Raith Rovers 2, Albion Rovers 0
Raith Rovers gained a late reward for steady second-half attacking pressure on a rain-spattered afternoon at Stark’s Park.
It was largely a game to forget in the difficult conditions and seemed to be heading for a scoreless draw, as Albion Rovers looked as if they might keep their hosts contained and pick up a point away from home.
But a goal by Bobby Barr five minutes from time made it pretty much safe for Raith - before substitutes Willis Furtado and Dario Zanatta (the scorer) combined to make victory certain.
Manager Barry Smith said the most pleasing aspect of the performance was that Raith kept going, while they knew they would have to be patient after failing to score early on.
“We have been at home before and we’ve had to dig out results, and today was another day like that,” he added. “We scored two goals near the death but that’s all down to the boys’ fitness and their willingness to get forward and win the game.”
Both sides tried to master the heavy conditions early on and, as a consequence, the first half was fairly even.
Second-top Raith looked a little unconvincing in defence at times against second-bottom Albion, and Aaron Lennox did will to tip away an angled drive in the 14th minute from Scott Maclean.
The Coatbridge side relied heavily on the offside trap to quell Rovers’ moves, while some of referee Graham Beatson’s decisions got both sets of players frustrated.
In 21 minutes, Lewis Vaughan missed a great chance after he had cut in skilfully from the right, and got a fortunate bounce of the ball, but hit his shot into the side netting from near the six-yard box.
Vaughan and also Greig Spence made attempts on goal after a long clearance from Lennox had floated into the Albion area, but the ball was headed off the line without too much panic in the Albion rearguard.
Impatience among sections of the Raith following was growing by this stage, as they badly wanted a victory to see the Lang Toun side keep a hand on Ayr United’s shoulder.
Albion enjoyed a small flurry of chances just before the interval. An offside-looking Alan Trouten looked almost certain to score after collecting a flick forward but his attempt to lob Lennox went embarrasingly wide.
The visitors looked a little more menacing at the start of the second half but Raith gradually gained possession and tried to inject a bit more urgency into their game.
They embarked on a regular series of forward moves and the introduction of Furtado after 55 minutes gave the attacks an added edge.
A shot well saved by Albion ‘keeper Kieron Wright looked like perhaps the most hopeful attempt - but then another move by the home side finally paid dividends.
Raith carried the ball into the box with a skilful passage of play and Vaughan laid off to Bobby Barr, who kept calm and slammed it into the roof of the net.
Then, with 89 minutes on the clock, Furtado made a strong, penetrating run down the left and crossed for Dario Zanatta to net expertly from close range.
Raith Rovers - Lennox, Thomson, Murray, Benedictus, Spence (Furtado 55), Robertson (Herron 73), Vaughan, Barr, Matthews (Zanatta 81), Davidson, Hendry, Subs (not used) - Smith, McHattie, Buchanan. McKay.
Albion Rovers - Wright, Reid, McLaughlin, Marr, Perry, Holmes, Maclean, Davidson, Higgins, Trouten, Victoria (Scullion 86). Subs (not used) - Baur, McLEish, FIsher, Hopkins, Potts, Watters.
Referee - Graham Beatson.
Attendance - 1456.