Charged with defending a three-goal on their home ground against a team who were meant to be tiring, they were guilty of the cardinal sin of sloppiness when allowing Lewis Vaughan to score what proved the game’s only goal midway through the first-half. Dundee might also have seen playmaker Charlie Adam sent off in the opening half for a potential second booking offence.
Having been shown a yellow card just minutes earlier for a late challenge on Dan Armstrong, an attempted clip over the Dundee skipper’s head by Ross Matthews hit Adam’s raised hands.
Several Raith players shrieked for another card with Adam seemingly expecting the worst as he put these same hands, still stinging with the impact of the ball, to his head. Referee Don Robertson spared him, not for the last time.
Adam was slightly late with a challenge on the same player with twenty minutes left to concede a free-kick. There was little surprise when he was removed from the fray shortly afterwards and replaced with Danny Mullen. Slowly and not-very surely, Dundee inched towards their goal of reaching the Premiership play-off final. However, it was rarely comfortable.
It’s just as well their fans, most of whom were watching at home, had sofas to hide behind.
Raith made an admirable fist of it. Buoyed by Vaughan’s goal, they enjoyed the additional benefit of playing down the Dens Park slope in the second half. Try as they might, a second and third goal, required to take the tie to extra-time, would not come. A penalty appeal, for handball against Jordan McGhee, was turned down.
It was not an evening for the purist as Dundee resorted to booting the ball as far as they could. Sub Osman Sow was booked for simulation as he sought to earn the penalty that would give the hosts the chance to earn some relief.
Raith secured the relatively early goal they craved to put everyone associated with Dundee on tenterhooks. Manager John McGlynn had to be satisfied with his game-plan. They seemed to surprise Dundee by ditching their passing style to go direct.
Raith's consistent probing yielded what the visitors desperately wanted after 22 minutes. If they could continue scoring at the same rate, and keep a clearly nervy Dundee out, it would be mission accomplished.
The home team had chances to put the tie to bed. A stretching Lee Ashcroft put Adam’s inch perfect free-kick over the bar from close in. Max Anderson should have scored an equaliser seven minutes before the interval but saw his shot blocked by the excellent Jamie MacDonald.
Vaughan’s goal clearly spooked Dundee. It was a fine finish from the in-form striker, who collected a skewed shot from Reghan Hendrybefore wheeling to shoot into the far corner with his right foot.
Kilmarnock manager Tommy Wright and Ross County’s John Hughes, both of whom were sitting in the main stand, were beginning to wonder which team they should be taking notes on. Their own sides are of course involved in a last-day battle to avoid the tension of a play-off. One of them will return here on Thursday evening.