At the start of last month, on a cold evening at East End Park, Raith Rovers were soundly beaten by Dunfermline Athletic 4-1 in the Championship. It appeared that the Pars would kick on from there and make sure they would be involved in the play-offs, and Raith’s position looked unsteady.
The tables, however, have turned. On a beautiful spring night in Kirkcaldy, Raith filleted their fellow Fifers 5-1 with a brand of incisive, attractive football that make them a pleasure to watch when in this kind of form. Six points clear of fifth place with five games to go, their play-off place is so nearly sealed.
There are many good stories to tell in blue, but the focus must go to Lewis Vaughan, who scored a double – his first strikes since September 2019. Ravaged by three knee surgeries, the 25-year-old would undoubtedly have played in Scotland’s top flight by now, such is his ability, had it not been for such misfortune. Perhaps he will get the chance with this swashbuckling Raith outfit.
Packed full of attacking intent with Vaughan, Jamie Gullan and Kai Kennedy, and ably supported by tidy midfielders Reghan Hendry and Brad Spencer, on their day Raith are a dangerous animal. Consistency and defensive robustness have harmed them at times, but it’s hard to see them relinquishing their spot in the top-four. The focus now should be keeping hold of second place.
Dunfermline’s position is slightly different. Since beating Rovers in at the start of February, they’ve only won twice and the goals are drying up. This thumping defeat resulted in them dropping down to fifth on goal difference. The two teams above them, Dundee and Inverness, have that key commodity at this juncture of the season: momentum. A crucial period awaits Pars boss Stevie Crawford, starting at home to Hearts on Saturday.
How the match unfolded
Rovers’ opening goal on 17 minutes was an example of the brave football they like to play. Spencer drove out of his own third, piercing through Dunfermline’s belly. The ball was worked neatly to Hendry and the former Celtic midfielder made little mistake in finishing.
Dunfermline responded well, with Kevin O’Hara emphatically heading home a delivery from Scott Banks five minutes later.
Rovers were the more enterprising in attack, though, and on 31 minutes Kieran MacDonald wiped out the whole Pars defence with a cross and Vaughan, sliding in, could not miss from six yards out.
That goal appeared to knock Dunfermline’s confidence as Raith imposed themselves more and more. Their third goal, on 40 minutes, was a fatal blow. Vaughan’s free-kick was clearly a cross, but the ball evaded everyone and snuck in past the despairing dive of Owain Fon Williams.
Dunfermline beefed up their midfield at half-time by bringing on Iain Wilson and Lewis McCann, but any hopes of a comeback were extinguished when another zesty passing move unpeeled the Pars, leaving Hibs loanee Gullan to lash the ball past Fon Williams.
Gullan was at it again on 76 minutes, a cute finish across the keeper making it 5-1 and giving Rovers their biggest win over the Pars since trouncing them 6-0 on January 1, 1983.