Raith's semi-final hopes dashed after disappointing show in Dumbarton

Raith exited the Irn-Bru Cup at Dumbarton.
Raith exited the Irn-Bru Cup at Dumbarton.

Dumbarton 2 Raith Rovers 0

Raith Rovers hopes of reaching the Irn-Bru Cup semi-finals were dashed in Dumbarton after they were comfortably swept aside by their Championship opponents.

While there was no disgrace in losing to a side from a higher division, the Kirkcaldy men did not do themselves justice for the opening hour of this match, and only started to assert themselves once 2-0 down and reduced to 10 men.

By then, however, the tie was gone.

"We didn't do well enough in the first half," said manager Barry Smith.

"We gave ourselves a lot of problems by not retaining the ball and we were under a lot of pressure.

"The pleasing thing was when we went down to 10 men we didn't buckle, and actually kept the ball better.

"But we wanted to get to a semi-final, and that's now gone."

Smith rang the changes with development squad players James Berry and James Watson returning to the starting XI after impressing at St Mirren in the previous round, while Yaw Osei was given his first chance since the Betfred Cup in July.

It was a difficult first hour for the youngsters in a poor overall team performance -- with Berry and Osei subbed shortly after half-time -- but all the youth players who have featured can take plenty positives from their involvement in the Irn-Bru Cup competition this season.

With an important trip to title rivals Ayr United on Tuesday, it was certainly an understandable call to rest key players.

Scott Robertson, Bobby Barr and Liam Buchanan all dropped to the bench while Kevin McHattie, injured again, missed out altogether. Iain Davidson returned from suspension in defence to add some experience to a young side, but his day did not go according to plan.

Apart form a five-minute spell midway through when Raith showed some adventure, the first half was dominated by Dumbarton, whose ball retention was far superior to their League One visitors.

Rovers struggled to complete any forward passes whatsoever, with too many balls either given away cheaply in midfield or overhit from the back which sailed out of the park.

For all Dumbarton's dominance they didn't create much from open play, but they looked dangerous from set pieces with Raith unable to properly defend crosses into their box.

And it was from a poorly defended corner on 20 minutes that the Sons took the lead. Tom Walsh delivered a ball to the back post where the marking was non-existent, and although the first header was blocked near the line, Chris McLaughlin stabbed the ball into the net from close range.

Raith survived another badly defended corner on the half hour with goalkeeper Graeme Smith forced to scramble the ball away at his near post after nobody else attacked it.

The game had been played almost exclusively in the Raith half but the visitors enjoyed a brief spell of pressure just after the half hour, started when they won the ball deep in Dumbarton territory and Ross Matthews sent a shot narrowly over the bar from 22 yards.

In another Raith breakaway, Osei hit the by-line and his cross was just inches too high for Lewis Vaughan in front of an empty net.

That spell didn't last long, however, and by half-time Raith were hanging onto a one-goal deficit as Dumbarton made their way into the Raith box with ease, and only some last-ditch blocks, and a shot straight at Smith from Walsh, prevented further damage before the break.

Raith had lacked focus in the first half, perhaps with one eye on Tuesday, and they failed to improve in the immediate aftermath of the half-time interval.

Indeed, they almost lost a goal straight from kick-off as former Rovers front man Mark Stewart's challenge on Davidson saw the defender stay down, and he raced into the box unchallenged before squaring for Walsh who saw his effort blocked on the line by Euan Murray.

Davidson had to go off for treatment, before hobbling back onto the park.

But clearly still suffering the effects of his knock, the defender was then caught in possession by Ally Roy who raced clear and slotted past Smith for Dumbarton's second.

Rovers were now at sixes and sevens and Smith reacted immediately, withdrawing Berry and Davidson and bringing on Scott Robertson and Liam Buchanan in an attempt to steady the ship.

However, things looked like getting worse on 57 minutes when another set piece delivery led to chaos in the Raith box, and striker Greig Spence handled on the line to prevent ex-Rovers defender Craig Barr's header making it 3-0.

Stewart fired in the rebound but to his dismay referee Gavin Duncan had already signalled for the spot kick, and that left him with no choice but to send off Spence, leaving Raith to play the last 33 minutes with 10 men.

It looked like the roof was about to cave in, but Smith did his side a huge favour by saving Walsh's spot kick, and that seemed to galvanise and inspire his side as, despite the man disadvantage, Raith produced a much more lively performance in the remaining time.

Dave McKay was brought off the bench for Osei, and with Robertson restored to his natural berth in midfield, Raith started to look a more balanced side and they twice came close to reducing the deficit.

On 68 minutes, Jason Thomson did brilliantly down the left to cross for Vaughan, whose shot across goal was almost turned in by John Herron.

There was an even better chance for Vaughan on 76 minutes when he found himself in the clear but the forward was uncharacteristically clumsy with his touch and his underhit square ball to Buchanan was easily intercepted.

Leaving themselves exposed at the back, Raith were fortunate not to concede a third in the closing stages, with Smith making a point-blank block from Stewart then making a good catch to deny Barr's header.

Raith will hope to take their last half hour into Tuesday, and while they are more than capable of taking a positive result from Somerset Park, it will take a much more confident, assured performance than their most recent showings.

Dumbarton: Gallacher, McLaughlin, Dowie, Carswell, Gallagher (Johnston 78), Stewart (Prior 88), Walsh, Wardrop, Hutton, Roy (Wilson 66), Barr. Not used: Smith, Johnston, Hill, Ewings.

Raith Rovers: Smith, Thomson, Watson, Herron, Murray, Berry (Robertson 49), Spence, Vaughan, Matthews, Davidson (Buchanan 49), Osei (McKay 60). Not used: Brian, Barr, Court, Stevenson.

Referee: Gavin Duncan

Attendance: 888