A big improvement in just a fortnight

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RAITH secured their place in next season’s first division with a deserved victory away to Dumbarton on a chilly Tuesday night.

For Rovers, it was a quick return to the scene of arguably their worst result of the season, a 4-2 defeat from two goals up, just two weeks ago.

Greig Spence opens the scoring for Rovers against Dumbarton

Greig Spence opens the scoring for Rovers against Dumbarton

Perhaps that sorry night was the shock to the system this team needed as since then they have really stepped up their game, taking four points from the top two teams in the table, while this was an altogether more committed 90-minute performance than the second half collapse witnessed at the Bet Butler Stadium a fortnight ago.

Grant Murray stuck with the 3-5-2 system that had served him well in last week’s home matches against Morton and Partick as he named an unchanged 11 for the third game running.

The first 10 minutes suggested Rovers would be in for a difficult night as Dumbarton started on the front foot, but Rovers defended well, and then scored with virtually their first attack.

Greig Spence miscontrolled a Grant Anderson cross and the chance appeared to be gone, however, the ball was played back to Joe Hamill who pinged a cross into the box that tempted goalkeeper Stephen Grindlay off his line.

That proved to be a crucial mistake, as Anderson looped a header over the stranded stopper, and as the ball bounced towards the empty goal, Spence made sure it crossed the line by rushing in to head home from a yard out.

Dumbarton tried to hit back but found Rovers defence a much tougher nut to crack, and Anderson almost made it 2-0 on the half hour but he couldn’t beat Grindlay from a tight angle.

Rovers had a double let-off at the start of the second half as first David McGurn spilled a cross and Scott Agnew fired the loose ball wide, then Jim Lister, who hit a hat-trick the last time the sides met, glanced a header just off target.

After surviving those scares, Rovers boss Murray decided a change of shape was in order, replacing himself with winger Joe Cardle to go back to the conventional 4-4-2 system.

The change gave Rovers the impetus to push forward for a killer second goal and they passed up several golden opportunities to get it.

Grant Anderson was twice denied by Grindlay in one-on-one situations before Brian Graham got the ball tangled between his legs just six yards out after Cardle’s shot had been saved.

Those misses looked worse when Dumbarton equalised against the run of play with 20 minutes left as Mark Gilhaney cracked home a stunning 18-yard finish as Rovers struggled to clear a disputed free-kick.

The home side’s joy was short-lived however as Rovers regained the lead just five minutes later.

Grant Anderson finally found the killer ball to match his superb running as he motored past the left back for the umpteenth time and crossed for Graham to plant a header home from close range.

Rovers have lost points late on in games too many times this season, but they seem to be learning, as they saw out the final 15 minutes without too much concern.

The performance of winger Anderson certainly caught the eye, while Simon Mensing was a rock at the heart of the Rovers defence.

With confidence returning and performances improving, perhaps this Saturday’s visit of Cowdenbeath will tempt a decent crowd to Stark’s Park.