Raith Rovers suffer derby setback as East Fife shatter 22-month home record

Lewis Vaughan pulled one back for Raith, but East Fife held on for the win. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Lewis Vaughan pulled one back for Raith, but East Fife held on for the win. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Raith Rovers 1 East Fife 2

Raith Rovers surrendered their unbeaten Stark's Park record stretching back 22 months with a dismal derby showing against East Fife.

The Kirkcaldy side had not tasted a league defeat on home turf since a 1-0 defeat to Morton in Gary Locke's final match in charge back in February 2017, a total of 33 games.

That proud run was cosigned to the history books on an afternoon where Raith let down not only themselves, but also their biggest home crowd of the campaign.

The only record that was maintained was the unwanted tag of still being unable to string together three consecutive league wins this season.

For the only full-time team in the division, that is a sorry statistic at the halfway stage, but perhaps of more immediate concern is the fact that, not for the first time this season, Rovers were outfought and outplayed by their part-time local rivals, leading John McGlynn to question the mentality of his players.

After producing a complete team performance at Arbroath last week to claim a victory that appeared to reignite their title hopes, Rovers have handed any psychological advantage back to the league leaders, who must have expected the gap to close further after dropping points in a 1-1 draw at 10-man Montrose.

A lead that should have been reduced to eight points, has now been extended to 11, and truthfully, there will not be a title race in the second half of the campaign unless Raith develop the mental strength required not only to win a derby, but to win consecutive games in this league.

Doing it one week and not the next simply won't cut it.

The damage was done in a first half that East Fife were simply more up for.

Raith were lazy and laboured, both in and out of possession, the visitors played with a gusto and physical edge which allowed them to get on top.

The opening goal arrived on 11 minutes and it summed up Raith's first half defending. Nobody closed down Mark Docherty and nobody tracked Aaron Dunsmore's run into the box, as he smashed his team-mate's pass into the net via the underside of the bar.

Raith huffed and puffed in the aftermath of this setback but only Daniel Armstrong provided the occasional spark, with a dazzling run into the box on 37 minutes ending with a near-post shot that was blocked for a corner. His claims that the ball struck the hand of a defender fell on deaf ears.

From the corner Raith had the ball in the net but Liam Buchanan was flagged offside.

That was against the run of play, however, with East Fife the better team going forward.

They visitors had threatened to add to their lead throughout the opening 45, and the away fans thought they had when Craig Watson fired into the side-netting on the half hour.

But they were able to cheer a second goal on the stroke of half-time thanks to a late Christmas present from the Raith defence, with Iain Davidson caught on the ball as Rory Currie raced clear and slotted past Robbie Thomson.

McGlynn's exasperation on the touchline was obvious and Ross Matthews was hooked at half-time, but in truth it could have been anyone, as Lewis Vaughan came on in the middle of the park.

It would not have been difficult for Raith to improve in the second half, which they did thanks to a more focused and determined approach, but they were unable to convert pressure into genuine goal-scoring chances, with East Fife defending doggedly, and in numbers.

Top scorer Kevin Nisbet, who struggled to get into the game at all before the break, came to life in the 55th minute with a long range attempt forcing Brett Long to dive low to tip wide.

Five minutes later, a driving run took him past several defenders into the box, but his shot flashed just wide.

The game then went flat again as Raith struggled to break the visitors down, until a 71st minute corner almost brought a goal but neither Euan Murray nor sub Chris Duggan could force the ball over the line against a brick wall of black and gold.

Armstrong then forced Long into a decent save low to his right after cutting in from the wing, but as the game entered the final 10 minutes East Fife were still winning the battle.

The mood changed with seven minutes left when the home side cut open the Methil defence for the first time, with Grant Gillespie striding forward from right back to provide the killer pass for Vaughan to pick his spot from 12 yards.

What should have been a nervy ending for the away side failed to materialise as Raith were unable to get the ball into the danger area in the remaining time, and East Fife held on for a deserved win.

After six matches with an unchanged team, there will now be a few Raith players sweating over their starting position for next week's visit of Stenhousemuir.