League Defeat Deepens Raith Woes
Dumbarton swept past a tiring Raith Rovers with three second-half goals, as Gary Locke’s side fell to a further League defeat at Starks Park this afternoon.
After a bright opening half in which each side enjoyed spells of possession and territory, and a Ryan Hardie opener for the hosts, strikes from Christian Nade, Daniel Harvie, and Gregor Buchanan underlined the visitors’ second-half superiority with Raith unable to arrest their worrying slide toward the wrong end of the Scottish Championship table.
After the heroics of the past week, some reshuffling of Gary Locke’s pack was inevitable. Ian Davidson dropped out, with club captain Jason Thomson being restored to the starting line-up. Ryan Hardie also began the match, upfront alongside Mark Stewart – Raith hoping to translate some of the momentum generated from two heartening Cup performances into a faltering League campaign. There was both youth and experience on the bench: Ryan Stevenson, who scored Dumbarton’s fourth in their pre-Christmas eight-goal thriller against Ayr United, was joined by youngster Kyle Bell, elevated from Raith’s development squad after recent impressive performances.
With three defeats at their backs and sleet on their windscreens, Dumbarton arrived in Kirkcaldy seeking a first win of the year – the Sons’ last win coming in an impressive Hogmanay outing at home against Dundee United. Christian Nade – who scored in last week’s 2-1 reverse against Queen of the South – was partnered upfront by Andrew Stirling, himself unlucky not to score after hitting the frame of the goal late on. Robert Thomson was introduced at the expense of Raith loanee Lewis Vaughan, forbidden from playing against his parent club.
A brief mention for the Raith Rovers’ play-list, chosen by fans during the week and publicised by the club on Twitter and on the website – the B52’s “Rock Lobster” and Apollo 440’s “Stop the Rock” provided a thumping if surreal aural background to today’s pre-match activities. Raith’s fans are to be applauded.
It was the visitors who got off to the brightest start. Nade drew Benedictus and released Thomson, Stirling’s cross being well-gathered by Cuthbert. Stirling drilled a fine cross-shot toward goal in the second minute, again well held by the Raith keeper. With a third opening in as many minutes, Stanton squirmed past a weak Benedictus challenge, but pulled his shot wide. Stirling continued to look lively, bothering Cuthbert with driven crosses looking for a goal-scoring touch.
It was nine minutes before Raith created a strike at goal – Barr’s free-kick was met by Matthews, visiting keeper Martin pulling off an excellent block.
Dumbarton continued to surge forward, with a drive and intensity belying the wintry conditions. Stanton collected a pass, side-stepped the advancing M’Voto, and struck a strong shot toward Cuthbert, stinging the palms of a Raith keeper at full stretch.
Bobby Barr, scorer of the opener at Tynecastle mid-week, provided the impetus to establish Raith as an attacking force in the match. Ploughing a lonely furrow on the Railway Stand side, he burst beyond his opposite number on two occasions around quarter of an hour in – Carswell doing well to block one inviting centre, and a further cross deflected away following another dashing counter-attack.
On twenty-six minutes, Raith took the lead. Buchanan seemed to be favourite to collect a deep ball down the inside-right channel from Callachan, but for Stewart challenging strongly. With Dumbarton claiming a free-kick, referee Northcroft waved play on – Stewart squared for Hardie, dashing across his man to dink a neat finish beyond Martin.
The opening goal seemed to calm Raith’s play, with more control in midfield and surer-footed defending from both Benedictus and M’Voto. For a spell, Nade and Stirling struggled to win their challenges, with Raith’s defence began to get the upper hand. A good clearance saw Barr scamper cross-field, eventually drawing Thomson into an overlap, a retreating Docherty doing well to scramble the Raith skipper’s cross away from the danger zone. Barr beat Harvie to a bouncing ball seconds later, although his low shot came to nothing.
Having gone a goal down, Dumbarton fought for every tackle in the run-up to half-time, but were unable to generate the quality of possession sufficient to create a clear-cut chance. A Docherty blast from twenty-five yards, straight into Cuthbert’s midriff, was all the Sons had to show for their efforts. At the other end, Stewart slipped Buchanan, with Barr’s cross behind the on-rushing Hardie. A weak Nade header straight at Cuthbert brought an entertaining half to a close – bright and busy football from both teams in decidedly wintry conditions.
The second half began in the same busy fashion. Stirling slipped inside McHattie, only for the Raith defender to recover as his opponent was bearing down on Cuthbert; Raith’s Johnston looked set to pull the trigger only for Buchanan to nod clear.
Four minutes in, Dumbarton got the break their endeavours deserved, Nade’s powerful downward header bouncing up and over Cuthbert. With the visiting fans still bouncing tucked away in a corner of the main stand, Stirling burst beyond McHattie again, and cutting inside, crashed to the floor. With Raith fans’ holding their breath, referee Northcroft booked the Dumbarton winger for simulation – a penalty for McHattie’s challenge seemed at least as likely. With Raith’s goal having stemmed from a controversial decision under the eyes of the same linesman, Dumbarton’s fans had reasons to be aggrieved.
