Updated: Dec 27, 2020
Rovers took the lead early in the first half. In 2020's equivalent to missing a goal due to going for a pie or nipping to the toilet, I missed the goal due to buffering issues with my stream which meant I didn't see the first 20 minutes of the match. The @RRFCUpdates dutifully informed that Manny Duku netted his 9th goal of the campaign with a header from 6 yards -while I was disappointed it wasn't a 55 yard volley I'll take their word for it. The Alloa commentary team did mention at later points in the game there had been an element of sloppy defending which would be a recurring theme for the afternoon.
Fortunately, the technical issues subsided just before Daniel Armstrong picked the ball up on the right wing. A looping cross was fired in which evaded the Alloa defence as well as Neil Parry and ended up going into the net. It was a carbon copy of the goal which Kieran MacDonald scored at New Bayview nearly a year ago to the day. Armstrong will take the plaudits for the goal but it was seemingly another occasion where the Wasps were left frustrated by a lapse in concentration and a failure to stop the wide players.
Half time saw a couple of unusually substitutions take place as both teams replaced their goalkeepers having suffered knocks in the first half. Alloa gradually grew in attacking threat but failed to show anything clinical in the final third to get them back into the game. Duku as replaced by Lokotsch and Tait made way for Brad Spencer as Rovers looked to safeguard their key players ahead of a busy fixture list.
The game then went into a frantic finale with 15 minutes remaining when former Rover Liam Buchanan fired home past Robbie Thomson to give the hosts hope. It was no less than Alloa deserved given that they had been in the ascendancy and now had the weather firmly behind them for the closing stages. The Rovers back-line struggled to look as assured as they'd done earlier in the match - sliced clearances were going right up in the air and coming right back towards the defence as fans on social media wondered if it would be another collapse akin to the Dunfermline and Caley matches at home.
Fortunately, today was a different tale: with the ball in the Alloa box Kyle Benedictus's shot fell into the path of Lars Lokotsch who diverted it passed Willison who initially looked like he had saved the effort. With four minutes to go, Rovers led 3-1 and Alloa were frustrated with another easily avoidable finish.
The introduction of Robert Thomson in the second half had offered Alloa more of a direct presence and provided some foil to assist Liam Buchanan. The strategy seemed to reap rewards for Peter Grant's men who were rewarded when Buchanan was brought down in the box chasing a loose ball. He stepped up to slot home from 12 yards as it looked like Rovers again invited pressure on to themselves.
As the game ticked into stoppage time, it then became the Ethan Ross show. The winger had been quite quiet throughout the match but certainly saved the best until last. He firstly made himself available for a cutback to tap in from 6 yards out to open his goal-scoring account for Raith.
He then stole the plaudits with the fifth goal which will be firmly in goal of the season territory for Rovers. Picking the ball up on the half way line, he jinked past the Alloa defence - no matter how many tackles came in he seemed to just shrug them off. In a matter of moments, he found himself one on one with the Alloa goalkeeper and he fired the ball home (Willison did get a hand to the ball but it still ended up in the back of the net).
Moments later, referee Steven McClean blew for full time and the players departed after a rain soaked 90 minutes. The win against Alloa is Rovers first win in three league games having drawn with Ayr and Dunfermline and losing at Caley. With Morton v Caley being postponed, John McGlynn's side moved up to third in the league. It was another performance where the clinical nature of the team shone through. While the score did flatter the visitors, nobody will be too concerned given that the three points went back east to Kirkcaldy. Rovers will return to league duty very quickly with Queen of the South visiting Stark's Park on Tuesday.
So, what three things can we take from Alloa vs Raith Rovers?
Boxing Day bargains: It was a good day for players who have struggled to hit the net
As the commentators alluded to on Alloa Athletic TV: the usual Boxing Day sales were cancelled, the weather is rotten and we're in a pandemic so you might has well settle in for a prime cut of SPFL championship football while you lounge about enjoying the excess of Christmas. Those who tuned in weren't disappointed in a game which was littered with thrills and spills.
The festive period always carries a rather friendly message: be kind to others and grateful for what you have. And with the gifts flowing freely, this game was no different. There were a few players in varying degrees of forms who hit the back of the net and their goals today will have only given them a bit more assurance and confidence.
