Dundee brought to an end Raith Rovers’ impressive unbeaten league run, spanning three months, and in so doing leapfrogged their promotion rivals with a more comfortable win than anticipated at Dens Park.
Scorers: Dundee - Conroy 28; Wighton 49
Goals in either half from Ryan Conroy, whose spectacular free-kick preceded Callum Booth’s sending-off for the visitors, and youngster Craig Wighton shortly after the restart left Raith with way too much ground to make up.
Conroy won’t hit many sweeter than his 27th-minute opener and the midfielder said he had to fight off the advances of team-mate Peter MacDonald who was just as keen to try and grab the limelight.
“Peaso scored a couple earlier in the season and I think he thought it was his,” said Conroy. “So we had a bit of an argument but I fancied it and thankfully it paid off.”
John Brown, the Dundee manager, singled out 16-year-old Wighton for some special praise.
“You could see young Craig’s quality with his header and overall performance, said Brown. “He only turned 16 in August but he’s one of the best I’ve seen at that age.”
Dundee began the game brightly and youngster Wighton quickly worked his magic wide on the right before delivering an inch-perfect cross for strike partner MacDonald whose header was saved at point-blank range by Raith keeper Ross Laidlaw.
It was no surprise when they took the lead through in spectacular fashion through Conroy. His original free-kick after Nicky Riley had been fouled by Kevin Moon was charged down by the Raith defensive wall, but referee Andrew Dallas judged Booth to have handled so booked the Rovers defender.
That allowed Conroy another chance to pick his spot and this time the former Celtic player made no mistake as he curled a left-foot effort high into the top corner from 22 yards.
Minutes later things got worse for the visitors when Booth was sent-off for a second yellow-card. Dundee winger Riley was about to skip down the right-wing but Booth fell for the trick and sent his opponent sprawling, with Dallas wasting no time in sending him for an early bath.
Minutes later, Conroy had another chance to make his mark from a set-piece but on this occasion he fired just wide from 20 yards.
Raith weren’t out of it altogether and just before half-time, Calum Elliot found space inside the home box only to drag his shot wide of Dundee keeper Kyle Letheren’s far corner.
But, within three minutes of the restart, Dundee struck again. This time Conroy was the provider with a pin-point cross for Wighton to rise unchallenged and nod back across Laidlaw for a textbook header. It was the teenager’s first goal for his club and it put his side firmly in the driving seat against their promotion rivals.
Raith appealed for a penalty in 65 minutes when Elliot went down as he jostled with Gavin Rae inside the box, but Dallas was close by and wasn’t impressed by the claims.
Dundee remained on top and MacDonald came close to extending their lead 10 minutes from time, only for Laidlaw to parry his 20-yard shot.
Grant Murray, the Raith manager, felt his side had no luck on the day. “I thought a lot of decisions went against us and the sending-off was probably quite harsh on Callum,” he said.