Raith Rovers 1 Dumbarton 0
Raith Rovers maintained their 100 per cent home record with a gritty, hard-fought, and ultimately deserved win over a difficult Dumbarton side this afternoon.
Lewis Toshney’s second half header made it six wins from six games at Stark’s Park, and the clean sheet means Rovers have still not conceded a league goal on home turf this season.
Raith certainly had to dig deep for the victory, they looked heavy-legged after their midweek exertions at Celtic Park, but the players showed a steely determination that is becoming a key feature of home performances.
After admitting that he feared a cup hangover, Rovers manager Ray McKinnon’s fist-pump celebration on the full-time whistle showed just how big he felt the result was.
“It’s a great three points on the back of the performance down at Celtic,” he said.
“It was a really tough game. We were feeling the effects of Wednesday night in the legs and we were a half yard short.
“We were happy to go into half-time at 0-0. There was nothing in the first half but we needed a big push in the second half and the guys delivered.
“They really had to dig it out and I’m delighted with every one of them.”
As for the secret behind Raith’s superb home form, McKinnon replied: “It’s spirit.
“The boys at the back are determined not to lose goals.
“They are willing to put their body on the line and that’s a great trait to have in your team.”
While Rovers went into the match looking to extend their excellent home record, Dumbarton were without a league win in five.
McKinnon made two changes to the side that lost to Celtic in midweek with Ryan McCord and Jon Daly reclaiming their place in the starting XI.
Dropping out were Iain Davidson, who missed out through a groin injury, and Ross Matthews, who took a seat on bench.
There was little to seperate the sides in a turgid first half with Dumbarton’s best effort coming from Eamon Brophy, who dragged a shot wide of the far post, after picking up on a loose ball in the box.
Raith’s best attack of the early exchanges came on 23 minutes, with Dumbarton temporarily down to 10 men as centre-half Frazer Wright received treatment.
Jason Thomson’s high ball forward was flicked on by Daly to send Stewart scampering into the box, but the striker’s effort was deflected over the bar.
Neither side could create a clear chance until the 40th minute when Raith were denied the opening goal by an amazing goal-line block.
Daly out-muscled goalkeeper Mark Brown in the air, and the ball dropped for Stewart in front of a gaping goal, only for Wright to somehow deflect the striker’s effort off target.
McKinnon made a change at half-time bringing on Matthews, who impressed against Celtic, for McCord, who had a first half to forget.
The youngster added more bite in the Raith midfield, but the home side were fortunate not to fall behind in the 53rd minute when the smallest player on the park, Kevin Cawley, escaped in the box to send a close range header over the bar.
Three minutes later Rovers struck the decisive blow as both centre-halves, who were superb in their defensive duties, combined from a set piece to open the scoring.
Craigen whipped a free-kick to the back post where Kyle Benedictus showed great determination to climb above his marker and direct a looping header towards goal.
The ball rebounded off the crossbar straight onto the head of Toshney who showed quick reactions to steer it into the net.
Now with a lead to protect, a tiring Rovers side sat back, but for all Dumbarton’s possession in the later stages, Kevin Cuthbert was not forced into a single save.
Rovers defence was simply impenetrable.
In the final few minutes, and despite tiring legs, Rovers were able to see out time by keeping the ball exactly where they wanted it - in the Dumbarton half.
The three points took Raith up to third in the table, level on points with second-placed Falkirk. It’s a position their hard work deserves.
Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Thomson, McKeown, Toshney, Benedictus, McCord (Matthews 45), Stewart, Daly, Craigen, Anderson (Megginson 63), Wighton (Petrie 77). Not used: Laidlaw, Ellis, Campbell, Mackie.
Dumbarton: Brown, Docherty, Cawley, Gallagher, Fleming (Ross 77), Gibson (Kirkpatrick 77), Barr, Routledge, Brown, Wright, Brophy (McCallum 66). Not used: Ewings, Waters, Hopkins.
Referee: Barry Cook