Welcome back to the first full month in charge of Raith Rovers – a month where we need to keep picking up points regularly to stave off that threat of automatic relegation.
I think I’ve found a tactic that can do this (4-1-3-2 DM Narrow – Very Short Passing, Low tempo or lower) where we can pass teams to death, and I’m hoping to also do a bit of business in the January transfer window (If I can get rid of some dead weight off of the wage bill, or maybe sell one of the young stars we have for a tidy sum plus sell-ons).
We are in the winter break, so we don’t have a game until the Scottish Cup 4th Round at home to Motherwell on the 14th, so all the lads are off on hols recuperating after a mad December – 3 games in 5 days finished it up.
Our U18’s lost 1-0 to Killie U18’s.
Our Ressies beat Ormiston Res 6-0. goals from Scott Brown (19yo DC), Kyle Clark (Triallist), David McGregor (21yo AML) and an hat-trick from Kylian Hazard.
200 up when we play Motherwell in the cup.
14th January 2023 – Motherwell (H) – Scottish Cup 4th Round
We welcome a Motherwell side this afternoon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motherwell_F.C.) currently rock bottom of the Premiership in-game, 9th IRL after finishing 3rd in the truncated 19/20 season. In game they have finished either 8th or 9th in the past 4 seasons. They are a big club with a big wage bill (7th, £3.18M/annum) so they really can’t afford to be relegated.
Today however is a bit of light relief – the Scottish Cup. A win would be nice, I’d rather beat Dundee Utd in the League in 3 days though…
Robinson in for Vaughan, DLP(A), and Ethan Hamilton (24yo CM) is back from injury and starts as one of the CM(A)’s – Originally a Man Utd youngster, arrived here on a free from Celtic in-game – He’s at Peterborough IRL… Wingbacks up to Support as well. Motherwell go with a 4-5-1…
FT Raith 2 (Robinson 8, Bigirimana 75) Motherwell 1 (Anderson 19) Att 4,207 (664 Away)
We’re in the rain here at Stark’s Park in Kirkcaldy – this is the driest town in Scotland apparently, though recently IRL you’d not know that. And we start really nicely again, Gavin Robinson getting his 10th of the season following a nice pass from Hunter and a great cross from Liam Hegarty, Robinson heading in powerfully from 6 yards. 1-0 Raith early doors. That lasted until the 19th minute – a very similar goal to ours for Motherwell, Anderson heading in a McIntyre cross. 1-1. Stalemate after the goal, 1-1 at the break.
60 minutes with only the 1 highlight – Vaughan on for Ferrier, Robinson to AF. Very tight, until the 75th minute when Bigirimana score a Direct Free Kick (Can’t remember the last time I saw one of them) from all of 30 yards!!. Top Left bins! 2-1 Raith! Black on for Hunter, CM(A) to CM(S). Last 5, Matthews for Hamilton. Motherwell pushing. And a really long highlight – we all know what happens now… Actually no, its a corner. Stoppage time. Last minute, Innes pulling off a slide-tackle that should be on Pornhub… And we see it out. 2-1 Raith, 5th round here we come 🙂
Lots of lower division teams left in it – Berwick losing from 2-0 up after falling to 9 men, Falkirk beating Dundee Utd. Some big ties there still, hopefully an easy draw to come. £12k for the win.
I’m noticing I may not be able to cash in on my good kids – they’ve all got stupidly-low foreign-club release clauses FFS, and of course they don’t want to renegotiate contracts when there is interest in them from afar…
And we’ve had the 5th round draw for the Scottish Cup…
Away to Ayr – I’ll take that!! And one of the old firm will go this round as they are drawn together. That will be our first game of February.
Our Reserves lost 3-0 to Aberdeen Res.
17th January 2023 – Dundee Utd (A) – Ladbrokes Premiership
We make the short journey (35 miles) over the Tay Bridge to face a Dundee Utd side (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dundee_United_F.C.) who are currently 9th in the Premiership in game, 7 points above us. In the first season in-game they got promoted after finishing 2nd in the Championship, and have finished 5th, 7th and 7th again in the next 3 seasons in the Prem. IRL they are also in the Premiership after getting promoted as Championship winners last term, and are currently 7th, one of four teams on 11 points, as I type this.
