Falkirk 2 Raith Rovers 4: First league loss in two months

Davidson scores. Pic by Michael Gillen.
Davidson scores. Pic by Michael Gillen.
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Peter Houston was sent to the stand as Falkirk fell to their Fife rivals at The Falkirk Stadium in the first match of the second quarter of SPFL Championship fixtures.

In an end-to-end entertaining match – for the neutral – the Bairns didn’t ever take the lead but kept pace with a Rovers side which hit on the counter and punished Falkirk’s prolifigacy in front of goal.

Peter Houston was sent to the stand but is expected to chalklenge any further punishment. Pic by Michael Gillen.

Peter Houston was sent to the stand but is expected to chalklenge any further punishment. Pic by Michael Gillen.

The Bairns created chances, but could only take two and should have had many more, while ex-striker Mark Stewart again returned to haunt the side where he made his name.

However the defeat is not only costly in terms of the league table, as Bairns’ boss Peter Houston was sent to the stand for comments made to the match official in a puzzling period from ref Barry Cook that Peter Houston says he will contest.

He booked Kyle Benedictus for actions outside of the box, didn’t give a penalty when the defender nudged Craig Sibbald off the ball inside it, and then sent Houston to the stand after explaining his decisions to Raith boss Gary Locke who was similarly perplexed by the series of events.

The defeat is the first in the league for the Bairns in more than two months and they were soundly beaten on the scoreline, but they played their part in an excellent match which could have been closer.

Falkirk levelled through ex-Raith player John Baird

Falkirk levelled through ex-Raith player John Baird

Rovers opened the scoring through Iain Davidson’s strike in the 14th minute, but they could have had the lead with the game barely seconds old.

Mark Stewart was stopped within the opening minute by Danny Rogers and then, from the resulting corner, Jean-Yves M’Voto saw a top corner-bound header pushed over by the goalkeeper.

But it was after another corner that the Rovers took the lead. The Kirkcaldy side had attacked down the Bairns’ right, where makeshift right-back Paul Watson was deputising for Aaron Muirhead and Lewis Kidd. A ball into the box found Ross Matthews but Luca Gasparotto deflected his effort over. The corner returned the ball to the centre of the penalty area and the Bairns couldn’t clear and Davidson lashed the ball through a cluster of bodies.

The response was immediate though and the lead lasted barely a minute.

22-10-2016. Picture Michael Gillen. FALKIRK. Falkirk Stadium. Falkirk FC v Raith Rovers FC. SPFL Ladbrokes Championship. Raith 2nd goal, Mark Stewart 9.

22-10-2016. Picture Michael Gillen. FALKIRK. Falkirk Stadium. Falkirk FC v Raith Rovers FC. SPFL Ladbrokes Championship. Raith 2nd goal, Mark Stewart 9.

Towering defender M’Voto left a hoofed ball forward from Watson for his goalkeeper. Kevin Cuthbert didn’t come to collect and John Baird nipped in and rounded the ‘keeper and rolled in the leveller.

The Bairns had the ball in the net again when McHugh turned in a Craig Sibbald corner but the goal was ruled out for a push by Baird on Ross Matthews.

The ball should then have been in the net but somehow the Bairns transpired not to score.

McHugh scampered clear of the defence and shot at the angle at goal, but Cuthbert made a block with his chest. McHugh picked up the rebound and rolled the ball into

Mark Kerr in support. With Cuthbert beaten, and just one defender on the line, six yards from goal, Kerr topped the ball and pulled the effort wide.

The Bairns fans thought they were ahead. They should have been. And Kerr went about the remanider trying to atone for a horrific miss.

He sprinted back to foil a Rovers’ breakaway and made an excellenet last-man tackle on Mark Stewart 12 yards from goal. Then, at the other end he sent a sizzling strike inches over the bar from the edge of the box. What he couldn’t do from six yards, he very nearly did from 18.

Rovers held the lead for a little longer than they had when they regained it on 36 minutes via ex-Bairn Mark Stewart.

Bobby barr cut in from the wing and sent a pwerful low shot in that spun up and fell favourably for Matthews to head at Rogers. The Irishman made a one-handed save, but could only pad the ball to Stewart a few yards out and he nodded his side ahead again.

It remained that way until the break and beyond it, Raith looked likeliest to score in the early exchanges with Mark Stewart blowing a couple of opportunities to put the visitors further ahead, and Kyle Benedictus nodding just wide in a chance that was offside anyway.

However a bizarre turn of events, centring on the referee saw Falkirk boss Peter Houston sent to the stand and Rovers defender Kyle Benedictus booked for a fairly tame tug-back.

Craig Sibbald, on the right flank, jinked past the defender who pulled out of scything the 21-year-old down and instead levered his way back and caught up as the Bairn dribbled up the by-line and nudged him off the ball. Cook awarded a goal kick, and then pulled out a yellow card. Not to caution the attacker for seeking a penalty after the shoulder challenge, but for the defender’s actions OUTSIDE of the box.

The ref then explained his perplexing actions to Rovers boss Gary Locke in the technical area, to which Peter Houston encouraged the resumption of the game. The further remonstrations from the home dug-out saw the Bairns’ boss sent to the stand.

It didn’t deter the home side from attacking and both substitutes Lee Miller and James Craigen were foiled in quick succession by Kevin McHattie and Cuthbert.

But then the crucial goal that all but sealed the game for the Rovers came.

Bobby Barr was injured making a chalenge on Scott Shepherd and replaced but from Craigen’s free-kick just infront of the home dug-out Cuthbert plucked the ball out of the air and launched a Raith counter. Mark Stewart scampered into the box and cut-back was missed by Gasparotto and tucked into the net by Declan McManus.

The game looked over but the Bairns responded through Lee Miller’s close range header to reduce the arrears.

However it fell away again as David McCracken stumbled and was robbed on the edge of the centre circle by Stewart and the ex-Bairn ran clear and rounded

Danny Rogers, much the same way John Baird had done Cuthbert in the first half to consign the Bairns to a first defeat since August 20 at Queen of the South in a performance Peter Houston branded “criminal”.