Raith’s catastrophic collapse leaves McKinnon in shock

Raith manager Ray McKinnon struggled to comprehend his team's collapse in Dumbarton. Pic -  Fife Photo Agency -
Raith manager Ray McKinnon struggled to comprehend his team's collapse in Dumbarton. Pic - Fife Photo Agency -
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Dumbarton 3 Raith Rovers 3

While Dumbarton may look upon yesterday’s 3-3 draw as a spectacular comeback, for Raith Rovers this was nothing less than a catastrophe.

With ten minutes left, the Kirkcaldy side were cruising to a comfortable victory, but they allowed complacency, and then panic, to set in and paid a heavy price with the loss of three late goals.

From 3-0 up in the 81st minute, to 3-3 by the 87th, and remarkably it could have been even worse, with only the inside of the post sparing Rovers from an inconceivable defeat.

The character and professionalism Raith had shown for 80 minutes completely disintegrated to leave the travelling fans shell-shocked, and manager Ray McKinnon struggling to comprehend what had happened.

“I’m in shock after that,” he said. “We’re 3-0 up and should have been four or five, and to lose three goals in the last 10 minutes is unbelievable.

“It’s probably down to taking the foot off the gas, mentally tuning out, not burying them when we had the opportunities, and then bad marking for the goals.

“It’s unacceptable to lose three goals in the last 10 minutes.

“I never saw it coming a mile away - and maybe that’s the problem.

“We were so comfortable in the game I don’t know where the three goals come from.”

In the only change to a Raith side still missing captain Jason Thomson through injury, Craig Wighton displaced Jon Daly, as Raith opted for pace over physical presence in attack - a decision that was vindicated as they scored three goals for the first time since August.

Both teams went into the match on the back of poor runs - Dumbarton losing their last four, with Raith pointless in three - but encouraging aspects in the defeats to Hibs and Falkirk meant the visitors could approach the game with confidence.

That was reflected as Raith started brightly, taking the lead on four minutes.

Mark Stewart did the donkey work, as he often does, chasing a forward pass into the corner before crossing into the box where the ball fell to Wighton.

With his back to goal, the on-loan Dundee striker showed great awareness to clip a pass to the back post where James Craigen had the simple task of firing into the net.

Despite some sloppy play at times, Raith were comfortable for the remainder of the first half with Kevin Cuthbert not required to make a save behind a commanding defence marshalled by stand-in captain Kyle Benedictus.

Rovers didn’t really do enough to merit a 2-0 half-time lead but they were gifted a second goal on the stroke of the interval as goalkeeper Mark Brown flapped at Ryan McCord’s corner, and under pressure from Stewart, defender Jon Routledge knocked the ball into his own net.

Dumbarton made two half-time changes to try and get back into the game, and they managed their first attempt on target two minutes after the restart as one of the replacements, Kevin Cawley, forced Cuthbert into a diving save with a 25-yard drive.

But Raith looked to have killed the game off in the 56th minute when Scott Robertson’s fine individual effort put the away side three goals up.

The midfielder collected the ball in an advanced area, drove at the heart of the home defence, then fired home from 18 yards for his first Raith goal.

McKinnon’s men were then inches from a fourth goal as Rory McKeown’s cross fell to Wighton on the six yard line, and after showing quick feet to create space for a shot, the striker’s effort was deflected onto the bar by goalkeeper Brown.

Given the events that later unfolded, even a four goal cushion might not have been enough.

The 3-0 scoreline had come fairly easily to Rovers and perhaps they fooled themselves into thinking that they could slacken off for the remaining time.

However, for as poor as Dumbarton had been, they were not for giving up, and the introduction of winger Willie Gibson in the 68th minute provided them with the spark they had been sorely lacking.

It was from his corner that the comeback started as Steven Saunders was left unmarked to head home in the 81st minute. The shocking, nonexistent marking suggested Raith had downed tools.

Two minutes later Saunders was left unmarked again, six yards out, to bullet another header past a motionless Cuthbert and suddenly, from a commanding position, Raith were now clinging on.

The visitors now needed leaders on the park but instead the players completely lost their composure, and when Iain Davidson raised his hands to block Gibson’s shot, referee Greg Aitken pointed to the penalty spot.

It doesn’t detract from how bad the final 10 minutes were, but Davidson’s handball appeared to be outside the box - another bad penalty decision costing the Rovers at a critical stage of a game.

Garry Fleming stepped up to fire the spot kick into the bottom corner to level the scores, and incredibly, the hosts were now pushing for a victory, while Raith were hanging on for a draw.

Complete disaster was averted in the 90th minute as Gibson, who Raith simply couldn’t handle, curled an effort towards the far corner and the ball rebounded off the inside of the post, luckily landing at the feet of a Rovers player in a crowded penalty box.

The game almost had one final twist deep in injury time as Raith won a corner, and Daly, brought on as a sub after Dumbarton’s third goal, saw a header cleared off the line.

Raith took a point but this felt worse than a defeat. The reaction against St Mirren on Tuesday will say a lot about this team.

Dumbarton: Brown, Docherty, Saunders, Buchanan, Gallagher (Gibson 68), Barr, Waters (Cawley 45), Routledge, Lindsay, Brown (Fleming 45), Brophy. Not used: Craig, Wright, Ross, Ewings.

Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Toshney, Davidson, Benedictus, McKeown, Craigen, McCord (Callachan 74) Robertson, Megginson (Petrie 70), Stewart, Wighton (Daly 88). Not used: Laidlaw, Anderson, Matthews, Ford.

Referee: Greg Aitken

Attendance: 707