Rampant Raith Hammer Dumbarton
There may very well have been better starts to a Raith Rovers manager’s tenure than today, but not many, surely?
A goal in the opening few seconds from Lewis Vaughan got John McGlynn’s second stint off to the perfect start at Dumbarton, and that was just the start of it, with further goals from Kevin Nisbet and a double from Nathan Flanagan sending Rovers haring into a 4-0 lead after just 37 minutes.
The second period had little chance of topping the first, and while Calum Gallagher got one back for Steve Aitken’s men, Liam Buchanan restored Rovers four goal cushion to complete the scoring in a supremely confident 5-1 victory.
McGlynn made three changes from last weekend’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Montrose, with Kieran Wright missing out after picking up a nasty looking injury against the Mo’, with his place taken by Robbie Thomson. New signing, Kevin Silva was the back-up custodian on the bench.
With Grant Gillespie expected to be missing for a number of months, another of this week’s loan signings, Regan Hendry started in midfield, while the last loan capture, Callum Crane started at left-back, with Ross Matthews also ruled out through injury.
Crane’s presence saw Euan Murray switch over to the right-back berth.
There was a hugely upbeat mood amongst the Rovers supporters as kick-off approached, but even the glass-half-fullest of fan couldn’t have anticipated what would unfold just seconds after kick-off.
Nat Wedderburn picked up possession in the middle of the park, and after teeing up Nathan Flanagan, he picked out Vaughan, who neatly dinked it over an onrushing James McGowan to put Raith one up after just 24 seconds.
It was an astonishing start, and it was almost 2-0 after six minutes, when an excellent cross from Crane on the left found Nisbet on the edge of the six-yard-box, but with McGowan struggling to claim the cross, the forward could only nod the chance wide of goal.
Dumbarton looked like they were in danger of being blown away in the opening exchanges, as they struggled to deal with both the wind and Raith’s incisiveness, and it was 2-0 after 12 minutes.
Vaughan’s low corner was met just outside the area by Flanagan, who hit an absolutely unstoppable drive into the back of the net via the underside of the bar, a scenario that somehow makes goals even more aesthetically pleasing.
It’s been some time since Raith had started a game in such a cavalier fashion, and it was almost three from another set-piece a few moments later.
Again, the Sons couldn’t clear their lines, something which was a recurring theme, and after Wedderburn managed to set up Vaughan, the forward was allowed a decent sight of goal from close range, but could only scoop it over.
It wasn’t just the two goals that were heartening for Raith fans in that opening half hour, but the manner of the performance, with intricate passing the order of the day, with Hendry and Wedderburn at the hub of most things in the middle of the park, taking possession comfortably and supplying both the wide players and forwards in front of them.
The left-hand side in particular was proving a rich source of chances, and while it was the first chance they’d had to play together, Crane and Flanagan were dovetailing each other effectively down that wing.
That said, it wasn’t where the third goal came from after 31 minutes, which owed as much to inept defending as it did to Rovers creativity.
A low cross from the right was scudded off his own player by a Dumbarton defender, and with Vaughan just unable to turn on the ball, Flanagan blootered it home from eight yards out.
Incredibly, the scoring wasn’t finished there, and it was 4-0 after 37 minutes, when Kevin Nisbet got the final touch from a Rovers corner, as Dumbarton’s ramshackle defence continued to buckle under a constant barrage of pressure.
It had been constant one-way traffic for the entire half, and Rovers fans thought they were taking a five goal lead into the interval, when it appeared the impressive Hendry had side footed Vaughan’s cross past McGowan, but on this occasion, the net rustling had come from the ball striking the side netting.
Rovers are no strangers to late collapses at this venue of course, and they did have the added challenge of playing against the wind in the second 45, but it was clear they were out to add to their tally, with McGlynn’s men on the front foot after the interval.
However, the home side had their first shot at goal in the 53rd minute, and it took an outstanding save from Thomson to deny Jack Aitchison, diving full length to tip wide a drive from the edge of the area.
