CHRISTIAN Nade certainly knows how to be a thorn in Hibs’ side. The former Hearts striker came off the bench to set up his side’s winner here and, combined with the goals he scored in the draws at Easter Road earlier this season, he has been responsible for costing his former derby rivals dear.
Scorers: Raith Rovers - Stewart (53),′ Vaughan (84)′; Hibernian - Fyvie (56′)
This was probably the unkindest cut of all, however, because Alan Stubbs’ men had played the hosts off the park and created a hatload of chances only to fall victim to two sucker punches.
While Hearts are already in the Premiership next season, Hibs’ hopes of finishing second are now in the balance, this defeat leaving them ahead of Rangers – who have a game in hand – only on goal difference.
Nade, needless to say, couldn’t care less about that.
“I wish I could play Hibs every week,” he said afterwards. “Over the years, I have a good record against them and I hope it will stay that way. Today was a really good game and our defenders were really strong for the whole match.
“We went in front when we had the chance to score and I was just looking for the gaffer to put me on. I told the guys: ‘Even if you only put me on for five minutes, I will score or give you an assist’.
“I think Hearts fans love me more now than when I played there. I just love to annoy Hibs and if I could do it every weekend, I would.”
Yet this was a match Hibs should have won with plenty to spare.
Dylan McGeouch recorded the first effort on target in the second minute when he fired in a low shot which failed to trouble David McGurn. A similar effort from similar range from Dominique Malonga met a similar fate.
The pressure from the visitors was relentless and full-back David Gray believed he had drawn first blood in the seventh minute with a low drive which eluded the goalkeeper but came back off the far post. Rovers could not secure a foothold in the contest and Gray was disappointed not to at least work the goalkeeper when left with a free header from a Lewis Stevenson cross.
The woodwork wobbled again on the half-hour when McGurn pushed Malonga’s header against the bar. From the resulting corner, Paul Watson cleared a Sam Stanton header off the line.
Stubbs’ men continued to pour forward after the break, but they fell behind to a sucker punch in the 52nd minute.
Mark Oxley had been a spectator up until that stage but he was left helpless when Mark Stewart stole in to volley home Jason Thomson’s sumptuous cross from 23 yards out.
On this occasion, their advantage lasted for just four minutes.
Scott Allan had seen plenty of the ball without being as influential as he has been in other games but it was his shot which was blocked and fell for Fraser Fyvie, who drove the loose ball behind McGurn.
It was the very least that the men in green deserved but their determination to leave with all three points left them vulnerable to counter-attacks and Stewart came close to restoring Rovers’ lead with a mishit effort which Oxley fumbled behind.
Allan should have had another assist in the 75th minute when his incisive through ball left Gray one-on-one with McGurn. The former Burton Albion man could have had a hat-trick yesterday but his shot lacked conviction and McGurn was able to block.
It was a miss which would come back to haunt him when Rovers regained the lead seven minutes from time.
Nade held the ball up and then rolled it into the path of Ryan Conroy, whose piledriver was parried by Oxley only for Lewis Vaughan, following up, to score his sixth of the season from the rebound.
“It felt like a smash-and-grab,” said a perplexed Stubbs. “It’s a difficult one to explain. When you’re talking to the players afterwards and you can see the effort they put in and the way they’ve tried to play and the chances we’ve created then you can’t criticise them.
“The only thing I can say is that, from the positions we got into, then a) we’ve got to pick the right pass and b) our movement has got to be better.
“But we moved the ball round on a really difficult surface and there’s no way I’m going to slate them because their effort was great.
“They did everything right in the game but the most important thing is the result. I’m looking back and thinking: ‘How have we lost that?’ But that’s football, unfortunately.
“When you’re on top during games then you have to capitalise on that and put your chances away and we just didn’t.
“From that point of view, it’s disappointing but, overall, our football was decent.”
Raith Rovers: McGurn; Thomson, Watson, Barr, McKeown; Anderson (McKay 62), Fox, Callachan, Conroy; Stewart (Nade 81), Vaughan. Subs not used: Cuthbert, Hill, Elliot, Robertson, Matthews.
Hibernian: Oxley; Gray, Watson, Fontaine, Stevenson; Stanton (Cummings 65), Fyvie (Boyle 84), Robertson, Allan, McGeouch; Malonga (El Alagui 77). Subs not used: Cerny, Forster, Craig, Dja Djedje.
Referee: Alan Muir. Attendance: 3,183.
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