Raith Rovers 3 Alloa Athletic 0
A spectacular strike from midfielder James Craigen set Raith Rovers on their way to a comfortable victory over Alloa at Stark’s Park this afternoon.
After a frustrating first half where Rovers struggled to break down a determined Alloa defence, the home side made the vital breakthrough 10 minutes after the interval with a stunning left-foot volley from Craigen that flew into the top corner from 20 yards.
From then, Raith took complete control and Craig Wighton’s first goal for the club, followed by Mark Stewart’s second of the campaign, completed a third 3-0 home win in a row for Ray McKinnon’s men.
The Raith boss admitted he was beginning to fear the worst up until Craigen’s wonder strike, but was pleased with the overall result and performance.
“That was a tough game, like all games are in the Championship, and we had to earn it,” McKinnon said.
“I’m delighted with the 3-0 and I thought we played some great stuff in the first half.
“We created numerous opportunities and never took them, and I was a bit fearful that the game might pan out like that and we’d get caught.
“But in the second half we got the three goals and played pretty well. I can have no complaints with three goals and a clean sheet.”
McKinnon made four changes from the midweek cup defeat to Stenhousemuir bringing Lewis Toshey, Rory McKeown, Craigen and Mark Stewart back into the starting XI.
Iain Davidson was also switched from midfield to defence, and the 31-year-old returnee justified the manager’s decision with a stand-out performance.
There was a scare for Raith straight from kick-off as Alloa forward Geoff Mitchell burst past Davidson into the box but his attempted lob drifted harmlessly wide.
Raith settled into a patient passing game which was good to watch, although they were occasionally guilty of over-playing in the wrong areas.
After a few long range efforts that failed to trouble David Crawford in the Alloa goal, Raith carved open a glorious chance on 22 minutes.
A brilliant passing move ended with Jason Thomson hitting the by-line and his cut-back was somehow missed by FOUR inrushing Raith players.
Raith came close again on the half hour when the ball broke to Wighton 14 yards out and the teenager’s goal bound volley was deflected inches wide by centre-half Dougie Hill, a great Rovers servant who was making his first appearance back at Stark’s Park since leaving in the summer.
McKinnon was showing his frustartion in the dug-out as Raith continued to work into great areas without finding the killer touch.
And Rovers were almost made to pay in the closing stages of the first half as Alloa came back into the match.
On 37 minutes Raith fell asleep at the back post allowing Michael Duffy a free run onto Mark Williams’ deep cross but he was unable to make a clean connection with his first-time volley and the ball spun wide.
Seconds before the half-time whistle, Raith lost out on a 50-50 in midfield, and the ball was worked to Connor McManus 22 yards out who forced Kevin Cuthbert into a full stretch diving save.
Danny Lennon would have been the happier boss at half-time but everything changed in the 55th minute with Craigen’s goal of the season contender.
Ryan McCord’s corner was headed out to the edge of the area where Craigen took a touch to set up the volley, then sent an unstoppable strike into the top corner of the net.
There was a close call for Raith two minutes later as Mitchell dragged an effort across goal which Michael Chopra was only a fraction away from reaching for a tap-in.
Raith took complete control on the hour mark when another McCord corner was headed towards goal by Davidson and Wighton’s flick took the ball over the line for 2-0.
Raith cruised through the last hour until Stewart put the seal on the victory in the 84th minute by turning home Thomson’s cut-back from six yards.
Craigen was announced as the sponsors man of the match - his goal was worth the admission alone - but Davidson, Toshney and Callachan were all strong candidates for excellent performances.
After two defeats this was an impressive response from Rovers. They can look ahead to Tuesday’s League Cup tie at home to Hamilton with confidence.
Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Thomson, McKeown (Mackie 89), Davidson, Toshney, Callachan, Anderson (Megginson 72), McCord, Craigen, Wighton (Campbell 89), Stewart. Not used: Laidlaw, Petrie, Matthews, Bates.
Alloa Athletic: Crawford, McAusland, Williams, Hill, Marr, Hamilton, Chopra, O’Brien, McManus (Layne 60), Duffy, Mitchell (Ferns 60). Not used: McNeil, Reintam, Hetherington, Layne, Ferns, Kader, Holmes.
Referee: Kevin Graham