THIS was not to be the early coronation Partick Thistle craved as the Kingdom proved a less welcoming destination for the first time in a fruitful week.
Referee: C Murray.
Fife has been good to the Jags in recent days, with last midweek’s victory over Cowdenbeath sending them to the summit of the First Division and another win at Central Park at the weekend helping them to extend their lead courtesy of Morton’s defeat by last night’s opponents Raith.
A victory in this game in hand would have given them a seven-point advantage at the top of the First Division and sent them well on their way to being crowned champions.
But, with defender Aaron Muirhead sent off for two bookings in the space of nine second-half minutes for fouls on Grant Anderson and namesake Stuart, Rovers held the promotion hopefuls to a stalemate that restricts their lead to five points.
Sacked Dunfermline duo Jordan McMillan and Joe Cardle made their first appearances since their quick-fire moves to Partick and Raith, respectively, with McMillan replacing Steven Lawless on the hour mark following Muirhead’s red card.
In contrast to his former Pars team-mate, Cardle was given a warm reception by the home fans, who were almost off their seats early as the second minute.
Brian Graham was denied by the outstretched glove of Thistle goalkeeper Scott Fox and Simon Mensing’s header over from Allan Walker’s corner was a warning to the visitors that they had a battle on their hands.
However, with 25 minutes gone, the Jags came within a whisker of taking the lead. Lawrie Ellis left a through ball for David McGurn, only to see the ball squirm free from Lawless’ challenge on the ’keeper. However, Doolan chipped wide of an open goal.
Partick had been showing the passing game that has taken them to the summit of the division only fleetingly and it was Raith who produced some flowing football to penetrate dangerously nine minutes from the interval. A four-man move climaxed with a shot by Jason Thomson being beaten away by Fox before Joe Hamill screwed his shot wide from the rebound.
Erskine came close for Partick when his 44th-minute effort slipped narrowly wide.
Muirhead’s dismissal made Thistle’s task even harder after the break and, after Stuart Bannigan’s run and shot was repelled by McGurn, it became clear it was not to be the Jags’ night.
Raith Rovers: McGurn; Thomson, Mensing, Murray (Cardle 71), Ellis, Hamill (Malone 71); G. Anderson, S. Anderson, Walker; Graham, Spence. Subs not used: Laidlaw, Callachan.
Partick Thistle: Fox; O’Donnell, Muirhead, Balatoni, Sinclair; Craigen, Welsh, Bannigan, Erskine; Doolan (Craig 65), Lawless (McMillan 60). Subs not used: Daniels, Forbes, Elliott.