Raith Rovers 2 Alloa Athletic 1
Raith Rovers were second half specialists for the second week running as they claimed a narrow but deserved win over Alloa to maintain their 100 per cent home record in League One.
After struggling to exert dominance in an evenly contested first half, Raith stepped up a gear after the break, just as they did against Queen's Park last week, taking firm control thanks to goals from strike partners Greig Spence and Liam Buchanan.
Alloa pushed bodies forward late on, and were rewarded with a consolation goal, which made the closing few minutes slightly more uncomfortable than they needed to be, but Raith held firm to claim an important three points against one of the division's toughest opponents.
The visitors came into the match third in the table and with just one defeat in six so any victory would need to be earned, and Raith rose the challenge with their most impressive overall performance for a number of weeks.
Passing was crisper, movement better, everything about the performance was just so much sharper than of late. Hopefully a sign of early season confidence returning as Rovers look to get back in the groove after a tough November.
Lewis Vaughan's move into the middle of the park has made a notable difference, providing the creative spark that recent displays had been missing, while Dario Zanatta is beginning to emerge as a key player after a slow start to his loan spell at Hearts.
A goal each for the front two is also a welcome morale-boost, particularly for Buchanan who ended a nine-game barren run. League One's top scorer last season has found it tough to live up to his reputation lately, but his perseverance is to be admired, and it was good to see his hard work rewarded.
Raith's young back four again put in a solid display as it took 80 minutes for Alloa to register an attempt on goal, and the late concession came at a time when the visitors were throwing caution to the wind and flooding men forward.
With two teenagers alongside him, a lot of responsibility has been placed on the shoulders of Euan Murray, himself still only 23, in recent weeks but the centre-back has stepped up to the plate and led by example in the heart of defence. It helps that the youngsters alongside him have not looked out of place.
Zanatta replaced the injured John Herron in the only change from the side that beat Queen's Park 2-0 the previous week, while there was a surprise inclusion of Bobby Barr on the bench given the winger's ongoing injury concerns.
There was very little to separate the sides in the first half with neither 'keeper called into serious action.
Alloa went close on 15 minutes when tricky winger Paul Joseph Crossan showed young Jamie Watson a clean pair of heels but his ball across the six-yard box found no takers despite several inrushing Wasps. He was later booked for diving in an attempt to win a penalty.
Raith's best, and only real effort before the break came on 26 minutes when Zanatta turned his man 20 yards out and drilled a low effort narrowly wide.
Ross Matthews was forced off after half an hour after picking up a knock which meant Barr, despite not being fully fit, was brought on earlier than anticipated.
At half-time Raith were left to reflect on another frustrating opening 45, but safe in the knowledge they were playing decent football at times, while previous home games have shown them to get stronger after the break. So it proved.
They should have taken the lead just three minutes after the restart when Vaughan unlocked the defence with a ball over the top that saw Barr break the offside trap to race clear.
The winger should've scored himself, but he squared the ball to Buchanan, who fired the ball over the bar with just a defender on the line. A glorious chance wasted.
Raith did not have long to wait for their next opportunity though and this time there was no mistake.
Zanatta did brilliantly, finding space 25 yards from goal, before driving down the left and sending over a perfect cross for Spence to bullet home a header from six yards.
Alloa were now struggling to contain the home side, and a well-worked second goal duly arrived on 66 minutes.
Vaughan played a delightful one-two with Buchanan to go clear on goal, and although Neil Parry made a point-blank save, the ball broke back to Buchanan who rolled it into the net, and celebrated wildly as a weight visibly lifted from his shoulders.
At this stage, Raith looked as though they could go on to score another goal or two and seal a comfortable win, but Alloa are rarely given a doing, and helped by tactical change to all out attack, they started to cause Rovers problems in the final 10 minutes.
A goal-saving tackle from Scott Robertson was required to prevent Craig Malcolm from close range, and Barry Smith responded by bringing Iain Davidson off the bench to shore things up.
However, the Raith defence was breached with three minutes left when a corner to the back post was just out of reach of goalkeeper Graeme Smith and bundled home by Kevin Cawley.
But the home side did not panic, and helped by some time-wasting tactics in the corner flag, they made it to full-time without any real scares.
Considering Raith are still battling through injury troubles, this was a significant victory against a side tipped to be among the promotion candidates and it was a happy home crowd that headed for the exits at full-time.
Raith Rovers: Smith, Thomson, Watson, Murray, Spence, Robertson, Buchanan (Davidson 84), Vaughan, Matthews (Barr 34), McKay, Zanatta. Not used: Lennox, Osei, Court, Berry.
Alloa Athletic: Parry, Taggart, Crane, Graham, Fleming (Martin 69), Robertson, Cawley, Hetherington, Malcolm, Crossan (Cook 84), Flanagan. Not used: Renton, McKeown, Hoggan, Cunningham, Wilson.
Referee: Colin Steven