch has offered an immediate and effective fix which hasn't disrupted the Rovers form. His link up play has allowed those around him to prosper and he looks unselfish in an attempt to help the team. Even if he's not scoring goals, there's no worry among the support about this given the team's ability to seemingly chip in goals across the pitch.
The streaming dream: Rovers TV's coverage deserves recognition
I've mentioned this a few times but RaithTV deserve immense credit for the production which was put on this afternoon. The club has offered the service for overseas fans over the last few seasons but the emergence of the pandemic and closed door fixtures has been a shock to the system for Scottish clubs but Rovers were better equipped than most and it's all down to the hard work of the team of volunteers. Davie Hancock and Niall Russell have been the length and breadth of the country and offer a commentary which is as impartial as can be reasonably expected.
The service has run without a hitch so far and there haven't been any notable hiccups for fans who have enjoyed consistent video footage of the games. But the team deserve credit for the work they do away from matches each Saturday. Aside from the pre-match and post match interviews, the team have worked on half time interviews with the likes of Regan Hendry and David McGurn. McGurn in particular was asked about his time at both Rovers and Morton, and the line of questioning genuinely seemed to make him give really considered answers.
For Rovers, the service has proven to be invaluable and the whole team deserve credit for their efforts and initiative.