Raith Snatch Draw From Jaws Of Victory
An astonishing late collapse from Raith Rovers saw them throw away a three goal lead, and eventually cling on to a 3-3 draw at the Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium this afternoon, as Dumbarton fought back to almost snatch victory at the death.
Ray McKinnon made one change from the defeat to Falkirk a fortnight ago, with Craig Wighton returning to the starting fold in-place of Jon Daly who dropped to the bench. Jason Thomson was still absent through injury, so Lewis Toshney continued at right-back, with Iain Davidson partnering Kyle Benedictus in the centre of defence.
On a bitterly cold, Dunbartonshire afternoon, it was Raith who were quicker out the blocks, with the Dumbarton defence on the back-foot from the get-go.
Even in the early moments, it was clear Mark Stewart was keen to play in an extremely advanced role, continually playing on the shoulder of the last defender and attempting to hare onto through balls.
While the approach almost paid off immediately, it did come to fruition after just four minutes as Raith took the lead. Stewart did well to chase and harry possession away from Gregor Buchanan, before releasing Wighton inside the area. The teenager spotted James Craigen free at the back-post, and his fine pass allowed the former Partick player to finish off the move from a tight angle to give the visitors an early lead.
While the early advantage didn’t lead to a barrel-load of chances in its aftermath, there seemed an assuredness and confidence amongst the Raith players. Traits which appeared sorely lacking in their opponents.
Lewis Toshney looked comfortable in his unfamiliar full-back position, demonstrating two step-overs in quick succession, which drew appreciative roars from the away support. Admittedly the roaring soon died down when he allowed a return pass to run under his foot, but the indication was that the Raith players were feeling good about themselves.
While Rovers continued to be the dominant force, they were failing to open the home side up, a Mitch Megginson snap-shot from 22-yards there only chance of note in a rather tame, chilly affair.
Dumbarton were threatening sporadically at best, and while a three man move ended with Calum Waters aiming a cross into the area, the Raith central pairing of Benedictus and Davidson mopped it up fairly convincingly. That it took Dumbarton 40 minutes to register their first shot at goal, a wayward set-piece, said much about the flow of the match.
Just as it appeared that Rovers would be taking a slender advantage into the interval, they doubled their lead with almost the last touch of the period.
An in-swinging corner from Ryan McCord was misjudged by Mark Brown, allowing Mark Stewart to nudge the ball home from close range, rolling over the line in a manner which appeared to suggest it was all be playing out in slow motion.
Not unexpectedly, Dumbarton looked to pick up the pace at the start of the second-half, with substitute, Kevin Cawley forcing a save from Cuthbert, low to his left, from a snap-shot from 20-yards.
While Dumbarton had upped the ante, you felt that if Raith could keep it tight then a third, surely match-winning goal wouldn’t be beyond them.
The goal duly arrived in the 56th minute, although as it transpired, it certainly didn’t seal all three points.
Scott Robertson picked up possession in the inside-left channel over 20-yards from goal, and after sidestepping one challenge, fired past Brown and into the side of the rigging for a fine individual effort.
The rather one-sided nature of the match was continuing, with Kyle Benedictus swinging a leg at a Craigen cross, bringing out a save from Brown, before a move which should have saw Raith go four up.
Rory McKeown did excellently down the left, winning what appeared to be a lost cause in the corner, and turning in a fine cross to Wighton. With his back to goal and six yards out, his turn and shot rebounded agonisingly off the bar, before McCord put the rebound over the still vibrating woodwork from just inside the area.
With just over 20 minutes remaining, Dumbarton manager, Steve Aitken made his third and final change, to say it proved decisive would be an understatement, with Willie Gibson coming on to replace Grant Gallagher.
A minute later, the Sons should have clawed a goal back, when Kevin Cawley side-footed past the post after being presented with an opportunity slap-bang in the middle of the six-yard-box. However, they did register on the score-sheet in the 81st minute, with Gibson the creator.
His corner-kick from the right-hand-side was headed past Cuthbert by Steven Saunders with disconcerting ease, with no-one seemingly designated to pick him up.
No more than a consolation, surely? Not necessarily, and it was panic stations two minutes later, when the same two players combined to haul the home team right back into it.
Gibson’s cross from the left was well placed, but again, Saunders was afforded bags of room, allowing him to dispatch his second header in as many minutes into the net.
There seemed an almost weary inevitability about what happened next. With three minutes left, Gibson, who had provided the spark which Dumbarton had lacked up until his introduction, cut in from the left and unleashed a shot which Davidson blocked with his arm inside the area. Garry Fleming made no mistake from the penalty spot.
From three up and seemingly home-and-hosed, Rovers, out of nothing, were now grimly and desperately clinging on for a point.
They almost didn’t even accumulate that meagre return, when another Gibson effort rebounded off the post, before being hacked to safety.
Rovers had one more chance at the death, when substitute, Jon Daly saw his header tipped wide from Brown after something of a stramash, but there wasn’t even time remaining to take the corner, with the full-time whistle bringing an overwhelming sense of, “how did that happen?”
Raith’s next match will be at home to St. Mirren at Stark’s Park this Tuesday.
The match highlights video will appear here shortly
RaithTV spoke with the gaffer after the 3-3 draw with Dumbarton
After the international break left a gap in both Raith and Dumbarton’s fixture list last weekend, the teams go head-to-head at the Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium this Saturday, with both sides looking for their first win in November.
Rovers 2-1 loss to Falkirk a fortnight ago, saw them go three matches without a win, while Dumbarton’s defeat to Queen of the South last time out, means their last three points came against Livingston at the beginning of October. While Dumbarton remained in ninth place after last week’s round of games, Rovers slipped outside the top-four for the first time since September, after Morton’s 2-0 win over Queen of the South saw them skip over Ray McKinnon’s men into fourth.
The clubs last meeting was at Stark’s Park in September, when a tight affair was settled by a Lewis Toshney header ten minutes into the second-period. It was an unusually low-scoring encounter, in a fixture that generally produces goals. with the ten meetings prior to that 1-0 win producing an incredible 42 goals.
While Raith have a fine record against Dumbarton, their record at the Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium since the Sons returned to the second-flight, suggests Saturday’s match will be a close-run-thing, with two wins, two draws and two defeats in the six trips. Rovers last win was a 4-2 victory in October 2013, when goals from Calum Elliot, Dougie Hill, Greig Spence and Lewis Vaughan sealed a 4-2 victory, a result at the time which stretched Raith’s unbeaten run to seven matches.
Last season saw Rovers lose on their first visit to the stadium, despite holding the upper-hand for large swathes of the match. Scott Agnew put Dumbarton ahead after 20 minutes, but Mark Stewart equalised with 25 minutes remaining. However, with the match approaching full-time, Dumbarton were awarded a late penalty, which Agnew dispatched to make the final score 2-1.
Rovers second visit was the final match of last season, which saw Laurie Ellis take charge of the match in a caretaker capacity. In a ding-dong affair, Mark Stewart and an incredible long-range strike from Lewis Vaughan put Rovers 2-1 up, but that man Agnew spoiled the party once again, with his late equaliser meaning the match finished all-square.
Raith’s recent record in the head-to-head sits at six wins and two draws from the last ten meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Greg Aitken.