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Match Preview - Raith Rovers vs Morton (27th February)


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Raith Rovers v Morton – Match Preview 

by Russell Gordon

Following a hard-fought victory over Airdrie on Saturday, which took Morton to fifteen games without defeat, it’s straight back into action for Dougie Imrie’s men as they hit the winding little backroad to deepest, darkest Kirkcaldy to face a big-spending Raith Rovers side that have resurrected their title challenge after a couple of recent wins in the last fortnight. 

With Imrie having to assess a number of war wounds after Saturday’s bruising encounter against an Airdrie team we were led to believe were the Scottish Championship’s purveyors for beautiful football, the midweek visit to Fife promises to be anything but easy. 

DSC_4844.jpg

Photo - GBR Photographs.

Squad News 

With Iain Wilson and Robbie Muirhead sitting out of Saturday’s victory, one can only hope that any injuries they were carrying were fairly minor, and we’ll see their returns to the squad for Tuesday. Particularly after George Oakley was forced off on Saturday having taken a dull one on the back from Airdrie defender Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, whose appalling challenge also very nearly saw an early end to Robbie Crawford’s afternoon, and should have seen the Airdrie defender soaking in an early bath before being given the opportunity to target the Morton hitman. 

Jai Quitongo and Michael Garrity’s introductions to the team proved positive ones, with Quitongo’s exquisite cross providing Oakley’s opener and Garrity’s fantastic cushioned volley doubling Morton’s early lead. Both will look to continue in the starting line-up, but I expect Imrie will at least manage Quitongo’s minutes, given his injury record this season. 

Lewis Strapp was withdrawn after he also took a sore one from Airdrie full back Kanayo Megwa, but his substitution, like Darragh O’Connor’s could be down to being on a booking in an increasingly bad-tempered match. 

Current Connections  

There are two former Raith players in the Morton squad. Club captain Grant Gillespie spent the 2018-19 season in League One at Stark’s Park, as Raith made the promotion play-offs, losing out to Queen of the South. Jamie MacDonald had a three-year spell in the kingdom following their promotion in 2020, leaving on a free this summer before signing for Morton following Ryan Mullen’s early season injury. After an encouraging start to his Morton career, including a fine performance at Ibrox in the Viaplay Cup, he lost his place to Mullen and hasn’t been seen in the squad for quite some time. 

Raith defender Ross Millen is the son of Morton Assistant Manager Andy, who can count the Fifers among his litany of former clubs. 

Tale of the Tape  

It’s been a while, and a lot has changed in terms of Morton’s fortunes since the clubs last met, but Raith are the only club in the division who boast a 100% record against the ‘Ton, something Dougie Imrie will be desperate to put right. 

The first meeting at Stark’s Park on the second day of the season was an eventful affair, with referee David Munro starting the season as he meant to go on with perhaps the worst refereeing performance this observer has ever seen in over thirty years of watching football. 

A Morton side struggling for numbers fell behind to Jack Hamilton’s early goal, but it was in the fourteenth minute that Munro decided to take centre stage, awarding Raith a penalty for the most blatant Lewis Vaughan dive (and there’s been a few of them) that you’re ever likely to see. Such was Morton’s luck at the time, Vaughan dispatched the resultant penalty and goaded the furious visiting support as he celebrated extending Raith’s lead. 

Three minutes later, Robbie Muirhead reduced the arrears with a bullet header from Lewis McGrattan’s cross from the right, before the hapless referee failed to produce a second booking for Hamilton with Morton going in behind at the break. 

Morton took control of the second half and finally got their reward when Robbie Crawford stabbed home an equaliser with twenty minutes remaining, after Munro had again failed to produce a red card, this time for a flying Ross Millen elbow. He did of course, find the time to book eight Morton players. 

This was a game that Morton were doomed never to get a result from, though, and Kirk Broadfoot was caught in possession on the halfway line by Callum Smith, who ran on to dispatch the winner, much to the delight of the home crowd. 

