RAITH have been earmarked by some as being one of the sides likely to put up a something of a challenge to the Championship’s “Big Three” and they lent credence to this notion by making it two wins out of two so far in this campaign with this narrow victory over Alloa at a blustery Recreation Park yesterday.
It wasn’t pretty after the Fifers got their noses in front through Ryan Conroy, pictured right, whose opportunistic strike with only four minutes on the clock put the game beyond Alloa.
This game, despite all the endeavours from both sets of players, will not last long in the memory of the 858 fans who came along to witness it. Nevertheless with intriguing challenges, starting with Hearts, just around the corner, no-one in the Kirkcaldy side’s camp will be at all concerned about how the points have been put on the board.
“We’re delighted”, affirmed Raith manager Grant Murray. “Alloa put us under a lot of pressure after we got the early goal, but I thought the guys at the back today were fantastic. Every team wants to get off to a good start to the season and after scoring three at home in our first game and then winning away today we now have a great match to look forward to against Hearts”.
The visitors could hardly have hoped for a better opening to this game, sweeping into the lead with their first purposeful attack. Conroy’s task in volleying home from close range was made simple thanks to a misunderstanding in the Alloa defence which allowed the ball to make its way to the Raith winger when it should have been comfortably mopped up. This platform was nearly built upon midway through the first half when a delightful twist and turn by Mark Stewart saw him with plenty of space to take a pop at goal, but his curling effort drifted just wide of the target.
Raith were comfortable enough without really making their superiority count and, having regrouped following their early setback, Alloa applied some concerted pressure in search of an equaliser as the interval approached. The much travelled Liam Buchanan had two excellent and near-identical chances to bring The Wasps level as he got on the end of a couple of crosses, but on each occasion his headed efforts were poorly directed.
Disappointingly, the closing 45 minutes were largely arid in terms of goalmouth incidents. Both sides could not be faulted for lung-bursting effort but this came almost exclusively at the expense of composure or invention. Raith looked marginally the more likely to find the back of the net again with some decent holding play from Christian Nade and lots of ferreting runs from Stewart, but John Gibson in the Alloa goal was rarely tested.
The Wasps manager Barry Smith tried to conjure up more of a forward threat by shuffling his attacking options, but they remained largely punchless much to the frustration of the home support. As the game entered its closing stages they became increasingly desperate with Greig Spence’s skywards shank when presented with a shooting opportunity summing up their 90 minutes of fruitless toil.
Results elsewhere point to this being a testing season for the Championship’s part-time sides like Alloa and make it all the more imperative that they minimise defensive lapses whilst making the most of opportunities that come their way. “It’s very frustrating”, lamented Smith, “One mistake’s cost us a goal and then we’ve missed clear-cut chances.”