Raith Rovers 2 Falkirk 2: Bairns hit late

David McCracken scored Falkirk's second
David McCracken scored Falkirk's second

Falkirk were stung by a 93rd minute goal after out-battling Raith Rovers at Starks Park.

A John Baird penalty and a header from captain David McCracken seemed to have lifted the Bairns into the play-off positions and maintained this incredible run of results until Raith’s final touch of the ball kept a point in Kirkcaldy.

A calamitous own goal from Will Vaulks had cancelled out Baird’s first half strike but the Bairns’ captain restored the advantage before Ross Callachan’s scrambled effort after three and a hafl minutes of injury time.

The Bairns battled hard to maintain this incredible run - they’ve only lost once since mid-November remember and that was to the Rovers - against the home side who had done their homework and made life difficult for the in-form Bairns. But after a hard-working performance deserving of three points they expected to have added a win to the tally.

Both sides had former players upfront with Mark Stewart in the white of the Rovers and Raith’s Challenge Cup goal hero from last term, John Baird, up front for Falkirk. Baird was an isolated figure running in hope rather than expectation of seeing the ball for the first half hour, and Rory Loy was dropping deep to try to link-up some meaningful play.

But Baird gave the Bairns the lead on the 23rd minute.

A hopeful clearance from Nade fell to Sibbald in the midfield and he switched the play to Taiwo via Mark Kerr. Luke Leahy had sneaked along the left touchline and an excellent cross-field pass found the left-back beating Jason Thomson in the air. The knockdown fell to Rory Loy but as he pulled back his foot to shoot he was clipped by Rory McKeown and Barry Cook awarded the penalty.

Baird, infront of the home supporters, rammed the ball low and hard into the right corner of David McGurn’s goal to give the Bairns the lead.

It was almost two when Vaulks’ header at a corner bounced wickedly and forced McGurn into a two-handed push clear from his top corner a couple of minutes later.

A defensive mix-up on the 35th minute almost let Tom Taiwo score, but his strike at an empty net was deflected wide.

Just before half-time Christian Nade went close with a glancing header but MacDonald was untroubled and the Bairns went in 1-0 up thanks to Baird’s spot-kick.

The Bairns burst into the second half and Loy was denied seconds in by a low McGurn save, and Grant Anderson headed onto the roof of the net from 16 yards.

Raith pressed for an equaliser but Grant and David McCracken both kept them out with a series of headers, but a crazy sequence helped Rovers draw level on the 61st minute.

Ross Callaghan careered down the Raith left-wing on a fast-break from a Falkirk attacking throw and took Nade’s lay-off. McCracken and Vaulsk both rushed back to cover but no-one picked up Anderson at the far corner of the penalty box and Luke Leahy couldn’t make it. Jamie MacDonald got a hand to Anderson’s strike and seemed to have done enough to clear but Will Vaulks’ continual retreat caused all sorts of difficulties and he sliced an attempted clearance over the line. MacDonald scrambled back to try and retrieve before Nade rammed it into the net to make sure.

Just as Falkirk had gone close when they scored so to did Rovers in the immediate aftermath. Conroy miskcued a strike from 10 yards and it was easily gathered by the Bairns’ number one MacDonald.

Blair Alston replaced Craig Sibbald on 66 minutes and instantly the Bairns were ahead. Taiwo’s corner was met by McCracken’s head and he nodded down low into the turf and the bounce beat McGurn and sent the Bairns ahead.

Alston had the chance to put them further ahead when he rolled the ball past McKeown then across goal and only the slightest touch was needed to knock the Bairns 3-1 up, buit it was inches wide of both Baird and the far post.

Vaulks flashed a long drive wide as the game closed out seemingly in the Bairns’ favour but Jason Thomson’s looped effort at goal from 25 yuards almost sneaked in but was pushed away by MacDonald. He was beaten however by Callachan who smashed in his first ever goal late on.

Raith: McGurn, Thomson, Watson, Hill, Anderson, Moon (Fox 81), Stewart, Callachan, Conroy (McKay 70), McKeown, Nade. Subs: Scott, Vaughan, Matthews, Barr, Cuthbert.

Falkirk: MacDonald, Duffie, McCracken, Vaulks, Taiwo, Sibbald (Alston 66), Kerr, Grant, Leahy, Loy (Morgan 83), Baird (Smith 86). Subs: Dick, Maybury, Biabi, Bowman.

Att: 2092