Frustration spills over as Raith go down in Dumbarton

Christian Nade in a dispute with Raith fans after the 2-1 defeat in Dumbarton. Pic: George McLuskie
Christian Nade in a dispute with Raith fans after the 2-1 defeat in Dumbarton. Pic: George McLuskie

Dumbarton 2 Raith Rovers 1

Such is life for Raith Rovers at the moment that not even a good performance on Saturday was enough get a positive result - or a positive reaction.

Any defeat to Dumbarton, and the subsequent slide down into seventh place in the table, was always going to result in yet more backlash from a discontented support.

The first reaction came only seconds after the final whistle as Christian Nade got involved in a heated exchange with a fan before eventually being led down the tunnel by player-coach Laurie Ellis.

It was a flashpoint that has been brewing under the surface for several weeks.

Last week’s 5-1 home loss to bottom of the table Livingston was a new low, with manager Grant Murray’s position at Stark’s Park now coming under severe scrutiny, both in the stands, and particularly on social media.

The statistics certainly make for grim reading.

Saturday’s latest setback made it three league defeats on the bounce and one league win in 10 - and that’s on the back of a calendar year that has yielded only eight league wins from 34 games.

However, this was not a performance to be negative about.

All week Murray spoke about wanting a reaction from his players - and he got one.

Rovers were on the front foot for long spells of this match, had the lions share of possession and goal-scoring chances, yet again they ended up on the losing side.

Why? Well a wonder strike from 35 yards out, and a late penalty decision from Bobby Madden that even the beneficiaries questioned, ensured that bad luck, on this occasion, was Rovers downfall.

In fairness to the supporters who travelled, and there weren’t many, most of them applauded the team off the park despite the result, recognising that the players had given their all.

The discontent among some fans, however, remains evident and while the negativity could possibly be seen as part of the problem, it’s unlikely to go away until good performances and results are married together.

It will be up to the board of directors to decide whether Murray is the man to turn things around, or whether they can afford to pay up the remaining year and a half on his contract if he is not.

Saturday’s performance at least gave some indication that the current regime can rediscover the successful formula that brought positive starts to the last two league campaigns, and success in cup competitions.

The team looked motivated and hungry - the football wasn’t bad either - it was just the lack of a killer finish or final ball in and around the penalty box that prevented some good build-up play translating into goals.

Raith did manage to find the net once - Mark Stewart’s 63rd minute equaliser was well crafted and superbly taken - but they ought to have had more to show for their efforts.

Dumbarton were by no means a sideshow in this match, though. They also created chances - albeit mainly on the counter attack - but they had luck, and perhaps a bit more confidence on their side.

Dougie Hill made his first start of the season, replacing the suspended Ross Perry, while Grant Anderson found himself benched despite scoring in the previous two games, with Ryan Conroy recalled.

Rovers made the better start to the match with the impressive Ross Callachan going closest to breaking the deadlock, firing inches wide from the edge of the box after 11 minutes.

Callachan had more shots on goal than any outfield player on Saturday and his positive, all-action performance made you wonder why he has been so underused this season.

Dumbarton lost three players to injury early on, including one in the warm-up, but that didn’t stop them taking the lead in the 20th minute with a strike that is sure to be among the contenders for goal of the season.

There seemed little danger when Chris Agnew collected the ball in space 35 yards out but the midfielder’s stunning effort swerved and dipped into the top corner, leaving David McGurn motionless.

For the ninth league game in a row Rovers had lost the first goal but they had Dumbarton pinned back as half-time approached with Stewart and Nade both unable to convert good chances.

Rovers continued to press at the start of the second half and Danny Rogers saved brilliantly from Conroy, but they needed McGurn to keep them in the game when a Dumbarton breakaway saw Chris Kane race clear from the halfway line but the Raith ‘keeper managed to divert his effort wide of the target.

A minute later Raith were eventually rewarded for their positive play as Conroy picked out Stewart’s darting run and the striker forced his way between two defenders to clip the ball past the advancing ‘keeper.

Both sides pushed for a winner thereafter with McGurn required to make a superb one-handed save to keep out a 20-yard effort from Gary Fleming that had goal written all over it.

Murray’s decision not to utilise his bench in the latter stages was a bone of contention and it was one of the home replacement’s, Archie Campbell, who won his side a last minute penalty.

There appeared to be minimal contact as Callachan closed down the Sons striker near the edge of the box but Campbell hit the deck and referee Madden pointed to the spot.

Up stepped Agnew to send McGurn the wrong way from 12 yards and condemn Rovers to another defeat - and one which clearly left the players and manager hurting.

Dumbarton: Rogers, van Zanten, Graham, Taggart, MacDonald, Gilhaney (McDougall 29), Kirkpatrick (Nish 8), Agnew, Megginson (Campbell 86), Fleming, Kane. Not used: Linton, Mair, Ewings.

Raith Rovers: McGurn, Thomson, McKeown, Hill, Watson, Moon, Conroy, Callachan, Stewart, Nade, McKay. Not used: Anderson, Elliot, Barr, Scott, Vaughan, Ellis, Laidlaw.

Referee: Bobby Madden

Attendance: 764