Monday, 28 February 2011

The Terrace - 28th February 2011

Click here to listen to this week's Terrace Podcast featuring Alan Temple, Craig Fowler and myself.

After a hiatus of a week, we are back with a show packed full of Scottish football incident - starting off with Celtic’s shock capitulation at Fir Park, which handed title race momentum back to the men in blue.

A team in blue continue to set the pace in the SFL, with Raith leading division one - but they are being fervently chased by Dunfermline and Falkirk. There’s also focus on Livingston, Peterhead and an unpredictable division three.

There’s a preview of this coming week’s Scottish Cup replay between Celtic and Rangers as we ask whether differing results for the Old Firm this weekend will have any bearing on the result of the cup tie.

And, as always, there’s a full round-up of all 8 SPL matches which will be taking place in the next 7 days up and down the country.

All that, and Where are they Now? and Punt of the Week too.

Email: / Twitter: @terracepodcast

Enjoy the Show.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Raith Edge Out Albion

Please click here or read below for my report on this afternoon's fixture between Raith Rovers and Stirling Albion, with the home side narrowly winning by two goals to one. It was published on the official Raith Rovers website.


Stirling Albion looked to have grabbed themselves an unlikely point at top-of-the-table Raith Rovers this afternoon after Gordon Smith’s 53rd minute equaliser cancelled out Grant Murray’s opening goal.

However, John Baird squeezed the ball over the line just seven minutes from time to keep the Kirkcaldy side three points clear of nearest title challengers Dunfermline Athletic.

It was a far from fluent performance from Raith despite manager John McGlynn ringing the changes from the midweek loss to Dundee. For numerous reasons, Scott McBride, Iain Davidson and Willie Dyer all dropped out to be replaced by Craig Wilson, Iain Williamson and Dougie Hill, who had returned from his loan spell at Brechin City. 
The teams come out in front of the South Stand at Starks Park
The match began at a frantic pace with Raith forcing a succession of corners in the opening few minutes. The first corner resulted from Stirling keeper’ Scott Christie tipping an Allan Walker shot wide of the post. Walker stepped up at the corner flag and curled the ball into the box but Laurie Ellis was unable to get enough purchase on the ball and the danger was cleared behind for another corner. Mark Campbell was the next to go close as his header zipped past the Stirling post and thirty seconds later, the towering centre-half was to have a goal-bound shot blocked by a brave Albion defender.

After managing to survive the early onslaught, Stirling created their first chance on the 6th minute when former Ayr United captain, Chris Aitkin, received the ball on the edge of the box, striking with real power, but Andy McNeil clung onto the ball.

Two minutes later, Tom Brighton looped a header narrowly wide of McNeil’s left post before Walker and Baird hit efforts wide at the other end of the pitch.

The pace of the game began to decrease although mid-way through the half the visitors had a great chance to take the lead. Aitkin was causing more problems in the middle of the park as he drove to the Rovers box only to be thwarted at the last second by a scrambling Raith defender. The ball landed at the feet of Smith but the youngster sent the ball well wide of the target.

However, the deadlock would be broken ten minutes from the break when Raith finally capitalised from a corner as captain Murray found the net from close range.

Stirling replied almost immediately when a long range Brian Allison shot was flicked on by Jonathon Brown, leaving McNeil thankful the ball landed on top of his goal.

In truth, Raith should have been two goals to the good at half time when Stephen Simmons played a delightful through ball for Baird, but the speedy striker seemed to take one too many touches and Christie managed to throw a desperate foot in the way of his shot, to divert the ball wide for a corner.

The teams line up at Starks Park
Immediately after the break, Raith had another great opportunity when Baird whipped a ball into the box but it fell in the gap between the onrushing Gregory Tade and Walker and was successfully cleared by the away side.

On the 51st minute Albion had a chance to equalise as Smith capitalised on Simmons slipping in possession. Smith ran the whole Rovers half, but like Baird in the first period, took too many touches and ended up striking weakly into McNeil’s arms.