Iain Russell had been introduced at the interval to provide some more impetus to the Sons frontline, and he was certainly putting himself about, snapping into challenges and providing far more grit than anyone else had supplied in a Dumbarton jersey until that point.
The Sons did come close to reducing the arrears after an hour, when Ross Forbes free-kick flashed wide, but Rovers were straight up the other end, with Vaughan’s chip over McGowan just going the wrong side of the bar and landing on the roof of the net.
Dumbarton were applying themselves far better at this point, albeit starting at 4-0 down is a little late to do so, but with the home side electing to play it long, their passes were generally being carried out of play by a strong wind.
Steve Aitken threw on Calum Gallagher for the final quarter, and he made an immediate impact, as Dumbarton grabbed the goal which their second half performance merited, sending a looping header past Thomson and in off the post in the 69th minute.
McGlynn made a change after 73 minutes, replacing Lewis Milne with Liam Buchanan.
Dumbarton were continuing to make a game of it, but Rovers fashioned another good chance in the 80th minute, when Buchanan burst down the right, and despite having little to pick out in the area, he found Vaughan, who fired just over the bar with his first-time effort.
Rovers fans still remember Ross Perry’s time at the club, and the Dumbarton defender elected to have a go from distance in the 84th minute, but with Thomson struggling to get over in time, his effort fizzed just wide.
It was five just a moment later though, as Buchanan, who had looked sharp since coming on, gathered a cross from the right, spun and cracked an excellent drive past McGowan from 16-yards to complete the scoring.
While the sparkling first half was as good as Raith have performed in some time, the second was also impressive in a different way, with a doughty defensive performance in difficult conditions.
It sets the team up perfectly for a huge top-of-the-table clash against Arbroath at Stark’s Park next Saturday.
© Eddie Doig 2018
A delighted John McGlynn talked to RaithTV after the win at Dumbarton
Lewis Milne spoke to RaithTV after the win at Dumbarton
Raith Rovers new management team will be in the dugout at the C&G System Stadium this weekend, as John McGlynn and Paul Smith take charge of the side for the second time around.
They could barely have started with a more difficult league fixture, with Rovers heading to the home of one of the early favourites for the League One title.
Steve Aitken’s Dumbarton were relegated from the Championship at the end of last term, but they were still able to sign up an impressive array of higher division stars in the close season, with Rory Loy, Cammy Ballantyne, Ross Forbes and Bobby Barr all joining up as The Sons look to return to the second tier at the first attempt.
That looked unlikely based on the opening few rounds of fixtures, as Dumbarton struggled to adjust to life in League One, but four points from their last two fixtures has seen them rise to sixth in the table, two points outside the playoff spots, and five behind their visitors this Saturday.
It’s actually been some time since Rovers tasted victory in this fixture, with Dumbarton unbeaten in four meetings, with Rovers last win coming in a 3-2 triumph back in September 2016.
Raith raced into a three goal lead, thanks to strikes from Kevin McHattie, Ross Callachan and Scott Roberts, but a late riposte from Dumbarton saw Rovers hanging on for the three points.
It’s been even longer since Raith won in Dumbarton, with their last win coming in October 2010, with a 4-2 victory at the Rock.
Despite those statistics, the two teams have been evenly matched in recent years, with three wins and four draws apiece from the last ten meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Steven Reid
Head-To-Head League Record At Dumbarton:
Dumbarton Wins: 28 | Raith Rovers Wins: 19 | Draws: 11
Dumbarton Goals: 127 | Raith Rovers Goals: 89
Raith Rovers: D-W-W-L-D-D
Top Goal Scorers:
Dumbarton: Andy Dowie 2 | Bobby Barr 2 | Ross Forbes 2
Raith Rovers: Kevin Nisbet 8 | Liam Buchanan 3 | Lewis Vaughan 2
Dumbarton: 11/8 | Raith Rovers: 19/10 | Draw: 13/5