Little tweaks of the tactics, Vaughan back in as the DLF(S) for Robinson, Black in for Hamilton (Just back from Injury) in Midfield. Marshall in at left back for Currie – we have 5 games in 14 days so there will be plenty of game time for everybody. Dundee Utd start with a 4-4-2.
FT Dundee Utd 1 (Wilson 48) Raith 1 (Black 18) Att 7,608 (715 Away)
Dundee kick off in the famous tangerine shirts. A good chance early on, a lovely shot from Bigirimana, and a great break from Dundee from the resulting corner, looks like its going to be a tough game. But we take the lead in the 18th minute – a lovely Bigirimana deep free kick finished at the 2nd go of it by Dylan Black at the back post. 1-0 Raith. Both Black and Ferrier were unmarked at the back post for that! Player ratings looking good as we enter the last 10 minutes of the half, and our condition is considerably better. Half time, 1-0, 62% possession, we are chooking the life out of the game at the moment.
Looks like Dundee got a rocket at Half Time – 1-1 in the 48th minute, Wilson with a tap-in after the ball somehow works its way to him after a series of blocks. Disappointing. 55 gone, Hunter off for Hamilton, Ferrier for Robinson. Then in the 66th minute Lewis Vaughan gets injured – Lower Leg – Bugger. Chrzanowski on, 3 at the back, wingbacks up, Crookes as a BPD(Cover) in the middle, tempted to make him a Libero TBH… Not looking too bad as we enter the last 15. Time running down, we have 5 minutes for stoppages… No urgency from Dundee Utd. 1-1 it finished, I’ll take it.
10 points clear of Motherwell now with 15 games left, but they do have a game in hand and must surely get a win soon. Only 4 points behind Inverness CT (Who we go away to next), but they have 2 games in hand. There’s the potential in this team to get out of 11th I think.
Bollocks. He’s 27 and contracted until the end of the 24/25 season… He won’t be the same after a leg break. Sending him to the specialist though because you just would, wouldn’t you?
Motherwell can’t buy a point currently – we need to try and eat into that 7 point gap to the 3 teams above us. Nice that Inverness have a day less rest than us.
Dundee Utd pull another 3 points ahead with a good win versus St. Mirren on the Friday night – feeling this Inverness game is a bit of a crunch one now…
21st January 2023 – Inverness CT (A) – Ladbrokes Premiership
We travel the 146 miles up the A9 to Inverness to play an Inverness CT side currently in 9th, 7 points ahead of us in a game in hand. In game they were promoted to the Premiership in 18/19 after winning the Championship and have finished 6th, 3rd and 5th in the last 3 seasons. IRL (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverness_Caledonian_Thistle_F.C.) they are in the Championship, finishing 2nd last season, 20/21 hasn’t yet started in Scotland at Tiers 2 and down. Snow expected this afternoon…
Inverness beat Motherwell 1-0 last time out and are unbeaten in 6 league games (W3 D3)…
Robinson in for the injured-until-next-season Lewis Vaughan, Hamilton in for Matthews, Currie & Watson in for Mitchell & Hegarty (Wingbacks suffer the most condition-wise on average, so i’ll rotate them). Looking for the guys to keep on keeping on. Inverness start with a 4-4-2 (So many 4-4-2’s up here, suggests it’s an OP tactic…)
FT Inverness CT 0 Raith 0 Att 4,746 (507 Away)
A colourful picture today – Red and Blue halves versus Bright Yellow in a snowy Inverness. Inverness on the front foot early on. Leitch with a great double-save to keep it 0-0. And apart from a few Inverness highlights we reach half-time in stalemate.