However, it was just two minutes later that Jocky Scott’s men found their equaliser. Aitkin was pulling the strings in midfield once more and played a neat pass to Smith who this time made no mistake and slotted the ball past McNeil.

The Starks Park faithful started to become a bit edgy and Stirling seemed quite comfortable to sit deep and hit Raith on the break, although their plan was nearly undone on the 63rd minute when Hill narrowly headed the ball over the bar after another Walker corner.

Stirling’s best chances to score another goal came in two successive minutes. The first chance fell to Brighton after receiving a through ball from Aitkin, only to be denied by a last ditch Campbell tackle. Stirling broke up the pitch again but after cutting inside Smith shot over the bar.

The bottom side would soon regret missing their opportunities when Raith scored the winning goal on the 83rd minute. A Walker freekick was aimed at the far post where Campbell headed the ball back across goal and Baird stuck a foot out, sending the ball inches over the line, although Christie would claim otherwise.

Raith began to slow play down and the final opportunity fell to former Rover Ryan Borris on the 90th minute but his shot was well wide of the post. Stirling would then claim for a handball in the Rovers box right at the death, however referee Steve Conroy was not interested and play continued.

It was not a pretty performance from the boys in blue but nevertheless, a vital three points if Raith are to continue challenging at the top of the table.

To Stirling’s credit, they worked Rovers hard and appeared to be a well-organised outfit, looking dangerous on the break. After taking into consideration Stirling and Cowdenbeath’s recent results and performances it would not be surprising to see the Binos overtake the Blue Brazil at the bottom of the league in the near future.  
Stirling Albion fans in the McDermid Stand at Starks Park

Friday, 25 February 2011

The Essentials - Will Lyon

You can now follow The Essentials editor Will Lyon on twitter:

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Dees Do The Double

Click here or read below for my match report of the fixture at Starks Park this evening. It was published on the official Raith Rovers website.

Raith Rovers 1 v 2 Dundee

Dundee battled to a narrow win over Raith Rovers tonight for the second time in as many weeks.

Sean Higgins scored 2 goals for the Dees on either side of half time, while a curling Allan Walker freekick temporarily brought the hosts level for 4 minutes.

Overall, the Starks Park side failed to click while their opponents from over the Tay looked dangerous every time they attacked the table toppers.

Indeed, it was the away side who dominated the first 10 minutes, with playmaker Gary Harkins in deadly form. It was he who broke through the Rovers defence after 5 minutes, threading a neat pass to Craig Forsyth, but the winger's effort was well saved by Rovers goalkeeper Andy McNeil.

Minutes later, Harkins was creating move havoc and would have scored were it not for the diving McNeil just managing to tip his shot wide of the post.

Raith, struggling to get a foothold in the game, had a half chance on the 12th minute when a long throw was received by Walker, but his 20 yard strike sailed over the bar.

The Kirkcaldy side began to force their way into the game and Dundee failed to threaten again till the 27th minute. Trialist Craig Robertson ran down the left side of the pitch and crossed in a perfect ball to Higgins, but the 26-year-old almost lackadaisically swung a shot on goal and McNeil was able to gather.

On the half hour mark Harkins was causing trouble again as he drove at the Raith defence and played a through ball to Forsyth who was about to pull the trigger until Mark Campbell made a superb last ditch tackle.

However, in an almost identical move Raith conceded just 1 minute later. This time it was Forsyth who would sprint through the Rovers half crossing a decent ball into the path of Higgins who coolly slotted the ball past McNeil to send the away side a goal to the good at half time.

The second half was started at a frantic pace by Raith, who may have been on the receiving end of a few hastening words from manager John McGlynn at the break. Just moments into the second period, Gregory Tade did well to run through the Dundee defence and one-on-one with goalkeeper Rab Douglas looked set to shoot, but changed his mind and aimed a pass at Walker which was cut off by the ensuing Dees defence.

The home fans' groans turned to cheers on the 50th minute after Iain Davidson was hauled down just outside the box and Walker stepped up to curl a superb 25 yard freekick into the bottom corner of the goal leaving Douglas helpless and the hosts back on level terms.

