Armstrong brace cancelled out by Arbroath comeback
A comeback from Arbroath earned a much needed point at the bottom of the table, while Raith remain second. Cameron Wanstall reports.
A spirited Arbroath comeback secured a point for the Championship strugglers – a point that keeps them just above the relegation play-off spot. A Dan Armstrong brace gave Raith Rovers a two-goal lead, but sloppy defending allowed Jack Hamilton and Ricky Little to level the tie for the Red Lichties.
Raith manager John McGlynn made two changes to the side that pushed Livingston to extra time in the Scottish Cup last Saturday. Kieron MacDonald returns after shaking off a hamstring knock – displacing Iain Davidson and pushing Frankie Musonda back into the centre of defence. Dan Armstrong also returned, replacing injured loanee Jamie Gullan up front.
Arbroath boss Dick Campbell chose to make zero changes to his side, instead trusting the 11 men that started in last Saturday’s 2-1 victory over fellow relegation battlers Alloa Athletic.
Both teams had chances to take an early lead. First, Ben Williamson struck a sweet driven volley that was blocked by his own teammate, before Raith pushed forward themselves but a dangerous low cross from Reghan Tumilty somehow wasn’t turned in by the forwards in the box.
After 28 minutes without a single clear cut chance, the deadlock was broken by the home side. Despite most of Raith’s attacks coming through Tumilty on the right wing, it was neat play on the left side after catching Arbroath in possession that led to the opening goal. A quick pass from Kai Kennedy initially put Regan Hendry through on goal, though the midfielder was thwarted by a fine Derek Gaston save. The Arbroath number one couldn’t hold onto the ball, however, allowing Dan Armstrong to rebound and calmly slot the ball into the empty net.
A Lewis Vaughan free kick (from a more acute angle than his superb strike against Livingston) was collected with ease by Gaston. A few more chances came through Tumilty before half-time for the hosts, while Arbroath – with their direct play – struggled to break down Raith at all.
Raith nearly went further ahead just minutes into the second half. Nicky Low was booked after cynically bringing down an onrushing Vaughan outside the box. Armstrong took the resulting free kick but his effort flew just wide of the post.
Neither side were able to take control of the game but Arbroath certainly did make an effort to get themselves back level. First, Ricky Little failed to direct a header goalward before Lewis Moore was denied a great one-on-one opportunity by a debatable offside decision.
Despite struggling to dominate like they had in the first half, Raith managed to double their lead in the 67th minute. Armstrong was again the scorer as he collected the ball on the right wing before cutting inside and unleashing a curling shot with his stronger left foot into the far corner of the goal.
The home side were pegged back immediately, however. The visitors attacked from kick off and a disoriented Raith failed to clear their lines. This allowed Arbroath striker Jack Hamilton to smash a perfect laced volley into the top corner past a helpless Jamie MacDonald.
An unlikely comeback was soon complete from the visiting side. From a long throw-in, Raith, again, failed to clear the ball and it eventually came to Little. The centre-back acted like a striker by placing a firm finish, from a fast-travelling pass, underneath MacDonald to equalise.
Both sides missed chances to win the game. Tumilty fired a shot from the right into the side netting, before an acrobatic flick-on from David Gold forced an excellent tipped save from MacDonald at the other end.
A game that certainly improved in excitement, but perhaps not quality, in the second half ends with nothing changing in the table. Raith remain in second place, while Arbroath still sit in eighth place above Greenock Morton.
Raith are in action again on Tuesday, as they travel to play Queen of the South, while Arbroath face a crucial home tie against fellow strugglers Ayr United.