The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition)
Raith down Wasps to seal play-off spot
John Mcglynn may have over-egged things when claiming a play-off place would have been “pie in the sky” at the start of the season, but Jamie Macdonald is convinced Raith are now firmly in the mix for promotion.
Victory over Alloa, consigning the Wasps to relegation, ensured Raith cannot slip out of the top four in their remaining two outings. For a side new to the Championship after three years away, it is a remarkable achievement.
There has been no inferiority complex, no doubts over their ability to cope with their rivals.
There was a wobble towards the end of a difficult 90 minutes but, having toughed it out to seal the three points, they can relish the coming weeks with optimism.
The slick passing and perpetual motion that has become Rovers’ trademark under Mcglynn were there on Saturday, but they also had to display stoicism and mettle to recover from Kevin Cawley’s first-half opener.
Controversy stalked their comeback but Gozie Ugwu’s penalty, coupled with Neil Parry’s red card, and the winner from Dylan Tait leaves the Stark’s Park side in pole position to finish runners-up behind champions Hearts.
“It’s fantastic for us,” beamed Macdonald, who was celebrating his 35th birthday.
“What an achievement to be in the top four. After coming up as new boys in the league, you are almost looking at just trying to consolidate, but what a fantastic season we have had.
“We have managed to get that top-four spot with two games to go and we’ll be looking to finish as high as possible, which is obviously second.
“That would be massive, especially when you go into the play-offs situation; it’s a couple of games less.
“It’s been a great season so far and, hopefully, we finish it strongly.”
Raith failed to cope with concerted pressure from Alloa midway through the first half and Cawley flashed in a wonderful left-foot volley from Jon Robertson’s deep cross.
However, the Kirkcaldy side opened the second half in determined fashion and one moment in the 53rd minute proved pivotal.
Regan Hendry harried Scott Taggart off the ball, allowing Ugwu to dance round Parry.
When the goalkeeper brought the striker down there were little doubts over the penalty, but referee Greg Aitken’s decision to red card Parry appeared at odds with the ‘double jeopardy’ rule change as he seemed to make an attempt to play the ball.
“I think it’s a ridiculous decision to send him off,” confessed Macdonald, sticking up for his old team.
“As a goalkeeper, there’s not much you can do. I even asked the ref at one point and he said he went past him and has intentionally tripped him up.
“But he has not. He has spread to stop the shot. It’s a good bit of skill from Gozie that takes him round and he has taken him down.
“There’s a bit of sympathy but at the same time it’s obviously a decision that has worked in our favour.”
Ugwu shrugged off the lengthy protestations of the home team to calmly roll in the spot-kick and just five minutes later Raith were ahead.
Dan Armstrong, filling in at left-back, found Hendry’s forward burst and his precise cut-back was fired into the net by Tait.
That should have relaxed the visitors but an inability to retain possession, a propensity to give away free-kicks and an inability to cope with Alloa’s aerial threat ensured there were some nervy moments before the full-time whistle sealed the hosts’ fate and Rovers’ immediate goal.
“We rode our luck in the last 15 to 20 minutes but we have got the all-important victory and sealed the top four,” added Macdonald.
“Now we look to push on.”