Mallan to the rescue for Murray’s men as hosts rue another late collapse
BOTH these teams are still contemplating the end-of-season play-offs after the draw that did neither many favours.
However, whereas the home side can dream of a shot at promotion, it is the spectre of a relegation dogfight that still hangs over St Mirren, despite a dramatic late equaliser.
A fourth defeat in five matches was staring the Buddies in the face until Stevie Mallan’s 89th-minute free-kick rescued a point.
With just two league wins all season, though, the pressure is still mounting on manager Ian Murray, whose side are now seventh but languish a point above second-bottom. A 39th-minute strike from Mark Stewart looked to have sent Rovers into fourth but they will curse another late collapse after Saturday’s draw with Dumbarton. Had things panned out differently this summer then Ray McKinnon could have been prowling about in the away technical area rather than the home one. Whether he would have made any difference to the opening to the season endured by St Mirren is a moot point, but he has certainly energised the hosts this term.
There was more perspiration than inspiration in the early sparring but further danger for Rovers was averted when Scott Robertson tracked back brilliantly to break up a St Mirren counterattack, before Grant Anderson sclaffed his drive across goal after finding space inside the visitors’ box.
It was a comfort also afforded to Mark Stewart in the 16th minute for the clearest of opportunities. Rory McKeown’s angled cross beautifully sought out his team-mate but the striker’s header dropped wide and was neither a good enough effort on target nor a knock-down for the lurking Jon Daly.
When James Craigen’s 25-yard free-kick was tipped over spectacularly by Jamie Langfield nine minutes later, it was an indication that the tide was turning in favour of the Fifers. With Langfield then turning an excellent Craigen volley round the post before stopping a point-blank Iain Davidson header from the resulting corner the tide was in danger of turning into a flood.
The defences were finally breached six minutes from the break. A swift attack engineered some space on the right for overlapping right-back Lewis Toshney and his cross was planted onto the willing forehead of Daly. Langfield pulled off a stunning low save from the former Rangers and Dundee United striker’s downward header, but Stewart followed up to find the net off the underside of the crossbar.
Gallagher brought out an excellent diving save from Kevin Cuthbert in the Raith goal moments before a half-time interval that surely would not have been comfortable for St Mirren. They had not been short of effort or commitment during the opening 45 minutes but a lock of cohesion going forward and a shortage of fortitude in defence were again their undoing. A powerful drive from the sprightly Lewis McLear four minutes into the second period briefly brought some hope for the Buddies but Stewart almost grabbed a second with a shot that slipped just past Langfield’s upright.
St Mirren could argue Rovers were lucky skipper Kyle Benedictus escaped with just yellow when he hauled back Gallagher with 10 minutes remaining but they still fashioned an unlikely point with Mallan’s late intervention.
THE EQUALISER: Mallan fires home