Updated: Feb 7, 2021
One of the key discussions on the back of Wednesday's drubbing at the hands of Dunfermline was a question of whether Raith Rovers had the ability to grind out results this season. The Pars were opportunistic in the midweek match and Rovers seemed out of sorts. Today's fixture was as good a day as any to respond: the squad have had a lot of praise for their gung-ho style of play but they needed to show their ability to grind out a win.
Historically, Cappielow has always been seen as one of the most well maintained surfaces outside of the top flight but with the Inverclyde club training on the pitch throughout the week it's fallen into somewhat of a mire. For all the criticisms of plastic pitches in Scottish football, today wasn't one for the purists and it might have been a different game on an artificial turf. The 1-0 win for the visitors allowed them to show a resilience and grit which will have really pleased fans: it wasn't pretty or free flowing but McGlynn's side walked away with a three points despite on-going injury woes.
The game opened in a suitably robust manner - both teams looked to get the ball out wide and catch each other out with long balls into the channel. Rovers starting eleven featured four changes from Wednesday including returns for Mendy, Hendry, Ugwu and a (third) debut for Jamie Gullan. For the Ton, Aidan Nesbitt was a menace and had the better of Kieran MacDonald on a couple of occasions without creating any meaningful opportunities.
Rovers were forced into a change when Jamie MacDonald gathered a ball in from the right wing. The catch looked innocuous but the goalkeeper required physio attention before being withdrawn shortly after. The delay in the match removed any momentum from Anton McElhone's squad and Rovers caught them out to score the only goal of the game. A ball was swung by Dan Armstrong at a a free kick and with Gozie Ugwu battling his marker ferociously, Iain Davidson moved into the vacant space which had been created to nod home a rare goal. After coming under fire from supporters on Wednesday it was refreshing to see Davo hit the net
Rovers were unfortunate not to double their lead when a ball down the left wing was chipped in to towards Gozie Ugwu who was unfortunate to mistime his run as Morton recomposed themselves. The rest of the first half saw limited chances as both teams efficiently counter-acted each other.
This would be a recurring theme for the rest of the match. Rovers looked to catch the Ton on the counter as the hosts pressed for an equaliser to limited success. The back line of Musonda, Davidson and Mendy were all looking comfortable and happy to mop up any attacks against the lone striker Gary Oliver. McGlynn tried to freshen the match up by bringing on Abraham (for Ugwu) and Kai Kennedy (for Gullan). The Gullan/Ugwu partnership had shown fleeting moments of promise but they were limited in their support throughout the game: neither player really had a chance to threaten the Ton keeper with clear cut chances.
Kennedy and Abraham both looked to exploit their pace against the Morton backline and were almost successful on a couple of occasions. The best of these came where the Ibrox loanee fired a shot which was spilled by McAdam but the keeper did well to beat Abraham to the rebound and gather the ball.
For 88 minutes, the game was played in good spirits and referee Chris Graham was happy to let things the play run without having to make any difficult decisions. So with 2 minutes to go, Rovers were able to show that they can be a bit streetwise to their advantage:. In an excellent display of game management, the visiting players started to put in professional fouls in on their opponents. Tackles started to go in a little bit late, the ball was kicked away on a few occasions and the referee was forced to defuse a few situations with bookings which killed any momentum for Morton who saw time whittle away.
It proved to be a strategy which would get the three points back to Kirkcaldy as the game finished without the Ton ever having a clear cut chance to equalise. As frequently as the ball travelled to the Rovers goal you never felt Robbie Thomson was under any pressure or that the defence were getting away lightly. It was the perfect tonic to Wednesday's inconsistent display.
With the full time whistle, Rovers moved back up to second place in the league as Dunfermline dropped points up at Arbroath. A win next week over Ayr would give Rovers a truly commanding ten point lead over their 5th place opponents with 12 games left to play. After another postponement today, it will be interesting to see how Caley Thistle handle their fixture backlog which has left them with 15 games to play between now and start of May. All in all, it was a good day at the office for John McGlynn and his side.