Rovers Romp To Fife Derby Victory
Raith Rovers earned a huge three points, and secured the local bragging rights, after a one sided 5-1 win over Dunfermline Athletic at Stark’s Park
A goal of the season contender from Regan Hendry was quickly cancelled out by Kevin O’Hara, but a brace from Lewis Vaughan had Rovers in prime position at the interval, and another couple from Jamie Gullan rounded off a stellar evening.
Manager John McGlynn rang the changes for this one, with Daniel Armstrong, Dylan Tait, Adam King, Manny Duku and Gozie Ugwu all dropping out from the 1-0 win over Morton.
Their places went to Ross Matthews, Kai Kennedy, Brad Spencer, Jamie Gullan and Lewis Vaughan, as Rovers looked for their first win over Dunfermline this season.
They started in a sprightly fashion, and some good interchange play around the area allowed Spencer to have a dig from distance, but his effort was blocked by Euan Murray. The rebound fell straight back to him, but his through ball ended up straight in the arms of Owain Fon Williams.
Rovers tempo and movement was good to watch in the early moments, and after a well worked move after five minutes, space opened up for Kennedy, who elected to drive from distance, but Fon Williams just about managed to keep it out at the expense of a corner.
Rovers continued to threaten, and Kennedy and Kieran MacDonald combined well down the left, but the full back’s great ball into the area was well intercepted by Murray.
However, the Pars struggled to clear their lines, and when space opened up for Gullan, his whipped effort zipped just past the upright.
Rovers didn’t have to wait long for the lead however, with the opening goal came after 16 minutes, and what a strike it was.
The build up play was excellent, with Raith picking up possession from a Pars corner, and 10 passes later, they’d taken it the length of the park.
Spencer spotted the forward run of Hendry, and after the midfielder took the inch perfect pass in his stride, he steadied himself before casually placing the ball past Fon Williams into the bottom corner.
It was the least they deserved for their endeavours, but despite looking in total control, the lead lasted just three minutes.
Jamie MacDonald initially rushed out of his goal to clear an O’Hara shot out for a throw in, but from it, Scott Banks cross was nodded home from close range by the former Alloa forward.
The equaliser seemed to unsettle the home side, and after a bright opening, they became somewhat subdued.
Hendry did try to rouse them again after 25 minutes, picking up a short corner and driving at goal, but his shot from the edge of the area was dragged off target.
Rovers continued to keep possession well though, and they were in front again after 31 minutes, with another fantastic goal.
Kennedy and MacDonald combined well on the left, and the full back’s pin point cross into the middle was brilliantly met by Vaughan, who slid in to divert the ball home from close range.
Dunfermline were suddenly a distant second best again, with the momentum all with the home side.
Raith’s movement was proving to be a constant nuisance for the visiting backline, and it was no surprise when Raith extended their lead.
Rovers won a free-kick wide on the left around 25-yards from goal, and while it appeared to be far from an ideal angle to get a shot away, Vaughan thought otherwise, curing a shot over the wall and inside Fon Williams left-hand post, with the Welsh ‘keeper presumably disappointed at his failure to keep it out.
It was no more a lead than Raith deserved however, with the Dunfermline midfield and defence incapable of picking up the movement and incisiveness of the Raith’s forward forays.
Dunfermline made two changes at the interval, with Banks and Kerr Mcinroy making way for Iain Wilson and Lewis McCann.
It didn’t help their plight much though, as Raith were 4-1 up within moments of the restart.
Again, it was another outstanding hit, with Hendry teeing up Gullan, who blootered a brilliant shot past Fon Williams from 25 yards to give Rovers a three goal advantage.
Rovers were sensing this could be anything now, and while Dunfermline were trying their best to get back into it, they weren’t troubling a rearguard marshalled superbly by Kyle Benedictus and Frankie Musonda.
Rovers were forced into a change after 55 minutes, when Kiearn MacDonald was forced off, and was replaced by Dan Armstrong.