Quiet again, but the Inverness players condition is dropping quite quickly. But in the 56th minute a really soft penalty to Inverness, Watt apparently pushed by Crookes… But the penalty from Watt is terrible 🙂 Leitch catching it standing up 🙂 63 gone, youngster Martin Murphy (20yo, 6ft 1in STC) on for Ferrier, TM(S), Robinson to AF. Matthews on for Hamilton, straight swap. Getting some chances now. Last 10, Murray on for Bigirimana, Hunter to DLP(S). 4 minutes stoppage time. Point blank header from Robinson… straight into the Keeper’s hands… 0-0 it finished. Again, not bad at all. 7.6 for Keeper Leitch 🙂 Man of the Match 🙂
Just the 4 goals across the 4 games – Motherwell remain 10 points back after a creditable point at Aberdeen. 14 games left. Think we may be in for a play off – Looking like 1 from Hamilton, QotS, Berwick 7 Livingston – Berwick now lost 5 on the trot 🙁 I see they’ve gone 4-4-2 – the wingers aren’t good enough!! Next up for us are Celtic at home, followed by Hibs, also at home – 1st & 2nd 🙂
Feels like the 6th to 10th spot teams are picking up lots of points – we could potentially be 8 points back from 10th if Inverness CT win their game in hand… Only 9 points between 4th and 10th.
Steve Leitch in the team of the week again… he’s a Celtic player though so won’t be available for the upcoming match.
Inverness remain 7 points above us. If we get any points from the next 3 games (Celtic H, Hibs H, Aberdeen A) I will be ecstatic and surprised, such is the gulf in the wage bills. We are a Championship side overperforming – I hope that if we are relegated (Waiting for Motherwell to turn it on) I’m given a bit of time to turn them around.
Our Reserves beat Edinburgh Uni Res 3-0, a hat-trick from 18yo STC Craig Wright.
25th January 2023 – Celtic (H) – Ladbrokes Premiership
We welcome a Celtic side in an OK run of form, but they have lost 3 and drawn 6 this season, so are just 3 points above Rangers. In game they’ve finished 2nd for the past 2 seasons as well (Rangers winning in 20/21, Hearts in 21/22) so they are definitely not the all-conquering Celtic of real life. That said anything from this game would be a massive positive. Raith do have a win versus Celtic though (out of 10 matches) – A 1-0 win at home last February.
Ross Stewart (27, ex-Motherwell & Livingston) in between the sticks today as Leitch can’t play against his parent club. Wingbacks changed, Hunter and Hamilton swap side, and then there is Liam Ross up top.
17yo, 6ft 1in, 14 Finishing, 16 heading, really good physicals for his age. And he is getting better really quickly. He gets a hell of a debut 🙂 We will also have Johnny Miller back in Midfield sooner rather than later, hopefully he could get 45 versus Aberdeen. Celtic are going with a 4-2-3-1 Wide.
FT Raith 1 (Hegarty 16) Celtic 3 (Johnston 11, 70, Chalobah 63) Att 8,867 (4,203 Away)
We lasted 11 minutes – Johnston with a header at the back post. However the lead is short lived. A Bigirimana deep free kick is flicked goalward by Innes, rebounds off Khelifi, and right-back Hegarty is in the right place to slam the ball home. 1-1!! Soon after Grimshaw the DM picks up a knock, Chrzanowski on, 3 at the back, Wingbacks up. Crookes as a Libero 🙂 Pretty quiet for the rest of the half, 1-1 at the break!
A capacity crowd here today, can we end up coming away with anything from the game? Just coming up to 60 minutes a massive chance for Raith, the final shot from Hunter just wide. And then the sucker punch in the 63rd minute, Chalobah from 25 yards… 3-1 in the 70th, Johnston again at the back post. Last 15, Hunter & Hamilton off for Black & Matthews. Quiet after that, 3-1 it finished.
At least Motherwell also lost. 10 points and 9 goals better off than them currently, 13 games (And we play them twice) left.
Unless we start to win a lot of games soon we’re looking at a relegation play-off I think – turning a 9 point gap around in 13 games will be very tough. Everybody is beating everybody else from 10th to 4th.