The first of these was loanee Lars Lokotsch. Signed at the end of October, Loko had yet to hit the back of the net for Rovers and struggled to follow the lead of Manny Duku who has been in incredible form. The German striker hadn't really had many clear cut chances to open his account but his style of play meant he'd often be dropping back to help out the midfield. There had been a few fans questioning his role within the team and whether Gozie Ugwu should be favoured as a second choice striker.
In opening his account today, Lokotsch will feel a degree of relief. He looked a direct threat and was clearly delighted when his shot found its way into the back of the net. Much like today's game for Rovers, it wasn't the most aesthetically pleasing but the end result a success all the same.
Following Lokotsch's goal, it was the turn of our second loanee Ethan Ross to open his account for the club. Ross has been a truly fascinating player to watch for Rovers - he has consistently looked like he could score at any moment with his trickery and willingness to take chances. He was very unfortunate not to have scored in the Fife derby when his curled shot rattled the woodwork.
Ross's first goal was simple enough. Some good work down the wing created space and he found himself free in the box, unmarked and six yards from goal. It was the complete opposite of his second goal which will no doubt get significant attention over social media when the highlights package is released. Ross is contracted on loan until June 2021 but it wouldn't be a surprise if fans at Pittodrie start to ask whether he can be brought back sooner for first team games.
It wasn't just on the Rovers side where players benefitted from generous defensive performances. Liam Buchanan managed to net his fourth and fifth goals of the campaign for the Wasps - his previous three goals had come on league cup duty against Stenhousemuir. There's no doubt that the veteran striker will be happier for getting off the mark in the league.
Seasons Greetin': Today was an example of the good and the bad of the COVID circumstances
It's safe to say, that it was a mixed performance when trying to access today's game. By and large, my experience with SPFL streaming services has been good. Today was the first time that I've experienced issues when trying to watch a game and while it resulted in missing a goal it's important to be realistic about the situation - a lot of these services have been set up with a month's notice or so. They're being run by volunteers in their spare time and that expectations should be tempered.
So while it was frustrating that I missed the first twenty minutes of the game, by half time I was relaxed about things. Rovers were two goals to the good, but Alloa's commentary team deserve credit. Kieren Mooney was joined by Pars fan and SPFL enthusiast Ben Crawford to talk us through the match and both did a superb job.
In previous league matches the commentators have come across as being somewhat bitterly frustrated (Dundee) or suspiciously weird (Caley Thistle). RaithTV have been given credit by fans of other clubs for their honest appraisals of games and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Alloa receive similar praise. Both commentators acted professionally while still happy to have a bit of banter. It speaks volumes about Ben's passion for Scottish football that he could slot seamlessly in to commentary and sound like he's a seasoned veteran - today was his first day in the job!
For £12, the most important thing is that it's money to help out another Scottish football club. It was by no means perfect but in the current situation we shouldn't grudge clubs when things don't go to plan - lets all hope that every club in Scotland makes it through the pandemic without disappearing. Today epitomised life for Scottish football fans in the COVID-19 era: it might have gone wrong at points but there was still a lot to be happy over.
Fine Margins: After a tough game, Rovers will be happy to have consolidated their league position
At 4:50 John McGlynn and Paul Smith must have been ecstatic. Alloa has historically been a very difficult venue for the Rovers so to walk away with 5 goals scored and three points in the bag will have been something nobody really expected. It will have been even sweeter given that questions were being asked with 10 minutes to go about whether Rovers could hold on to pick up the win.
Since the Betfred Cup group stages finished, the hunt for the playoff positions have become congested. Looking at the league table last Saturday I was surprised to see that Morton, a team we'd dismantled at Stark's Park, were now at the lofty heights of third place in the league. Dundee have started to pick up some wins to alleviate the pressure on James McPake, albeit, they did bottle a 3 goal advantage to Dunfermline. Ayr United and Caley have both struggled with consistency as their form has tailed off.
The new year will open with a very difficult run of games as we face Dunfermline at East End Park before Dundee and Caley travel to Kirkcaldy. It's then back to back fixtures against Hearts before a trip to Cappielow. So every point looks like a prisoner: Rovers should be confident facing most teams in this league - even today they never reneged on their commitment to attacking, passing football under brutal conditions.
Moving forward, Rovers fans will be interested to see if they can mount a challenge for the playoffs. Their only defeat so far has been away to Caley Thistle. Certainly the start has given plenty of reason for optimism although the games against Ayr and Dunfermline could have gone either way. With 19 games remaining Lang Tounians will have plenty to speculate over what feels like one of our most memorable teams in recent years.