Armstrong was now filling in at left back, but his first input in the game was to gallivant forward and advance onto a long ball, and while it looked like he wouldn’t reach it, his pace managed to get him to the ball first and win a corner.
Declan McManus was brought on as a last throw of the dice for Dunfermline with half an hour later, as Pars attempted to exert some pressure on Raith, and while they were starting to take the game to Rovers at long last, they were struggling to create anything of note.
Vaughan was looking to recreate his hat-trick heroics from 2019, and when he lined up a set-piece 25 yards from goal in a similar position to his earlier one, you sensed he might manage it, but this one was less accurate, drifting well over the bar and into the McDermid Stand.
As comfortable as Raith were looking, a goal would have made things a little more tense, and Dunfermline should have had one with 15 minutes left.
Wighton did well to make his way into the area, but while he was initially muscled out, the ball fell kindly at the back post to Fraser Murray, who could only slice his effort wildly off target from 10 yards.
Dunfermline would rue that, as Rovers made it 5-1 just a moment later.
Gullan gained possession wide on the left, and although he had plenty to do, he managed to outrun the defence, advance into the area, and drill a brilliant finish into the far bottom corner to put Raith on easy street.
It was the first time Raith had managed five goals against their neighbours since a 6-0 drubbing in 1983, and it was almost a half dozen again just before full time.
Regan Tumilty teed up Dylan Tait, but after cutting inside to make space for himself, his goalbound effort was deflected high over the bar.
The full time whistle brought the curtain down on Raith’s best performance of the campaign, and if that level of performance can be sustained, promotion, rather than a playoff spot, is a realistic goal.
Photographs © Tony Fimister
John McGlynn spoke to RaithTV after the 5-1 win at Stark’s Park:
RaithTV talked to Regan Hendry, Lewis Vaughan and Kyle Benedictus after the 5-1 win against Dunfermline Athletic:
The Fife derby returns to Stark’s Park this Tuesday evening, in a massive contest at the top end of the Championship.
The two sides sit second and fourth in the table respectively, with Rovers holding a three point advantage over their neighbours, albeit the Pars have a game in hand.
With only three points separating Raith in second and Queen of the South in sixth, a win for the home side would be huge with just five games remaining.
Rovers go into this one on the back of a slender, but deserved 1-0 win over Morton, thanks to a goal from Jamie Gullan, while Dunfermline lost ground in the promotion shake up, following a 3-2 loss to Dundee, despite a whirlwind start from Stevie Crawford’s men.
Kevin O’Hara and Craig Wighton had given Dunfermline a two goal lead after just six minutes at Dens Park, but the Dee fought back superbly, with goals from Jason Cummings, Lee Ashcroft and Danny Mullen capping a 3-2 win.
This will be the third meeting between the sides this term, with Raith yet to register a win against the East End Park men.
They had the ideal opportunity in the first meeting in December, when goals from Manny Duku and Frankie Musonda gave Rovers a two goal lead, but goals in the final 20 minutes from Fraser Murray and Declan McManus meant the game ended all square.
It was far less tight in February however, when Dunfermline eased to a 4-1 win. Declan McManus handed the home side an advantage just before the interval, and it was two just after the break thanks to Aaron Comrie. Brad Spencer did reduce the arrears with half an hour remaining, but two goals from Fraser Murray meant the points stayed with the Pars.
Dunfermline hold a slight advantage across the most recent meetings, with four wins to Raith’s three across the last 10 fixtures.
Tuesday’s match referee will be Euan Anderson.
Head-To-Head-Home League Record Versus Dunfermline:
Raith Rovers Wins: 15 | Dunfermline Wins: 19 | Draws: 16
Raith Rovers Goals: 75 | Dunfermline Goals: 72
Raith Rovers: D-D-L-D-W-W
Raith Rovers: Manny Duku 10 | Daniel Armstrong 4
Dunfermline: Declan McManus 8 | Kevin O’Hara 8
Raith Rovers: 9/5 | Dunfermline: 29/20 | Draw: 23/10