SPFL hit back at Raith Rovers over goalkeeping fiasco

Raith stand-in keeper Ryan Stevenson. Picture: SNS
Raith stand-in keeper Ryan Stevenson. Picture: SNS
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The SPFL have insisted it was the fault of Raith Rovers, and not the league’s governing body, for the Kirkcaldy side taking to the field against Ayr United on Tuesday night without a recognised goalkeeper.

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Ex-Hearts and Partick Thistle midfielder Ryan Stevenson played between the sticks during the 1-0 defeat, even managing to pull off a couple of good saves in the unfamiliar role.

After the match, manager John Hughes attacked the SPFL for making a “mockery” of the Scottish game by refusing to postpone the fixture.

However, the league have insisted that Raith Rovers had ample time to try and bring in a goalkeeper on short-term cover, and chose instead to wait until the day of the match before requesting a postponement.

It was later reported the Championship side made an ambitious move to bring in Celtic’s Logan Bailly but the Belgian turned down the offer at the last minute.

“Raith Rovers had a number of options open to them once their only fit goalkeeper was injured,” said the SPFL.

“They could have brought in an under-21 goalkeeper, or an out-of-contract goalkeeper of any age, in each case without any permission from the SPFL board.

“They could also have sought permission from the SPFL board to bring in a goalkeeper of any age on an emergency basis.

“All of these options were explained to Raith Rovers, who chose to do none of these things and instead requested a postponement on the day of the match.”

Raith were without a stopper after Conor Brennan was injured in Saturday’s match against Queen of the South.

The Northern Irishman himself was filing in for Kevin Cuthbert, and had been the only fit goalkeeper for three weeks after Cuthbert sustained an injury during a 4 February meeting with Dundee United.

Raith also have Aberdeen loanee Aaron Lennox on their books, though the Australian is out of the rest of the season with a broken jaw, sustained in a Development League match in January.

In his rant against the league, Hughes even mentioned that it would have been possible for Raith to bring in an under-21 goalkeeper on loan, but he felt more secure having Stevenson in goal.

“We’ve got four loans in, so we’d have to try to get someone to go back to their club before we could [sign a goalkeeper on loan],” said Hughes.

“We’d be looking at someone who is under 21 for the loan and, if we’d brought in a young keeper, I don’t think he’d have done any better than Ryan Stevenson.

“He had a great save in the first minute. He acquitted himself very, very well.”

Club secretary Eric Drysdale later told Raith TV the club were only interested in signing an experienced keeper, and that the move for a player from Celtic (thought to be Bailly) fell through.

“Our preference was to find an over-21 goalkeeper with experience and [John Hughes] was on the phone to Brendan Rodgers during the English League Cup final game, he was talking to Brendan and then talking to me,” said Drysdale.

“Celtic were very helpful to us. A player was put our way. That was to be done on Monday but we were, meanwhile, making enquiries of other clubs and other agents to see, in case this deal fell through, we had somebody else to come in. But the main focus was on this Celtic player.

“Everything was tied up but suddenly, the Celtic goalkeeper was non-contactable. John Collins was acting on our behalf trying to speak to the player, trying to persuade him to come down to the Championship. But ultimately the player decided he didn’t want to do that.

“Unfortunately he didn’t decide that until 9pm [on Monday night]. We were working up until 9pm to get it over the line, and it fell through.”

Despite the issue, Raith could easily have taken at least a point from the match as Ryan Hardie and Mark Stewart both passed up excellent chances for the visitors, who eventually went down to a single goal by Ayr striker Farid El Alagui.

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