Unfortunately for the Starks Park faithful, Rovers were only level for 4 minutes as a Harkins cross was bundled into the net by Higgins for his second goal of the night.

The goal was a huge kick in the teeth for Rovers and were lucky to have 11 men still on the park when Davidson, already on a yellow card, committed a professional foul on the edge of the box, but referee Iain Brines, who took charge of the Old Firm derby on Sunday, decided the challenge was not enough to merit a booking.

The match started to become quite physical with both teams desperate to find another goal. However, it would be the away side who struck next with the chance falling to Stephen O'Donnell. On the 67th minute O'Donnell received a pass into the box and found himself with just McNeil to beat, but the former Hibee pulled off a spectacular diving save. Thirty seconds later, O'Donnell received the ball again, this time on the edge of the box, but his shot was cleared off the line.

With 20 minutes left on the clock, Raith had Campbell to thank again as he made another goal saving challenge on Harkins. However, the former Blackburn youth continued to carve open opportunities for his side as he combined with Forsyth again, but McNeil made the save.

Iain Williamson, Gary Wales and Graham Weir replaced Stephen Simmons, Scott McBride and John Baird as McGlynn attempted to freshen his team up for a final push to equalise. It almost worked too when a Raith corner was cleared by Dundee only as far as Williamson who looped the ball back over the Dees defence to Weir who smashed the ball at goal, but Douglas spread himself to make a brilliant save.

Campbell, playing as a striker towards the end, had a headed chance in the dying seconds, but was unable to find a way past the dominate Douglas.

This was Dundee's fifth win in a row and their sixteenth league fixture unbeaten which is a phenomenal achievement, but questions will be asked if they can maintain this sort of form to the end of the season with such a small squad of players.

Meanwhile Raith will need to regroup as they have conceded 10 league goals already this calender year compared to the measly 8 they conceded from August till the end of December last year. The team struggled to pass the ball to a blue shirt tonight, but all is not lost as they still sit top of the First Division, three points clear of Dunfermline Athletic, who drew 0-0 away to Ross County.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

First Division Round-Up - Saturday 12th February 2011

Fairytale Dees, sacking Staggies and a ceremony at Central Park...just another day in the First Division!
Neil McCann celebrates after scoring against Raith Rovers
After their CVA agreement on Tuesday, Dundee's financial problems appeared to heading towards an end. The question was, how would Dundee respond on the park to this welcome news? The answer would be provided in fairytale fashion with their match winner coming from a man who came out of retirement and played for no fee, just to help out his first ever senior side.

Dundee were facing top of the table Raith Rovers at Dens Park in a clash that would have been a top of the table one, if it were not for the Dees SFL imposed points deduction.

Both teams struggled to dictate play in the opening period but it would be Rovers who took the lead after a Grant Murray header beat former Scotland keeper' Rab Douglas.

However, few could have predicted the perfect comeback from the battling Dees. Gary Harkins stepped up 25 yards from goal and curled a stupendous freekick into the back of the net to haul Dundee level with just 7 minutes to go.

The fairytale comeback was complete, unbelievably, in the 5th minute of stoppage time when 36-year-old Neil McCann, who came out of retirement to play for Dundee, controlled a cross and delicately looped the ball over the despairing Andrew McNeil to send the Dens Park crowd into raptures. Indeed, the joy on show from both Dundee's players and fans, would bring a tear to a glass eye after recent events.

Elsewhere in the First Division, Dunfermline Athletic romped to a 4-0 victory over struggling Cowdenbeath which means they are now just 2 points behind pace setters Raith, with a game in hand. Other landmarks in this game was an official ceremony for the unveiling of Cowdenbeath's brand new floodlights, but less pleasing for the Central Park side was watching former Blue Brazil striker, Liam Buchanan, scoring his first goal in Dunfermline colours.

At the other end of the table, Ross County laboured to a 0-0 draw against bottom side Stirling Albion and this would prove to be Willie McStay's last match in charge of the Staggies as he was relieved of his duties shortly after the match. Quite unbelievably, it was only McStay's 9th game in charge of the Highland outfit.

