Updated: Mar 6
In a game which was the polar opposite of the intelligent game management of a fortnight ago at Cappielow, Raith fell to defeat at Gayfield with 1-0 loss at the hands of Arbroath. The game saw no clear cut chances for the visitors and was littered with errors and an inability to stamp any authority on to the match. It was a difficult tie where the home side looked comfortable in the conditions. The loss only serves to cement the reputation of Rovers as the Jekyll and Hyde club of the division.
Almost immediately, the hosts started on the front foot putting pressure onto the Rovers defence and forcing a corner. It would be a sign of things to come with most of the match being played out in the direction of Jamie MacDonald's goal. As ever with grass pitches at this level, you need to play to the conditions and ultimately Dick Campbell's team looked far more comfortable at passing the ball about on a rugged surface: they were successful in finding space for Bobby Linn who put in an outstanding performance tearing up and down the wing against Reghan Tumilty. It wasn't a surprise to hear at the end of the match that the Arbroath FC TV commentator 'Fermer' had picked Linn as his man of the match.
The warning signs came at the tail end of the first half when a through ball was played past the Rovers defence. Jamie MacDonald was quick off his line to stop an Arbroath forward (McKenna?) from taking the ball past him to open the scoring. At the other end Daniel Armstrong and Kai Kennedy struggled to exert themselves going forward while Gozie Ugwu and Jamie Gullan would frequently try to bring the ball under control only for it to bounce away from them. The first half saw Arbroath unlucky not to be ahead but you couldn't help but feel it would be the host's day.
On the hour mark, that fear turned into reality. A slack pass from Kieran MacDonald gave the ball away and it was swung in to Kris Doolan. The former Partick Thistle forward put a composed finish past Jamie MacDonald to give the hosts the lead. It was no less than the Lichties deserved given how cohesive they'd looked as a unit: Dick Campbell had set them up perfectly and they looked every part of a team who were six games unbeaten.
Prior to the match, social media had seen questions of why Manny Duku had been limited to the bench again. The forward was introduced with twenty minutes remaining and looked lively in the dying embers of the game though the Rovers front line still failed to trouble Derek Gaston's goal.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, there might have been an expectation that Arbroath would look to deploy some timewasting as Rovers had done a fortnight ago. Instead, loanee Lewis Moore put in a dazzling display of trickery creating a couple of excellent chances for Arbroath. It was enough to cause the visiting backline panic as they struggled to contain the Gayfield side from doubling there lead.
At full time, there was very little complaint from the Rovers support over the result. It was very much a bad day at the office: it felt like Jamie MacDonald was the only player to come away with some credit. It was a performance littered by mistakes, inconsistencies and frustrations. The loss sees further congestion in the table with Rovers dropping to third. Queen of the South's win against Dundee sees them move into the playoffs 3 points behind ourselves albeit with two more games played. Arbroath themselves moved up to fifth in the league.
McGlynn's post-match interview might offer some explanations over some situations. But you'd expect that it'll be one to write off for the Rovers squad. There's still questions over what our best front line is and how long we need to wait for the return of the midfield stalwart Ross Matthew's whose presence is sorely missed. It's all to play for next week with the visit of Alloa to Stark's Park.