As anyone can tell you, and was ably demonstrated by the hosts, 2-0 is still a difficult lead to protect. Raith have not got where they are in the Championship – and they remain second, despite the disappointment here – by lacking spirit. Former Dundee centre-half Kyle Benedictus ensured it would be a testing last few minutes for the hosts when he headed a deflected cross in from close range.
Dundee were further unnerved by the memory of Raith’s Frankie Musonda heading a late goal to deprive them of two points in the second home league game of the season.
On this latest occasion, the Fife side had too much to do and too little time in which to do it. Their cause was not helped by a crude challenge from Dylan Tait on Paul McGowan which earned the midfielder a straight red card in the final minute. It proved most damaging because it wasted valuable time.
Manager John McGlynn has already confirmed Raith won’t be appealing because he felt it was a sending-off and he has plenty midfield cover in any case.
First-half goals from Jason Cummings, who slotted home a 12th minute penalty, and Liam Fontaine, with a header from Paul McGowan’s corner, gave Dundee a commanding lead – or so it seemed.
Raith could not quite stage the comeback required to gain the point that would have settled the matter of finishing best-of-the-rest behind Hearts – and spare them an extra play-off tie. “I would have settled for seventh at the start of the season,” said manager John McGlynn afterwards. “We were never going to beat Hearts so I would consider getting second as winning the league.”
It’s still in their own hands. A win on Friday against Hearts – where McGlynn was once manager, of course – would give them that safety net. The only way James McPake’s side can overtake them is by securing victory at Queen of the South while hoping Raith drop points against the champions.
Dundee will believe the issue is still very much alive with the added irony that they need a favour from Hearts 35 years – almost to the day – that Albert Kidd delivered his devastating sucker punch to rob the Tynecastle team of the Scottish title in 1986.
Dundee’s day ended with disappointment that afternoon too as well when they failed to grab a European spot. The win here at least ensures they are on the dance floor when it comes to the play-offs. They are also on form after stretching their unbeaten run to seven games.
They lived dangerously at times and, having been the better side in the opening half, created few opportunities to make the game safe in the second 45 minutes. Raith continued to probe with substitute Lewis Vaughan heading narrowly wide from Reghan Tumilty’s cross and Regan Hendry bringing out a good save from Adam Legzdins after a neat one-two with Gozie Ugwu. Benedictus’ header might well have been more than mere consolation had it just come earlier.