Meanwhile, Queen of the South managed to hold Partick Thistle to a thrilling 3-3 draw at Palmerston after two late goals and Falkirk kept up with the title challengers after a narrow 1-0 win over Greenock Morton.

What we have learnt

Today was another reminder that first of all, there are likely to be many twists and turns in the race for promotion. The contenders could not be any more different as Raith are a physical and workman-like side, but Dunfermline are a fairly free-flowing and attacking outfit. However, we cannot forget about Falkirk, who need to place together some sort of Caley-esq consistency if they are to challenge for the title. Narrow wins over Raith and Morton are certainly a step in the right direction for Steven Pressley's men.

At the other end of the table, Dundee, who are as Jim Spence would claim, “morally” top of the league, are already up to 7th place in the real world and bar a catastrophic collapse, are all but clear of relegation because they have a superior side to those around them. So that leaves Stirling rooted at the bottom, which looks like the position they will end up finishing in, unless new manager Jocky Scott can pull a few rabbits out of the hat. The more interesting battle down the bottom is likely to be between Ross County and Cowdenbeath as they battle it out to avoid slipping into the relegation play-off spot. Ross County have a huge decision to make with regards to a new manager and will arguably need to appoint an experienced head, while Cowdenbeath need to find their early season form again if they are to avoid nerve shredding play-off fixtures.

written by Will Lyon

Monday, 7 February 2011

The Kill-ees

Click here to listen to this week’s episode of The Terrace. You can also download it on iTunes here.

For once, an Old Firm actually lived up to expectations. A thoroughly breathless encounter ended 2-2 at Ibrox, and we will talk Brown, Diouf, Ness, Calum Murray and Steven Naismith to open the show this week.

The draw for the quarter-finals has taken place and we will decipher who can be most pleased with the result, and how the rest of the teams navigated their 5th round ties.

In the lower leagues, Raith keep plodding along, Stirling look doomed and Dundee look set to claim a first-ever moral league championship - at a canter! We also talk Dumbarton, Forfar, Elgin and Jim Duffy’s Clyde.

Scotland are in action, and The Terrace will try and get you hyped for Wednesday’s trip to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin by chatting about the game, the squad inclusions and the potential stand-out stars of our first ever Carling Nations Cup campaign.

There’s even Punt of the Week and Where are they Now? in a packed show. I hope you enjoy.

Email: / Twitter: @terracepodcast / Facebook: The Terrace

Friday, 4 February 2011

First Division Still Keeping Up With The SPL

Click here for my latest article on how the Scottish First Division standards are still keeping up with the SPL despite the chronic lack of money in the league. It was published in the latest 52 page edition of Scotzine, which you can buy electronically for £1.00 or in print for £2.61. You can purchase the fanzine here.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Top Five: Deadline Day Deals

Below is my assessment of the Conor Sammon transfer from Kilmarnock to Wigan Athletic on transfer deadline day. You can check out the other four deadline day deals at here at The Terrace.

2. Conor Sammon (Kilmarnock ---> Wigan Athletic): Wigan Athletic netted Kilmarnock's top goal-scorer Conor Sammon last night after an estimated £600,000 deal was agreed between the two clubs. Sammon, who has signed a three-and-a-half year deal with the Latics, scored eighteen goals in twenty-seven games this season and was the SPL top goalscorer before he left Scotland.

It makes depressing reading for Killie fans - and sometimes it’s the transfers OUT that can affect the rest of your season more than who comes in. There is no doubt Killie will sorely miss the big guy, but they couldn’t refuse the money offered to them or deny the career enhancing move for Sammon himself. Mixu will have his work cut out replacing the Irishman’s goals. Meanwhile, the 24-year old will have his work cut out as he competes for a place in Wigan's first eleven with forwards such as Hugo Rodallega and Franco Di Santo. It is a big step up for the Irishman, but nothing can take away his fantastic goalscoring form this season where everything seemed to click into place for him.