Sunday 16th of September, 2012
Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy
In the shadows of Starks Park, home of the town’s Raith Rovers FC, I parked the car, took advantage of the coffee stall and waited on the rain beginning. It held off until 20 minutes before kick off, drenching those who ventured out in it but thankfully, dispersed and left us with overcast conditions for this First Division match.
Troon were without five regular players who have departed the club for Stranraer, whilst Rovers have toiled for much of the season, struggling to field the same team two weeks in succession.
Troon spokesperson Sarah Dick explained “We have had many changes over recent weeks, with former Manager Andrew Reith departing due to work commitments and losing five of our top players but we still have a strong side and will be looking to leave Kirkcaldy with the points today.”
The first half was not what Troon’s new gaffer Robbie Hastings would have desired. His side looked jaded during the first 45 minutes and Raith were the most comfortable on the ball, despite being susceptible to being caught on the break and were it not for the heroics of player manager Pauline Harley, who was playing out of position as their keeper, they could easily have found themselves 5 – 0 down in the first 45 minutes.
Harley was called into action early on when after a few near calls, Erin Wardrope beat the offside trapped, and faced only with Harley, watched the keeper save with her leg before rising and blocking Sam McManus’ shot to prevent her side going behind early doors.
Up the other end, where Gill Mason was playing after a long layoff due to a broken finger; she almost gifted the home side the lead when a poor kick out, permitted Chelsea Duncan to pounce. Mason recovered well however to save Duncan’s low drive at the expense of a corner.
Lauren Anderson was next to beat the offside trap but was again thwarted by a brilliant save from Harley. Raith were playing a dangerous game at the back, especially with the pace of the Troon attack.
Anderson was involved in the next move as a Rachel Webb long ball was headed down by McManus into her path. Anderson drove to the byline, delivered a low cross, which was begging to be touched home but no one was able to get that vital touch.
Harley denied Wardrope minutes later as the small striker found herself one on one again. This time her 22 yard shot was spectacularly saved by the stand in keeper, diving to her left to make a fingertip save, sending the ball out for a corner.
Duncan brought Mason into action once more with a long shot that produced a diving save and Jillian Campbell tried her luck from 20 yards with an attempted lob of Harley, which was ever so close to the target, dropping inches on the wrong side of the bar.
Jo Cooper almost broke the deadlock with a darting run into the visitors’ box, getting the upper hand over her two markers but losing out to the dive at her feet by Mason.
McManus set up Anderson, delivering a low cross into the area but the legs of Harley blocked her shot.
The opening goal finally came from a 20 odd yard free-kick by Sam McManus, delivered accurately over the wall and into the roof of the net on the stroke of half-time. A hard one for the hosts to take for they had worked arduously to fend off the Troon bombardment of their goal, and to lose a goal with seconds of the first half remaining would have been heartbreaking for the dark blues.
Half-Time: Raith 0 Troon 1
Despite Troon’s obvious dominance of the first period, I thought Raith were the better side on the ball, looking to pass their way forward and create opportunities from the wings or via defence splitting passes through the middle. Troon from back to midfield looked to be suffering from the fatigue of the three hour bus journey, which no doubt the Rovers half-time team talk would have included just that.
The second goal would be critical; for the side that scored it would either have a massive advantage or they would return the game to parity.
Troon were a different animal in the second period. They seemed to have found their legs and their customary pace was evident when Anderson burst down the right, before delivering a fantastic low ball across the six hard area, where Wardrope, even at full stretch failed to reach, with the goal at her mercy. A pair of platform boots and her side would have doubled their lead.
Wardrope again beat the offside trap, breaking into the box from wide left and looked on in horror as yet again Harley made a superb save. Despite clear annoyance from the travelling Troon support, young Erin’s head never dropped. She continued to run her heart out looking to get that goal that had eluded her thus far. Credit to her for her never say die attitude. My advice would be stick with the lass and she is getting into positions and will eventually find the net on a regular basis.
McManus was next to see sight of goal but there to save the day again, diving at the striker’s feet was Harley with yet another impressive act of goalkeeping. Anderson fired one in from the edge of the box but of course the orange clad keeper was at the end of the shot to deny her.
Harley displayed great pace dashing from her line to intercept a fantastic pass from Danni Connolly to Anderson. Anderson’s shot hit the keeper’s arm, who was well out her box but as her hands were by her side, I would have to agree with the referee on this one – no foul.
Jillian Campbell scored the goal that would effectively kill this match off. A long range shot that dipped in after avoiding the outstretched arms of the keeper to give Troon a 2 – 0 advantage.
Two minutes later and it was three – nil as Sam McManus beat Harley with a stunning overhead kick into the roof of the net.
Three goals in six minutes as Lauren Anderson’s powerful drive gave Harley no chance, her strike coming from the right side of the box.
Pauline Harvey was far from happy about the distribution of the match balls during this match. At 1 – 0 down, players were chasing balls into bushes or hundreds of yards away when a quick ball onto the park, could have given Raith a lifeline. Now would be a good time to hide those other match balls as the heads went down.
As we entered the dying seconds, Chelsea Keane brought out yet another stunning save from Harley with a terrific strike from the right. With little time to react, it was impulse and natural reactions that stopped Keane bursting the net as the stand in keeper produced an incredible point blank save.
Full-Time: Raith 0 Troon 4
Raith will have few complaints as the better team won on the day but they can take heart from their first half performance and some very good individual contributions. Player Manager Pauline Harley said “I am pleased with the performance considering the obstacles we have had to overcome to field a team this season.
“Our goal is to get through till the end of the campaign and build for 2013 by bringing in some youngsters to complement the better players who currently grace our squad.”
Stewart First Aid Training Player of the Match: Pauline Harley for a wonderful display of goalkeeping from a 37 year old player manager, who just happens to be a defender.
Raith: Harley, Redpath, Mackenzie, Cooper, Hamilton, Watson, Low, Penman, Duncan, Wilson, McLean Subs: Teele, Grant, Gear, Hinchliffe
Troon: Mason, Webb, Connolly, Keane, Morgan, Campbell, McManus, Anderson, Wardrope, McQuarrie, Maxwell Subs: Huggan, Clannaghan, Fitzsimmons, Sharpe, Wallace, Dorrans
Referee: David Davidson
A big thank you to the Raith back room staff for inviting SWFitba along to their hospitality event.