28th January 2023 – Hibernian (H) – Ladbrokes Premiership
Part 2 of the no-expectations games as we host a Hibs side currently in 2nd, no losses in 6 competitive matches, 1 point above Rangers with a game in hand. In game they’ve finished 4th, 9th, 6th and 4th in the past 4 season in the Premiership, IRL (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hibernian_F.C.) they are currently 3rd after 10 games, after finishing 5th and 7th in 18/19 and 19/20 respectively. They are 5th of the 5 teams with wage bills over £5M/annum
Ferrier back in up top, Ross gets another game. Currie in at left back. Leitch back in goal. Just trying for a little bit of cohesion really. Hibs are using a 4-2-3-1 Wide a la Celtic…
FT Raith 0 Hibernian 2 (Horgan 20, Mallan 85) Att 7,724 (2,217 Away)
Again, anything from today would be a bonus. Stalemate until the 20th minute when Hegarrty missed a header at the back post – Horgan tapping in. 1-0 Hibs. Not Soon after Ferrier had a gilt-edged chance to get the equaliser after an Innes long bomb – a really tame shot straight at the keeper. FFS. And the rain is teeming down. And then Ethan Hamilton gets sent off – a really bad one, two-footed scythe from behind. 1-0 Hibs at HT.
We get to 60 with no highlights – Robinson on for Ross as a PF(A). Last 20, Winger Jamie Skelly on as a CWB at left back… I’ve been training him, looks good (In a Mr. Slobby Loki Doki kind of way, making attacking players wing-backs). 81st minute, Black missed an easy header after great work by Robinson. 2-0 in the 85th, 25-yarder from Mallan... Robinson is a threat as a lone PF(A). 2-0 it finished. really not that bad considering we played the whole 2nd half with 10 men.
Thankfully Motherwell lose again. 12 games left. Aberdeen next up away, in 3 days.
A big win in the context of the league – Hibs can go top with a win.
And so we get to the 31st January – Transfer Deadline day. We won’t be doing much – £3k over wage-budget and £32k to spend… Looking forward to a big fat cull at the end of the season.
PLAYER LEAVING – LOAN
19yo MC Robert McIntyre goes to Huntly (13th in the Highland league) for the rest of the season.
21yo DR Tony Thomson (1.5* CA, 2/3 * PA) goes to Dundee on a free.
I’m a bit worried though that some of our really good kids have stupidly low release clauses on them. 7 Hours left…
31st January 2023 – Aberdeen (A) – Ladbrokes Premiership
We make the 100 mile trip North to Aberdeen (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberdeen_F.C.) to play a side currently 6th in the League, WWDLD in their last 5 games. In game they’ve finished 3rd, 4th, 5th & 9th in the last 4 seasons, IRL they finished 4th in both th elast 2 seasons and are currently also sitting 4th… Another tough one.
Back to a 4-1-2-3 DM Wide – Johnny Miller gets his first game time since my arrival – all told he looks quality. Skelly back in on the left wing, Hazard the right, Robinson up top as a PF(A). Marshall back in at left wing-back. Bigirimana will take over from Miller as DLP most probably at Half Time, we shall see. Aberdeen start with a 4-5-1.
FT Aberdeen 3 (Mackay-Steven pen 30, 60, McIntosh 65) Raith 0 Att 14,739 (595 Away)
Aberdeen on the attack early doors in the rain. We are getting a few forward moves going though. They look so much more Physical than the Raith boys though. Pretty constant pressure from Aberdeen. 29th minute, penalty to Aberdeen (Innes shove apparently, really soft). Mackay-Steven slots it away. 1-0 at HT.
HT, Marshall, off, Skelly drops to WB(A), Matthew on for Marshall, 4-1-3-1-1 DM – Hazard to AM(A) in the middle. 60 minutes, 2-0, a deflection straight to Mackay-Steven, who gets his 2nd of the game. Bigirimana on for Miller. 3-0 in the 65th, McIntosh with a tap-in. Black on for Hazard. Time runs down – we have a few chances but there’s no quality. Thinking I made a big mistake leaving Berwick. 3-0 it finished.
11 games left…
That’s it for the games this month – potentially 4 games next month if we can dispatch Ayr in the Cup and get to the Quarters.
We need to beat Motherwell again – we will definitely play them once more when the league splits for the last 5 games.
And that’s that – 1st February 2023. really need to start playing better, really feel like I’m missing a Ball Winner in midfield, got lots of playmakers but that’s not enough. And I don’t think Wingers with 1 up top works particularly well. Tough one.
Lastly here are the Key Highlights from the 6 games this month. See you soon.