Monday, 22 August 2011

Terrace Travels 2011-12 #4

Click here or read below for my Terrace Travels report of the recent fixture between Raith Rovers and Greenock Morton. It was published on The Terrace

Raith Rovers 1 v 1 Greenock Morton

Raith Rovers found themselves embroiled in a bitter title challenge with neighbours Dunfermline Athletic last season, but after sizeable budget cuts in the summer little is expected of the Kirkcaldy side this campaign. However, Rovers have begun the season with a bang, collecting six points from two games placing them second in the table. As Greenock Morton came to town Will Lyon headed to Stark’s Park to see if Raith are the real McCoy.


Stark’s Park is an odd football ground. It has an old fashioned L-shaped main stand, complemented by a disused and “unsafe” coo shed on the other side, while two large modern stands sit behind the goals. It also lies on what some might say the aptly named, Pratt Street. However, for the usual sixteen hundred home fans, they could not imagine being anywhere else come three o'clock on a Saturday afternoon.

Once seated in the South Stand behind the goals, the first thing you notice is how far away the travelling support are situated. The three or four hundred Morton fans soak up the sun 120 yards away in the North Stand which makes it quite tricky to generate any sort of atmosphere.

Above the disused coo shed (otherwise known as the Railway Stand) is the Second Division flag still proudly fluttering in the breezy seaside air, two years on from its unfurling.

Stark’s Park has a different feel to it from last year and indeed that Second Division championship season. There is less of a buzz around the ground, despite the club's similarly lofty position to just four months ago. This is probably due to a sharp dose of realism amongst the Rovers faithful. Fifteen players left the club in the summer due to a lack of money spinning local derbies against Dunfermline and now, a drop in season ticket sales.

On Raith's bench today are five players with an average age of nineteen, none of which have SPL experience and manager John McGlynn unable to even find one striker to bring along. Go back in time twelve months and you would find a bench with an average age of twenty-four, three of which possessed a total of 135 SPL appearances between them. Therefore it is easy to see why there is a relative hush over Starks Park these days, Raith fans are lacking faith with a squad whose depth and experience has been completed mutilated.

The match itself starts of in a decent fashion. Despite the slightly long grass (probably due to the incessant rain the nation has had to suffer in recent weeks) both teams try to play the ball on the deck, although it must be said the pace of the game is frighteningly pedestrian compared to what was witnessed of Spurs at Tynecastle on Thursday.

Morton decide they are going to try and catch out Raith striker John Baird, a player who likes to play off the shoulder of defenders and as a result Rovers are caught offside an incredible five times in the first fifteen minutes.

Another fifteen minutes later, Baird keeps himself in an onside position and threads a lovely little ball through to St Johnstone loanee Stephen Reynolds who proceeds to round the lanky goalkeeper that is Colin Stewart and rolls the ball into the empty net.

Rovers begin to gain an extra air of confidence after the goal but somehow find themselves back all square eight minutes later when a Morton freekick is knocked on by the outstanding Michael Tidser, and Paul Di Giacomo, who could barely score for love nor money at Ross County, smashes home his sixth goal of the season.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, sitting in the Rovers Directors Box, is obviously very upset that Morton have scored against his beloved team, so he scurries off for a pie with his bodyguard before the half time whistle.

The second half is a little more frustrating than the first, with both teams squandering chances in the final third of the pitch.

What is enjoyable however, is the performances of Baird and Tidser. Baird, frustrated by a lack of service in the Rovers midfield continually drops deep, receiving the ball, spraying it wide, running into the box and trying to get himself on the end of crosses. Tidser on the other hand is spraying balls all across the pitch to his Morton team mates, with his fair share of quick, short passes too, while cracking spectacular twenty-five yard shots at goal when given the appropriate space.

Although most attacks are going through both players it would be unfair to label both Raith and Morton as “one man teams” but there can be little doubt that the loss of these players would have fairly catastrophic consequences for both sides respectively. No doubt McGlynn and Morton boss Allan Moore would have loved to lock both players in a safe house straight after the game to keep any potential buyers away and continue to do so until the transfer window shuts later this month.

Back to the game, Morton striker Peter McDonald, who has been trying to con referee Charlie Richmond into giving him a free-kick all game, threw himself to the ground for what is now a third time but Richmond once again waves play on. Then McGlynn, with no other attacking options replaces striker Stephen Reynolds with left winger Scott McBride who looks completely lost up front.

Meanwhile at the other end of the park, six stewards make their way to the bottom of the North Stand to stop any mental Morton fans running onto the pitch to celebrate a winning goal. To be honest, they might as well have gone home early as a Darren McGeough powerdriver aside, a goal was never on the cards.

It is hard to tell whether either of these two sides are able to mount some sort of title challenge, as Baird and Tidser aside, there were no star performers aside from defenders. In truth, it could be a number of months before some teams begin to break away from the pack and show title credentials. Most teams in the First Division have solid defences and with a general lack of talent in attacking positions it would be sensible to predict a side with the least injuries and suspensions to have a chance of glory.

On another note, Gordon Brown never returned to his seat, the part time fan that he is. Boooo!

written by Will Lyon

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