Dundee In Control After Win At Stark’s
Dundee all but assured themselves of a place in the Premiership playoff final this evening, after an impressive 3-0 win over Raith Rovers at Stark’s Park.
While Rovers had plenty of possession in the game, Dundee always had them at arms length, and a stellar performance from Charlie Adam at the heart of the Dundee midfield, leaves Rovers requiring a miracle at Dens Park on Saturday evening.
John McGlynn went with the same starting eleven which defeated Dunfermline by two goals to nil at the weekend, and they looked bright in the opening minutes.
The home side looked like they were keen to knock it around in the early moments, but their passing went awry early doors, allowing Dundee wide man, Paul McMullan a sight at goal, but his snap-shot went wide of Jamie MacDonald’s left-hand post.
Raith were on the front foot too though, and Kieran MacDonald’s cut back found Lewis Vaughan in the fifth minute, but his first time effort was deflected away from Adam Legzdins goal.
The game had settled down into an entertaining and even fixture, but Dundee perhaps should have made more of a break in the 17th minute, when they had a four on four with the Rovers backline exposed, but with options in the area, Paul McGowan’s cross with the outside of his foot seemed to be the wrong option, and the chance was gone.
Dundee were now starting to look the dominant side, and they perhaps deservedly opened the scoring with a humdinger of a goal in the 21st minute.
An Adam cross from the left looked reasonably dangerous, although Jordan McGhee still had a lot to do when he galloped onto it on the right hand side of the penalty area, but his exceptional volleyed effort from an angle was played back across MacDonald and inside his far post.
Rovers were struggling to get a foothold in the game, and despite having plenty of the ball, they were failing to lay a glove on their opponents.
As it was, it was Dundee who had the next chance, when a corner kick fell nicely for Adam on the edge of the area, and the ex-Scotland man had time to pick his target, but his attempt was blocked and the chance was gone.
Rovers were gradually working their way back into it though, and they thought they had the leveller in the 41st minute.
A well worked move ended with Ross Matthews turning the ball into Vaughan, whose layoff to Regan Tumilty allowed the full back to knock it home, but the linesman raised his flag to disallow it, despite the Raith player looking well onside.
While the home side could rightly feel hard done by after the decision, it was going to take an improved performance in the second period to get the visitors on the back foot.
Rovers really needed to start the second half in the same vein they ended the first, but Dundee had a chance to extend their lead a minute into the second period.
Possession was given away to McMullan in the middle of the park, and he scampered forward before playing in Cummings who’d peeled to the right, but his shot from 20 yards was well blocked.
Rovers were starting to force crosses into the area, and they had two in quick succession in the 50th minute, but the corner, and subsequent cross were well dealt with by an impressive Dundee defence. a
Raith were playing a patient game in the opening stages of the second period, and you felt their neat passing style was paying dividends, forcing Dundee back as they probed for an equaliser.
However, it was trying to force the issue which allowed Dundee to increase their lead.
A stray pass allowed Adam to gain possession, and his excellent through pass found McGhee who had again advanced beyond the Rovers back four, and he calmly slotted the ball past McDonald to double Dundee’s lead.
Rovers were now starting to look a little dishevelled, and Dundee had another chance in the 60th minute, when Adam chanced his luck from distance, but his attempt went over the bar.
Rovers had never really got going in this tie, and if anything looked more likely to concede again at this point than get back into proceedings.
With 25 minutes remaining, Rovers made an attacking switch, with Brad Spencer making way for one of Saturday’s scorers, Gozie Ugwu.
He made his presence felt immediately, flicking on a long ball to Vaughan who had cantered out wide to the left, and while his initial cross didn’t look like it found its target, it fell awkwardly to Ugwu, who didn’t have time to set himself, and knocked his effort wide.
Ugwu was proving to be something of a handful, but Rovers were still plugging away without any great joy, and Dundee had a chance to put the tie to bed in the 77th minute.
With Adam standing over a set-piece 25-yards from goal, you feared the worst from a Rovers perspective, but perhaps surprisingly, Danny Mullen was the man to take it, and he skied it over the bar.
Rovers were now pushing forward to get a goal, but they were undone on the counter in the 84th minute, when play broke down on the edge of the area, and again, Adam was the architect.
His pass forward was ideally played to Max Anderson, and with the Rovers defence exposed, his slide rule pass to Osman Sow saw him advance unimpeded towards goal and ram a shot past MacDonald to almost certainly hand the Dens Park side an unassailable lead going into Saturday’s second leg.
Photographs © Tony Fimister
RaithTV spoke to John McGlynn after the first leg of the play-off semi-final:
Raith Rovers will play in their first ever Premiership playoff semi-final on Wednesday evening, when they face off against Dundee in the first leg at Stark’s Park.
Rovers reached this stage after an excellent 2-0 win over Dunfermline on Saturday, when goals from Lewis Vaughan and Gozie Ugwu knocked their Fife rivals out of the promotion picture.
With Dundee finishing second in the table, they have the advantage of the second leg being at Dens Park, and Rovers will be hoping to take a lead there on Saturday when the tie reaches it’s conclusion.
Judging by what’s happened between the sides already this season, that conclusion might be pretty tight.
Of the three meetings this term, both teams have a win apiece, with one draw in their first meeting at Dens in October.
Charlie Adam deservedly opened the scoring just before half time for the home side, but a late flurry from overs saw Frankie Musonda equalise with five minutes remaining.
Rovers were worthy winners at Stark’s Park in January, despite going a goal down early on through a goal from Osman Sow. Kyle Benedictus brought Raith level midway through the first period, while exceptional second half strikes from Reghan Tumilty and Kai Kennedy kept all three points in Kirkcaldy.
Dundee turned the tables in the most recent meeting though, in a game which went a huge way to ensuring they finished in the runners up spot though, with a 2-1 win last month.
Jason Cummings and Liam Fontaine saw Dundee two up and cruising by half time, but a better performance in the second half saw Rovers reduce the arrears with a few minutes to go thanks to Benedictus’ goal, but Rovers were unable to get back on level terms.
Rovers have a poor record in general against Dundee in recent times, with just two wins and two draws from their last 10 meetings with the Dens Park outfit.
Wednesday evening’s referee will be Don Robertson.
Head-To-Head Home League Record:
Raith Rovers Wins: 17 | Dundee Wins: 22 | Draws: 17
Raith Rovers Goals: 74 | Dundee Goals: 74
Raith Rovers: W-W-L-L-D-W
Raith Rovers: Manny Duku 10 | Daniel Armstrong 6
Dundee: Osman Sow 9 | Jason Cummings 8
Raith Rovers: 8/5 | Dundee: 13/8 | Draw: 23/10