Raith Rovers throw away four goal lead at home to Hamilton
Raith Rovers passed up a golden opportunity to open their Championship account with a win when they threw away a four goal lead against Hamilton at Stark’s Park.
A double from Lewis Vaughan and goals from Dario Zanatta and Aidam Connolly had Raith cruising with just 20 minutes to go, but Hamilton hit back through Andy Ryan, a double of his own from ex-Rover Kieran MacDonald and a last minute strike from Shaun Want.
Rovers boss John McGlynn fielded an unchanged line-up from the previous week’s draw with Alloa in the Premier Sports Cup and after just two minutes they
went close when a Zanatta cross caused some confusion in the visitor’s six yard box but the ball was scrambled clear.
However the home side weren’t to be denied for long and took the lead nine minutes later.
A Connolly cross struck the hand of a Hamilton defender in the box, referee Nick Walsh pointed to the spot and Vaughan made no mistake.
On 24 minutes the Kirkcaldy side doubled the scoreline in some style.
A pinpoint cross field ball from right back Reghan Tumilty was collected by winger Zanatta who cut inside and unleashed a superb curling shot with his right foot which nestled in the opposite top corner leaving keeper Ryan Fulton with no chance.
Half time arrived with Rovers two goals to the good, though to their credit the visitors were still pushing forward and asking questions of the home defence which, until that point, had stood up well.
The second half started with Hamilton making a double substitution - Andy Ryan and Scott McMann came on with Callum Smith and David Moyo making way - a yellow card for a late challenge from Raith skipper Kyle Benedictus, and a third goal for the home side.
A one-two down the left between Connolly and Zanatta ended with the former smashing a low drive across Fulton into the net after 51 minutes.
Matej Poplatnik was booked for what looked like a fairly innocuous challenge before Rovers nearly got a fourth when a cross from Tumilty almost eluded Fulton but he managed to get a fingertip to it and push it on to his bar.
However a minute later Raith did indeed add to their lead when Vaughan was put through with just Fulton to beat and he did so with a delightful chip on 65 minutes.
Rovers were now cruising and three points seemed a certainty but inexplicably they then fell apart.
Two minutes later Accies pulled their first goal back and it was former Raith left back MacDonald who headed in from a Ryan cross.
On 71 minutes Zanatta should have grabbed his second when he was played through by Connolly but his shot was too direct and Fulton saved.
It proved to be his last involvement as Rovers made a double substitution - Zanatta and Poplatnik replaced by Ethon Varian and Falkirk loanee Kai Fotheringham who was making his debut.
Within seconds Varian passed up a golden chance to score. Left with Fulton to beat, he elected to round the keeper but slipped in doing so and the Accies defence scrambled clear.
It proved to be a huge turning point as two minutes later Hamilton scored again. A wonderful finish from Andy Ryan as he cut inside and rifled the ball into the roof of the Rovers net on 77 minutes.
On 79 minutes Blaise Riley-Snow replaced Vaughan, then, incredibly, MacDonald got his second and Hamilton’s third when he scrambled home a third from a low ball across the face of the Rovers goal.
With just seconds remaining Fotheringham crashed the ball off the visitors bar but Hamilton the went back up and completed the most incredible of come backs when Shaun Watt glanced in a header to make the final score 4-4.