Goals spread as Raith Rovers thrash 10-man Stenhousemuir

Chris Duggan clips the ball beyond Graeme Smith to complete the scoring for Raith Rovers. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Chris Duggan clips the ball beyond Graeme Smith to complete the scoring for Raith Rovers. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Raith Rovers 5 Stenhousemuir 1

Raith Rovers shrugged off an early injury to top scorer Kevin Nisbet to put five past Stenhousemuir at Stark's Park.

Nisbet limped off with a suspected hamstring pull, but his replacement Chris Duggan was among five different scorers as Rovers ruthlessly exploited the 10-man visitors, who had defender Connor McBrearty sent off in the 20th minute.

After the setback of the derby last week, it was a much more promising start to the new year for the Kirkcaldy side, with some incisive high-tempo football on display, albeit with the advantage of the extra man, and against the team at the bottom of the table.

The absolute requirement for this inconsistent Rovers side is to produce it every week to have any hope of catching Arbroath.

John McGlynn made two changes to the side that lost to East Fife with Calum Crane and Lewis Vaughan coming back into the starting 11 for the first time since returning from injury. Nathan Flanagan dropped to the bench while Ross Matthews missed out altogether.

The changes meant a switch from right back to his preferred midfield position for Grant Gillespie, and the former Hamilton man showed his class, completely running the game from the middle of the park, as well as helping himself to a goal, in a man of the match display.

Duggan's performance as an early substitute was also a significant positive, leading the line superbly to soften the blow of losing Nisbet, while Vaughan brought some magic dust to the left wing, which is arguably his best position.

Like today, his ability to drift inside, find space and score goals was very evident in the early part of last season when he netted in 11 consecutive matches.

With confidence dented last week, Rovers eased their way into the game in the opening stages with some cagey possession in their own third of the pitch, but whenever they ventured forward, they carved open the Stenny defence with ease.

Nisbet was first to threaten as he got in behind, and took the ball round goalkeeper Graeme Smith, only to lose his balance and fire into the side-netting, injuring himself in the process. Despite trying to carry on, the striker was soon replaced by Duggan, who was eager to seize his chance.

Rovers took the lead in the 17th minute with soon-to-be out-of-contract Daniel Armstrong again showing why fans are desperate for him to stay with a penetrating run followed by a pinpoint cut-back which defender Iain Davidson swept home at the near post with all the aplomb of an accomplished striker.

A goal up, and just three minutes later Raith were also a man up. From a ball in behind, Duggan's pace saw him reach a ball before McBrearty and the defender slid in late to deny the Australian a clear run on goal, leaving referee Grant Irvine with little choice other than to brandish a red card.

If Raith thought they were now on easy street, they were given a rude awakening in the 24th minute when the 10 men drew level, Sean Dickson's cross being nodded home from close range by Sebastian Ross, with the home defence guilty of switching off.

Such defensive lapses have proved costly this season, but on this occasion, Raith's recovery was immediate and emphatic, scoring three times in seven minutes to take a 4-1 lead into the break, and obliterate any thoughts of another slip-up.

They were given a slight helping hand by the Stenny defence in the 32nd minute, with an overhit pass-back resulting in Smith slicing his clearance straight to Gillespie, who still had plenty to do, as he stepped one way, then the other, to escape two defenders before placing a composed finish beyond the flustered 'keeper.

By the 37th minute it was 3-1 as Gillespie played a terrific ball wide to Vaughan, who chipped the ball into the box for defender Euan Murray to show real conviction as he towered above a pack of defenders to bullet home a header.

Two minutes later it was 4-1 and game over as Raith worked the ball to Vaughan, who showed his ability to get into the box from the wide position, and the forward buried his chance beyond Smith.

Raith had the whole second half to add to their tally but they had to settle for just one further goal which came six minutes after the restart, with Duggan latching onto Murray's dinked through ball to stab the ball beyond the advancing Smith.

The subsequent collision resulted in the Stenny 'keeper being unable to continue, replaced by sub stopper Lewis McMinn.

Rovers failure to add more goals was certainly not down to the lack of chances created, with multiple opportunities falling their way.

Duggan twice had the ball in the net only to be denied by the offside flag, Vaughan passed up two clear openings, while several other attempts from in and around the box were either saved or off target. Make no mistake, it could easily have been seven or eight.

Beating 10-men is never a given, but seventy per cent possession and 22 attempts on goal tells the story of a one-sided game with Rovers tempo, passing and movement making the most of the extra space, and leaving Stenny to resort to damage limitation tactics.

While Stenny were considerably poorer than East Fife, it was a pity Raith could not produce this level of performance the previous week in front of their biggest crowd of the season, and it was disappointing but not surprising to see the attendance drop by several hundred.

Make this the standard, and those fans will soon come back through the gates.