Raith hit new low in 4-0 defeat to Dumbarton
After the high of their first win since October in midweek, Rovers season hit a new nadir, with their heaviest defeat of the campaign, and their worst to Dumbarton in the league since 1972.
Manager, John Hughes was certainly in no mood to sugar coat the performance afterwards, although in fairness, how could he, after a wretched display against the part-timers, which saw them slide one place down the table to eighth, just four points ahead of Ayr United, who have a game in hand.
Rovers found themselves two down at half-time thanks to a brace from Sons striker, Robert Thomson, and the game was put out of sight immediately after the interval, when Sam Stanton bundled the ball home from close range after Thomson turned provider.
Rovers miserable day was complete in the closing moments, when substitute Garry Fleming nonchalantly sauntered past the Raith defence and slotted past Pavol Penksa to complete the rout.
Hughes certainly didn’t mince his words after the match.
“We were well beat today," he stated. "The question coming here was, could we win back-to-back, and we’ve come unstuck.
"This is the reason we are where we are though, as we can’t perform consistently. That’s it in a nutshell.
“I’m not asking them to do anything that’s too out there. I just ask them to do the fundamentals, keep your shape and battle away, but we weren’t at it, and if you’re not up to those standards, then you’ll get beat.”
As you’d expect, Hughes kept a similar side to the one which won last time out, with just two changes, both of which were forced upon him through injury.
Ross Matthews replaced Iain Davidson in the middle of the park, while Ryan Hardie, fresh from his two goal salvo against The Buddies, coming in for Mark Stewart who hobbled off on Wednesday.
With Kevin McHattie still out through injury, Kyle Benedictus once again deputised on the left-
hand side of a back-four which kept its first clean sheet in 13 matches.
However, while a stout defensive showing had been the bedrock of that 2-0 win, the backline looked ill at ease right from the get-go.
Dumbarton’s Sam Stanton has been in excellent form of late, and his electric turn of pace down the left-hand side caused consternation in the second minute, skipping past Ross Matthews before dragging the ball back for Calum Gallagher at the back-post, but the ball was slowed by the glue-like consistency of Dumbarton’s turf, and the chance was cleared.
It was a concerning start to proceedings, and things turned bleaker after just seven minutes, as the home side scored their 500th goal at the Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium.
Again, the problem came from the wide area, albeit the opposite side this time, with Gallagher wriggling free on the right, before finding Robert Thomson with a low cross, who placed his shot from close range beyond Penksa.
It was the worst possible start for a side which has demonstrated such fragile confidence during their barren run, and Hughes was furious at how it had been conceded.
“We missed three tackles down that side for the opener," he said. "You can’t do that. You can’t just let guys go by you. It’s basic. There needs to be a desire not to let your team-mates down, and we lacked it.”
If spirits had been lifted by Wednesday’s result, then the early setback seemed to diminish them once more, with little to shout about in an attacking sense, although the conditions were proving a hindrance to both sides in a scrappy stop-start affair.
Hardie was the only player to have had a sniff of a chance in the opening 20 minutes, but Alan Martin made a reasonably comfortable save to deny him from an acute angle.
Rovers were starting to look a little surer of themselves though, and it took a remarkable save to deny them in the 26th minute.
Bobby Barr’s corner from the right was met by the thumping forehead of M’Voto, who must have been certain that he’d added another goal to tally this term, only for Martin to dive full length to his right to repel his effort away.
The match had certainly swung Rovers way, and Benedictus was next to try his luck after being set up by Bobby Barr, but with the stopper not exactly renowned for his goal-scoring prowess, it wasn’t a huge surprise to see his 25-yard effort career into the stadium’s car park.
Despite Rovers being on top, The Sons almost doubled their advantage as the interval approached.
Christian Nade won the flick on for Andrew Stirling, who sprinted into the area before squaring it back to the former Raith striker, whose effort was blocked well by Penksa with the goal gaping.
They again had the giant Slovak to thank with two minutes of the half remaining, when he palmed away an excellent shot from distance from Thomson, but the respite was fleeting.
From Stirling’s deep corner, Thomson bent a glorious, first-time volley arcing past the keeper and into the opposite corner.
Rovers required a strong start to the second-period, but instead, they made quite the opposite. Stanton was allowed to run at the defence, and although his initial shot was charged down, the ball broke to Thomson out wide, and his cross was dinked into the area for Stanton to prod home from inside the six-yard box.
Again, Hughes raged at the concession, saying: “At half-time, we were still in the game, and what did I say to them? I said the next goal will be important, and we concede within five minutes.
"You have to give yourself a chance, and we just didn’t do it.”
Considering Raith’s travails in front of goal this season, a fightback looked impossible, and although Hughes rang the changes to try and instil something different into the team, not all were welcomed by the fans.
Yaw Osei and Scott Roberts were both thrown into the fray, but it was Hughes first switch which generated a hugely negative reaction, with the fans quick to jeer his decision to bring on Rudi Skacel for Hardie.
The changes made little difference, and despite enjoying arguably more possession than the home side, the team once again demonstrated that it has no creative hub to set up enough chances to win games.
A dreadful day was completed in the final minute, as Dumbarton scored their fourth.
Fleming picked up possession on the left hand side of the area, and he easily shrugged off two half-hearted challenges before sidestepping Penksa and slotting it into the corner.
It was a pitifully
poor goal to give away, but a fitting way to end such a showing, as Hughes alluded to.
“That’s not a performance which comes anywhere near our standards, we just weren’t at the races, and I can’t put my finger on it.”
With just eight games left to preserve Rovers Championship status, he’ll need to figure it out quickly.