MacDonald saved an injury time Josh Mullin penalty, but it was to prove no consolation on an afternoon that still leaves a sour taste in the mouth. 

Raith’s visit to Greenock on Halloween wasn’t quite the same horror show as Munro’s August howler, but proved relatively straightforward for Raith, as a Morton side struggling at the foot of the table fell to two first half headers from Aidan Connolly, the smallest man on the park. 

Iain Wilson got one back for Morton early in the second half, but while playing what was to that date his best game in a Morton jersey since his return to the club, he was surprisingly replaced just after the hour and Morton fell to defeat. 

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Photo - GBR Photographs.

Opposition Analysis  

The big-spending Fifers have enjoyed a terrific season. With new ownership arriving in the summer, they’ve taken the club by the scruff of the neck since then, splashing out on infrastructure and their playing squad, and have been rewarded with buy-in from the Kirkcaldy locals, who have turned out in increased numbers to back the new regime. Stark’s Park is now unrecognisable from January and February 2022 when John McGlynn signed rapist ex-Clyde striker David Goodwillie and the club was vilified across Scottish football. 

After a blistering start to the season, they’ve clung onto league leaders Dundee United’s coattails thanks in no small part to a plethora of late winners, in home games against Queen’s Park, Inverness and Dunfermline, while also bagging late winners on the road against Inverness and Queen’s Park, as well as at Gayfield. Remarkably, Raith are yet to win a league game by more than a single goal. 

But after a difficult month of January, none of those late goals would have felt as good for the Raith fans as Scott Brown’s spectacular strike which secured a late win over the Tannadice club earlier this month. 

They’ve been helped by a positive relationship with Dundee, who have done their best to help the Kirkcaldy side in their attempts to deny United the title with the loans of Shaun Byrne, Zak Rudden and now Lee Ashcroft, and a title race that has thus far had its twists and turns can expect a few more yet. 

Hopefully the latest twist is a Morton win, leaving Raith boss Ian Murray, whose comments on Morton this season have been somewhat disparaging, with a bit of egg on his face, but regardless, of Tuesday’s result, I suspect our own promotion ambitions may depend on beating the big-spending Fifers at some point later in the season. 

What’s Happening Elsewhere? 

Theres’ a full midweek card in the Championship, with Ayr and Partick, both smarting from home defeats to the Fife clubs, meeting at Somerset Park. With Morton sitting between both in the table, few would complain if the Honest Men were to get back on track with a win, allowing Morton to go into third by winning in Kirkcaldy, but Ayr failing to collect anything would provide a cushion in our play-off quest. 

League leaders Dundee United host Airdrie at Tannadice, and a home win would be just fantastic, while there are a couple of games that could have a massive impact at the bottom of the table. 

After conceding an agonisingly late equaliser to Inverness on Saturday, Arbroath really must pick up something against a Queen’s Park side who, despite their recent improvement, certainly aren’t clear of danger just yet. 

Inverness meanwhile, host a Dunfermline side that will be buoyed by their surprise, and not-at-all-funny victory over Partick at Firhill. Wins for Dunfermline and Queen’s Park could see a gap being created at the bottom, with Inverness and Arbroath struggling to make up the points to prevent the relegation battle becoming a fight for the right to lose to Montrose in the play-offs, rather than go down automatically. 

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Photo - GBR Photographs.

Betting Guide  

All odds are supplied by McBookie. All odds correct as of 7pm on 26th February 2024 and are subject to change. Please only bet within your means and visit BeGambleAware if you are struggling.  

The big-spending Fifers are favourites at even money, with Morton priced at a generous 23/10 and the draw at 12/5. 

The draw at half time and Morton at full time is 13/2 and Robbie Crawford to score the first goal is 12/1. 

Match Officials  

Referee- Steven Kirkland is in the middle of his second Morton match of the season, having taken charge of the 4-1 SPFL Trust Trophy win over Kelty Hearts in October. 

AR 1- Paul O’Neill 

AR 2- Ian Hart 

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