The spark is back as Raith cruise to victory

Lewis Vaughan pounces to score Raith's second just a minute after coming off the bench. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Lewis Vaughan pounces to score Raith's second just a minute after coming off the bench. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Raith Rovers 4 Forfar Athletic 0

Raith Rovers moved level on points with Arbroath at the top of the League One table after cruising to a 4-0 win over Forfar Athletic at Stark's Park.

The confidence boost provided by the remarkable comeback in Airdrie the previous week was evident as Barry Smith's men followed up with a commanding performance that ticked all the boxes from back to front.

Forfar arrived as a tricky opponent, having made a solid start to the campaign, helped by the signing of prolific striker John Baird as player-assistant manager.

Given his scoring record against his former club, Raith fans had every right to fear the return of their Ramsdens Cup hero, but he was well-shackled throughout the 90 minutes, and when he did break free to net in the second half, Rovers were saved by the offside flag.

The match was second versus third in League One, but despite their close proximity in the standings, there was a wide gulf on the pitch with the visitors unable to cope with the high-tempo passing set by the home side.

If Raith can continue to knock the ball around as effectively as this, then the £700,000 investment in a high-quality astroturf pitch will be worth it.

There was plenty for the home fans to cheer with a clean sheet for a makeshift defence, a dominant display across the middle of the park, and four goals shared among the front men, including a double for substitute Lewis Vaughan on his return from injury.

While Vaughan's contribution from the bench was the highlight of the day, Kevin Nisbet also maintained his fine scoring run with the opener, and Chris Duggan broke his duck with his first goal for the club following his summer move from East Fife.

The biggest headache for boss Smith in the build-up with was over his lack of options in defence with usual first choice picks Kyle Benedictus and Iain Davidson both unavailable through injury and suspension respectively.

But the pair may not simply walk back into the side as midfielder Nat Wedderburn dropped back and strolled the game at centre-back alongside youngster Dave McKay, who may still be learning on the job, but is more than meriting his place in the starting XI.

With Ross Matthews returned to his more natural, and favoured central midfield role, and Nisbet showing he can be just as effective on the right wing as through the middle, the team was well-balanced in spite of the selection problems.

Raith set the tone early on, moving the ball forward quickly and crisply as they looked to pick up where they left off the previous week.

There were a few promising moves which petered out before the opener arrived on 28 minutes courtesy of a mistake in the Forfar defence.

Duggan was the creator with a fine turn and pass looking for the run of Nisbet, who had drifted in from the right, and although Jamie Bain reached the ball first, his pass back was short allowing the Raith man to pounce.

Nisbet still had plenty to do to beat Marc McCallum but a delicate finish only emphasised his confidence levels as he coolly slipped the ball past the outrushing keeper and watched it slowly trundle into the far corner of the net.

Forfar looked for a way back but could only muster a couple of attempts from long range, with Kieran Wright only required to parry a Lewis Moore effort before gathering the loose ball.

Rovers were denied a second on the stroke of half-time when Euan Murray's header from a Grant Gillespie corner was booted off the line by Dylan Easton.

There was an injury blow at the start of the second half when top scorer Nisbet limped off with a dead leg, but this was effectively countered with the return of Vaughan from the bench, and the front man wasted no time in making his impact, scoring within a minute of his introduction.

A neat one-two with Duggan saw him bear down on goal, where he clipped a delicate finish over McCallum. The sharpness of his movement and touch was hugely encouraging considering this was his first taste of action since the start of May.

Raith now had the bit between their teeth and a third goal quickly followed with Duggan breaking the offside trap, and brilliantly lobbing the ball over McCallum to get the goal that his performance deserved.

Rovers made it three goals in 15 minutes with Vaughan grabbing his second on 68 minutes. He was involved in the build-up, linking well with Liam Buchanan before pouncing to ram the ball home from close range after his team mate found his path to goal blocked off.

At 4-0 the home side could now afford to take their foot off the gas, which they did for the final 20 minutes, although Buchanan went close to making it five only to be denied by McCallum, who pushed away his angled drive.

Following a significant turnover in players over the summer, and a squad light on numbers, there have been question marks against Raith's title credentials. There will be a few less doubters after the last two performances.

The spark is back. Now consistency is required.

Raith Rovers: Wright, Watson, Murray, Duggan, Gillespie, Buchanan, Matthews, Wedderburn, Nisbet (Vaughan 51), Flanagan (Valentine 77), McKay. Not used: Thomson, Stevenson, Berry.

Forfar Athletic: McCallum, Meechan, Malone (Whyte 62), Munro, Wilson, Reilly, Bain, Mackintosh, Baird, Easton (Coupe 62), Moore (Hilson 53). Not used: Kennedy, Kelly, Starkey, Muir.

Referee: Euan Anderson

Attendance: 1447