Impressive Win Moves Raith Up Table
Spring is in the air. And Raith Rovers supporters would certainly have had a spring in their step as they exited Stark’s Park this afternoon, having watched the home side comprehensively outgun opponents Dumbarton 4-1 in what was an entertaining League One encounter.
For all Jim Duffy’s men could lay claim to be the league’s form team given they arrived in the Kingdom on the back of an undefeated run of seven matches – form which has seen them rise from the spectre of relegation into a relatively comfortable sixth place in the table – The Sons simply struggled to cope with a Rovers side which, possibly smarting following last weekend’s dispiriting loss at Forfar, played for the most part with an energy and creativity which effectively sealed the three points long before the final whistle.
Manager John McGlynn shuffled his starting eleven from last weekend for today’s game, with Dave McKay dropping to the bench, and Tony Dingwall missing out. Ross Matthews and James Gullan lined up, with Grant Gillespie starting at right back, and Euan Murray restored to centre back alongside Iain Davidson.
Rovers started brightly, clearly determined to take the game to the visitors from the off, with crisp passing and movement which pinned Dumbarton deep within their own half. This did little to dampen the spirits of the small band of away fans within the main stand – indeed, seldom can a few dozen fans have made their presence felt with quite as much noise and hubris, a trait which was maintained throughout the game, despite the general dominance of the home side.
Not that Rovers were content to enjoy territorial dominance – tangible reward was clearly the aim, and it duly arrived with only eight minutes played, with an opening goal of pleasing simplicity. Following a patient build-up through the middle of the park, Calum Crane collected the ball wide on the left wing. The full-back whipped a low cross into the penalty area, which was met by a crisp, clipped finish in at the near post by Matthews.
Rovers continued on the front foot, and it took Dumbarton until the 24th minute to register their first shot at goal, though Calum Gallagher’s shot was scuffed wide of Robbie Thomson’s goal. A minute later, Rovers responded by doubling their advantage with another forward surge. Gullan drove deep into Dumbarton territory, and while his run was halted with a tackle near the edge of the box, the ball broke kindly to Liam Buchanan who curled his shot beyond Sons keeper Grant Adam into the far corner of the net.
Suddenly the prospect of a comfortable afternoon’s entertainment presented itself for the Lang Toun faithful, and it could have got even better on the half hour mark, although Jamie Barjonas was foiled deep inside the Dumbarton box as the on-loan Rangers midfielder prepared to pull the trigger.
Shortly afterwards, Dumbarton’s Dominic Thomas looked to add to his impressive tally of eight goals in his last six matches, but having set himself up nicely with a lung-bursting run deep into the Rovers defence, the striker screwed his shot well wide of the target from twenty yards.
Calum Crane then had a close-range shot blocked by the legs of Adam, before Dumbarton pulled a goal back against the run of play. Former Rovers winger Bobby Barr created the chance with a darting run to the by-line, and his low cut-back was met by Gallacher who had the simple task of knocking the ball into the net from two yards out.
Galvanised by narrowing the deficit to one goal, Dumbarton began to enjoy parity of possession and territory for the first time in the game, and it seemed that Rovers would be content to reach the interval with a one-goal lead. Thomas tried his luck with a shot which failed to trouble Thomson, before Rovers regained their two-goal advantage with the final attack of the first half.
Euan Murray’s deep cross from the left wing sailed over the Dumbarton defence and keeper Adam, but Kevin Nisbet rose high at the back post to plant a firm header into the unguarded net.
If anyone thought Rovers would be content to protect their two-goal lead in the second half, they were much mistaken as the home side pinned their visitors back. A cross by Nisbet fell invitingly at the feet of strike partner Buchanan on the six-yard line, but the striker hesitated and the chance was cleared. However, shortly afterwards Rovers extended their lead, securing a fourth goal which effectively put the game beyond Dumbarton with 35 minutes remaining.
Gullan burst into the box and his rasping shot was parried at full stretch by Adam. Unfortunately for the keeper, the ball fell kindly for Nisbet, who found the net with a simple header from six yards. Buchanan almost added to the goal tally two minutes later with a glancing header which kissed the top of the crossbar with Adam a spectator.