Stirling was again key as Dumbarton took the lead with fifty-five minutes on the watch. Controlling a clearance, he burst beyond Matthews, cutting inside and squaring to Harvie – with time to set himself, the Dumbarton left-back struck a firm drive beyond Cuthbert and into the bottom-corner, to put his side ahead.
Locke moved immediately, replacing Chris Johnston with Ryan Stevenson; Mark Stewart dropping into right midfield. Still it was the visitors who looked the more menacing – Nade cutting inside Benedictus after another Stirling burst, his curling shot deflected wide.
Just after the hour, a third for the visitors, capping off a calamitous fifteen minutes for the home side. A near-post cross evaded a crowd of bodies, with Buchanan finishing well at the far post.
Facing a two-goal deficit, Raith increased their tempo, seeking to build an attacking platform to work their way back into the game. Stevenson held off a challenge and fed Stewart; his lay-off found Callachan on the run, with only a last-minute block from Buchanan clearing the Raith man’s goal-bound effort.
However, despite Raith’s attacking options, the service was poor. Dumbarton’s strong running in central areas looked to outnumber their opposite numbers. While Callachan and substitute Roberts had their moments, it was the visitors who broke more often from the midfield scraps. Stirling was a powerful runner throughout, giving McHattie a torrid afternoon in wide areas, and linking well with Stanton and David Smith.
With the home side looking bereft in midfield, and Dumbarton’s Stanton and Stirling looking increasingly influential, Locke made his final substitution – withdrawing Jason Thomson for Rudi Skacel, with the Czech sitting behind Stevenson and Hardie, and Matthews dropping into defence. A Skacel free-kick – sent rasping into the South Stand – and a blocked Callachan effort from distance were all Raith could muster as the match moved into the final ten minutes.
With five minutes left, a clear site of goal for the home side – Roberts’ well-drilled cross fell to Stevenson, who’s blocked effort fell to Skacel – Martin in the Dumbarton goal gathered well. Although each substitution by Locke prompted a burst of energy, in truth Dumbarton were able to see out the final half-hour in relative comfort. Stevenson got no change in the aerial battles from his opposite number Buchanan, and the visitors covered the Starks Park turf in a far more effective and efficient manner than their hosts.
As the final whistle blew, Raith fans’ displeasure rang out around Starks Park. A miserable afternoon for Raith at the end of an energy-sapping week. The management team of Locke and Jackson have their work cut out to lift spirits before next weekend’s trip to Tannadice.
RaithTV spoke with the Gaffer after the 1-3 defeat at home to Dumbarton
After the high drama of Wednesday evening at Tynecastle, Rovers return to Stark’s Park this weekend, to take part in a fixture which has a habit of causing a fair amount of it’s own excitement.
Dumbarton are the visitors to Kirkcaldy this Saturday, and while the last meeting between the two at the Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium in November finished 0-0, that’s far from the norm in a fixture which generally produces goals, and plenty of them.
This season’s first meeting was a case in point, with Rovers marching into a 3-0 half-time lead, thanks to goals from Kevin McHattie, Ross Callachan and Scott Roberts, but a late fightback from Dumbarton saw them reduce the arrears down to one, after goals from Ryan Stevenson and Robert Thomson.
Only a late red card for Gregor Buchanan arrested The Sons momentum, in a game where it appeared they were about to once again, salvage something from being three down.
While Dumbarton enjoyed an excellent run of results over November and December, a period which saw them lose just twice in eight league fixtures, they go into Saturday’s match on the back of three straight defeats, after narrow losses to Morton, Hibernian and Queen of the South.
One man who won’t be involved in attempting to stop that run is Lewis Vaughan, with the on-loan Raith man unable to play against his parent side, although there will potentially be one familiar face in the away line up, with Christian Nade returning to the club where he enjoyed success in the second half of last season.
Rovers will also need to be wary of a team which has been free-scoring away from home, with no team managing to better The Sons 15 league goals away from home in the Championship.
Rovers do have a fine record in this fixture however, with five wins and four draws from their last ten meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Mat Northcroft.
Head-To-Head League Record At Stark’s Park:
Raith Rovers Wins: 36 | Dumbarton Wins: 11 | Draws: 11
Raith Rovers Goals: 123 | Dumbarton Goals: 68
Raith Rovers: D-L-L-L-D-L
Top Goal Scorers:
Raith Rovers: Declan McManus 5 | Mark Stewart 5 | Ross Callachan 3
Dumbarton: Robert Thomson 6 | Greg Fleming 5
Raith Rovers: 9/10 | Dumbarton: 3/1 | Draw: 13/5