Scott Brown's wonder strike gives Raith renewed hope in title race with Dundee United

Captain is unlikely hero as he belts home late winner to send Stark’s Park wild

Scott Brown’s arrival at Ayr United as manager has dominated the headlines in the Championship recently but he now needs to make way for his namesake at Raith Rovers, whose quite outrageous strike breathed new life into the title race.

On a thrilling Friday night in Kirkcaldy, Ian Murray’s Raith defeated league leaders Dundee United 2-1 at jam-packed Stark’s Park to move to within a point of the summit. Rovers had been on a five-game losing run prior to this match but this victory will give them renewed vigour in beating Jim Goodwin’s Tangerines to the punch.

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Their winner came from the most unlikely of outlets. Club captain Brown came on as a substitute on 74 minutes to shore up the midfield as United pressed for a winner. But when Dylan Easton’s free-kick was only cleared to the 29-year-old some 25 yards out, the ex-Clyde man belted an unstoppable volley beyond Jack Walton. It was a goal fit to win any match and one his namesake would have been proud of in his Celtic pomp.

Raith's Scott Brown blasts home a later winner to floor Dundee United at Stark's Park.Raith's Scott Brown blasts home a later winner to floor Dundee United at Stark's Park.
Raith's Scott Brown blasts home a later winner to floor Dundee United at Stark's Park.

This was a huge match for Murray and his team. Rightly lauded for their performances for much of this season as they kept pace with United at the top, they have fallen away since winning 1-0 at Tannadice in December. This was not the last roll of the dice for Raith but with a hearty crowd of nearly 8000 in attendance, there was no underplaying the significance of this match – for both teams.

It will be a punch in the guts for Goodwin and United, who after falling behind early to a fast Raith start, eased their way back into it and were the better team for the majority of proceedings. But what they didn’t do was capitalise when in the ascendancy and paid the price in spectacular fashion. This was their first away league defeat of the campaign.

The opening exchanges were played at a ferocious tempo. An early goal felt inevitable and it arrived on eight minutes. United failed to clear a Liam Dick throw-in sufficiently, the ball returned to the left-back and his cross was flicked in via the bar by Zak Rudden. The 24-year-old appeared marginally offside but the Dundee loanee cared not a jot and wasn’t shy in celebrating in front of the subdued travelling fans.

United levelled on 38 minutes. Like Raith’s goal, there was an element of dubiety about it. David Wotherspoon’s corner found Ross Graham and his header back across goal was glanced in by Louis Moult. However, Graham’s flailing arm caught Dick as they jostled for the header, not that Raith protested much, and a captivating first half ended all square.

Jim Goodwin felt Dundee United deserved more from the match.Jim Goodwin felt Dundee United deserved more from the match.
Jim Goodwin felt Dundee United deserved more from the match.

The game quietened down in the second half and became scrappier United looked more composed, while Rovers had deflated. The home fans called for the introduction of maverick winger Easton, who was the matchwinner last time out at Tannadice. Murray duly obliged, knowing his team required something different to alter this game’s direction of travel. He played his part with the set-piece that led to Brown thrashing home his howitzer, his first goal of the season. There was still time for United to try and grab an equaliser in stoppage time but Kevin Dabrowski beat away a Kevin Holt header. This was Raith’s night.

Murray was delighted with the victory and claimed winning put the pressure back on Dundee United. "The level of training in the past week has been incredible,” he said. “When you see it go back to that level then you do realise you have dropped it a little bit. We dropped our work rate a little bit, our defensive duties a little bit. Belief was always there – and tonight gives us more belief.

"I know Jim tried to put a wee bit of pressure on us before the game by saying the pressure's on us. We've never really felt it at any time in the season because we are well ahead of where we'd thought we would be at this stage of the season. We'll pass the baton back to United and the pressure is on them."

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Goodwin lamented the loss but said he would rather be in United’s position that anyone else’s. "I felt if anyone was going to win the game, it was going to be us,” he said. “We were excellent in the first half. I'm led to believe that the first goal is offside, which is a major disappointment. We've had some really big decisions go against us in the league so far.

"I thought the reaction from the players. We didn't panic. It's disappointing that we didn't show more composure in key moments. We felt we could be ahead at half time and I felt the longer the second half went on, it seemed Raith were content to sit in deep and hit us on the break. I don't think we did enough with the ball in the second half.

"Listen. Brown scores a wonder goal. I've got to give him great credit for taking the shot on. I am disappointed from where the thrown-in was taken - it was 30-35 yards away from where it should have been. But it's a brilliant strike – these things happen. Standing here having lost the game is a very sore one to take.

"We're happy that we are still top of the table. I thought we played some really good football – the best we've played for a number of weeks. We showed courage on the ball, we didn't get the outcome we deserved. But there's plenty of football to be played. I said in the build-up nothing would be decided tonight and that's still the case. I'd rather be in our position than anyone else in the league at this moment in time.”