Rovers were then forced to make their first change with an hour on the clock thanks to an injury to Nat Wedderburn. McKay was introduced, in a move which allowed Euan Murray to take up the right back slot, and Gillespie to move forward into a more natural midfield berth.
Buchanan then made way for Nathan Flanagan as the contest entered its final quarter, before Dumbarton’s David Ferguson earned the first caution of the game for a crude challenge on Gillespie. Flanagan, clearly keen to inject fresh energy into the home side’s play, floated a cross which almost found the far corner of the net, before the same player curled a shot which was bound for the top corner of the net before being clutched out of the air by Adam.
Dumbarton then fashioned a chance of their own. Ross Forbes’s inviting cross found the head of Iain Russell, but the substitute’s header smacked back off the face of the crossbar with Thomson beaten, and was cleared to safety. Gullan was then replaced by Craig McGuffie as Rovers looked to run down the final minutes, something they managed comfortably.
Stuart Carswell picked up the second yellow card of the afternoon brandished by referee Greg Aitken, before Nisbet was denied a hat-trick in the final minute when his attempted lob from an acute angle floated over the bar.
Ultimately this was an accomplished and well-deserved three points for Rovers, a win which returned the side to second place in the league thanks to Forfar’s defeat at Airdrie. That makes it fifteen goals in four games against Dumbarton, a side which at the start of the season was widely tipped for an immediate return to the Championship.
This performance should enable McGlynn’s men to approach next week’s local derby with East Fife with confidence. Rovers continue to seek consistency and an upturn in results on the road, and a positive result in Methil would be welcome improvement on both counts, particularly with the play-offs on the horizon.
RaithTV talked to John McGlynn after Saturdays SPFL League 1 victory v Dumbarton
RaithTV talked to Man of the Match Jamie Gullan after the win over Dumbarton
Raith Rovers host Dumbarton this Saturday, with the home side looking to reclaim second place in the League One table.
Last weekend’s 2-1 loss to Forfar saw them leapfrogged in the table by the Loons, with East Fife close behind in fourth.
Like last weekend however, they find themselves up against one league’s form sides, with the Sons unbeaten in their last seven league matches.
Jim Duffy made a slow start to his Dumbarton tenure after replacing Steve Aitken in October, but after a prolonged flirtation with the bottom two spots for the majority of the season, their recent good run has eased them away from the relegation places, and they now reside sixth in the table.
In Dom Thomas, Dumbarton have one of the most in-form players in the division, with the on-loan Kilmarnock forward on a run of eight goals in just six appearances.
You can normally guarantee goals whenever these sides meet, with the three matches this term producing 16 between them.
Rovers were 5-1 winners back in September, with goals coming from Lewis Vaughan, Kevin Nisbet, Liam Buchanan and a double from Nathan Flanagan.
There were four separate Rovers scorers the last time the sides met at Stark’s Park in December, with Daniel Armstrong, Euan Murray, Nisbet and Vaughan getting the vital strikes in a 4-2 home win.
Their most recent meeting was just last month, and despite taking the lead through Flanagan, Rovers only avoided another away defeat by the skin of their teeth, thanks to an injury-time equaliser from Nisbet.
Rovers have the upper hand in this fixture recently, but only just, with four wins and three draws from the last 10 meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Greg Aitken.
Head-To-Head Home League Record Versus Dumbarton:
Raith Rovers Wins: 37 | Dumbarton Wins: 12 | Draws: 11
Raith Rovers Goals: 128 | Dumbarton Goals: 73
Raith Rovers: L-W-D-D-W-L | Dumbarton: D-W-W-D-W-W
Top Goal Scorers:
Raith Rovers: Kevin Nisbet 25 | Liam Buchanan 10 | Lewis Vaughan 9
Dumbarton: Dom Thomas 12 | Ross Forbes 11
Raith Rovers: 17/20 | Dumbarton: 3/1 | Draw: 11/4