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Football: ANTONIO SHOWS 'EM WHO'S BOSS; ST JOHNSTONE..0 RAITH...............1 Calderon leads from the front.

Byline: Colin PATERSON at McDiarmid Park

SUPER Spaniard Antonio Calderon turned in a man of the match display as 10-man Saints' title chase hit the buffers.

The Raith player/boss fired home a first-half winner and that was enough to take three points back to Fife.

It was a horrible day for the Perth side, especially for gaffer Billy Stark who endured abuse from a small section of so-called fans.

Things got even worse towards the end when St Johnstone's best player Mark Robertson saw red.

Stark's men were looking to bounce back from last week's 2-0 defeat at Clyde as they get ready to face title rivals Falkirk on Saturday.

The Raith gaffer made one change to the side that lost at Broadwood, Eddie Malone replacing Mark Baxter in defence.

Raith were keen to put Tuesday night's 4-0 Bell's Cup semi-final thrashing by Caley Thistle behind them and Calderon made four changes to his line-up.

Out went Vincent Talio, Christian Patino, Ritchie Brittain and Martin Prest as Calderon brought himself in along with Goran Stanic, Shaun Dennis and Steven Robb.

After a slow start Darren Dods had the first chance for the home side in 10 minutes but he volleyed a Robertson cross over the bar.

Three minutes later, a Stanic header almost let Keigan Parker in but Ian Brown was on hand to mop up the danger.

It wasn't the Croat's day. Soon after he became the first name in referee Craig MacKay's book for scything down Robertson.

A good run in the 20th minute from top scorer John Sutton set up Calderon but he shot well wide when Robb was better placed on the left-hand side of the box.

Teenager Malone bombed down the line midway through the first half and and sent in a cross for Simon Donnelly who nodded wide.

The same combination teamed up again in the 26th minute when Raith keeper Ramior Gonzalez had to be alert to keep out the exCeltic star's header.

That was to prove an important save as Rovers took the lead in 29 minutes.

A Ryan Blackadder free-kick was charged down by the Saints defensive wall.

The ball fell kindly for Calderon and he hit it first time with his left foot low into the corner with Kevin Cuthbert well beaten.

Now the pressure was really on Saints to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and harass a Raith side that looked organised and comfortable on the ball.

In 36 minutes the Kirkcaldy men almost doubled their lead when Calderon nipped in and hit a brilliant cross for Robb whose header went just over.

On-loan Walsall midfielder Craig Stanley pushed forward moments later with the Saints defence back pedalling.

But he blazed his shot into the travelling fans behind Cuthbert's goal.

A Robertson free-kick found Dods in the final minute of the first half but his header crashed off a post.

The McDiarmid Park men needed to get stuck into the visitors straight after the interval but were finding them difficult to break down.

Rovers' neat, passing play meant Saints' midfield was spending more time chasing shadows than going forward for a leveller.

The home fans weren't helping their heroes as every stray pass or mis-timed tackle was greeted by a chorus of boos.

And they nearly had more to be unhappy about in 55 minutes when a good move involving Blackadder and Sutton set up Stanley but he shot straight at Cuthbert.

In 61 minutes Stark brought on pint-sized winger Brian McLaughlin for Donnelly who was taking pelters from the stands.

Shouts of ``Stark must go'' began to fill the air as some supporters disgracefully turned on their manager while their players were being roasted.

Silky Calderon was running the show and in 67 minutes the Spaniard danced into the area and cut the ball back for Robb who saw his shot blocked.

Parker picked up a booking as frustration crept into the home side's game.

Raith were in control and in 71 minutes the impressive Robb was replaced by Karl Howley. Tempers were now beginning to boil over and with eight minutes to go onloan Dundee star Robertson lost the head completely.

Having picked up a needless booking for a foul on Calderon five minutes before he then out at Sutton on the halfway line, resulting in a deserved red card.

Gonzalez pulled off a fantastic reflex save in the dying minutes from Parker before Calderon missed late on to wrap things up.

Stark's misery was complete as his side left to more boos.

CAPTION(S):

ROVER THE TOP: Antonio Calderon scores and the players rush to congratulate him
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 21, 2003
Words:776
Previous Article:Football: Caley's Ritchie pickings; BRECHIN..................0 INVERNESS CT..........2.
Next Article:Football: COUGHLIN GETS IT IN THE NECK; ST MIRREN...............1 QOS.........................2.


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