Raith Rovers 4, Dumbarton 2
The reappearance of Lewis Vaughan provided the icing on the cake for Raith Rovers as they overturned a 2-1 interval deficit with three second-half counters.
Vaughan, who returned to the squad around a week earlier than expected after injury, came off the bench with 20 minutes to go and scored Raith’s final goal, just seconds after Euan Murray had given them a late lead.
Raith produced an impressive second-half performance - by no means a feature of their play this season - and eventually got the better of a Dumbarton side who had been superior in the first and scored two excellent goals.
Rovers, however, got a lot out of their wide players, Nathan Flanagan and Daniel Armstrong, and their pace, plus the willingness of the squad to creat opportunities, prompted some impressive goals of their own.
Assistant manager Paul Smith said Dumbarton had made it extremely difficult for Raith in the first half but they had been clearly the better team in the second, which had made a change.
“For most of the season, we have been by far the better team in the first half and maybe not produced in the second,” he added. “We asked the guys for a response at half time – and they certainly gave us that. We showed great character today, which we’ve probably not been doing in the second half of games, so it was great to come back from there.”
The win had made Rovers a visible presence again after last week’s defeat by Montrose. “We have lost three games – in each of them, we have been well in control and, in the second half, we have’t produced, so it was very pleasing today to turn that round and have a fantastic second half,” said Smith.
A biting cold wind and rain swirled around Stark’s Park for most of the game but both sides creditably served up a large amount of good football.
Raith were hit with the proverbial sucker punch after only nine minutes. Former Rovers player Bobby Barr had grazed the top of the net with a cross-cum shot, after which ‘keeper Robbie Thomson had taken a regular goal kick. But the ball quickly found its way to Ross Forbes, who noticed Thomson hadn’t fully retreated to his line, and fired home a rising, unstoppable shot from around 40 yards.
The determination to protect their fine home record, however, propelled Raith to the response they needed just three minutes later. Kevin Nisbet swung in a cross from the left and Daniel Armstrong, who’d had an effort blocked on the line a few minutes earlier, headed decisively into the net.
On the quarter hour, a Dumbarton corner was missed by everyone as they gazed upwards into the rain and Callum Gallagher deflected a teammate’s effort just over the bar.
Rovers mounted an attack down the right and Euan Murray opted to have go himself when he should maybe have squared it, with Nisbet waiting in the middle, and the ball flashed across the face of the goal.
Dumbarton recaptured the lead in the 20th minute and there was little doubt their play merited it. Barr combined with Cameron Ballantyne for a slick backheeling one-two move on the right and, as the Raith defence stood back, the ball came across to Michael Paton, who scored from close in.
Jim Duffy’s side looked likely to give the Raith reaguard a torrid time but, as the half wore on, Raith looked to try and put some moves together, while Dumbarton waiting to capitalise on any errors.
Armstrong delivered a corner kick in 23 minutes, with Kyle Benedictus unluckily heading over the bar. Another good Raith mover 11 minutes later saw Liam Buchanan link with Armstrong for another cross, which this time saw Nisbet heading just too high.
The action slowed a little in the early part of the second half but Euan Murray was narrowly off target with a header from an Armstrong corner, while Benedictus was down very skilfully to block a shot from Barr in the 52nd minute, from a powerful low free kick by Dominic Thomas
Sons scorer Forbes was shown a yellow card for pulling back Armstrong as he made a swift advance down the right. And it was a fine team move on the opposite flank which produced Rovers’ equaliser after 62 minutes.
Beginning from deep,Buchanan threaded the ball through to Flanagan and his cross into the box was controlled by Nisbet, who slid the ball under McGowan’s body.
There was a sense of hope as Vaughan came on in place of Liam Buchanan in the 69th minute, which the Raith fans hoped would be plenty of time for him to inflict some damage.
Dumbarton showed some good moves but weren’t quite the threatening force they had been in the first half - although Thomson had to make a fine save five minutes from time from a powerful, low free kick by Dominic Thomas.
If the Sons thought at all they’d hold on for a point in the difficult conditions, the notion was were shattered in 86 minutes, when Raith took the lead for the first time. The goal had a touch of the eccentric about it, as Armstrong floated a high cross into the box from the right. Euan Murray tried to lob the ‘keeper and, although he seemed not to catch the ball properly, it spiralled upwards and looped over McGowan’s head before dropping lazily into the net.
It seemed that would be enough for Raith but, seconds later, Vaughan added the final touch after a surging run through the middle.
Raith Rovers - Thomson, Davidson, Murray, Benedictus, Gillespie, Buchanan (Vaughan 69), Matthews, Wedderburn, Nisbet, Flanagan (Duggan 77), Armstrong. Subs (not used) Wright, Milne, McKay, Watson, Smith.
Dumbarton - McGowan, Ballantyne, Dyer, Dowie, Carswell, Hutton, Gallagher, Forbes (Spencer 77), Barr, Paton, Thomas. Subs (not used) - Trialist ‘keeper, Allardice, Thomson.
Referee - Barry Cook.
Attendance - 1089.