Mal­lan to the res­cue for Mur­ray’s men as hosts rue an­other late col­lapse

The Herald - Sport - - FOOTBALL - MARTIN MCMIL­LAN AT STARK’S PARK

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

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