Vaughan extends scoring streak to save the day for Raith

Lewis Vaughan celebrates after firing home Raith's last minute equaliser at Alloa. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Lewis Vaughan celebrates after firing home Raith's last minute equaliser at Alloa. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Alloa 1 Raith Rovers 1

Raith Rovers escaped defeat on the opening day of the league season by the skin of their teeth thanks to Lewis Vaughan's injury-time equaliser in Alloa this afternoon.

The Kirkcaldy side paid the price for a slow start, falling behind in the 16th minute, and despite creating several chances, they had to wait until the death as Vaughan struck his fifth goal in as many matches to rescue a point.

The 21-year-old front man has started the season on fire - his five strikes coming despite playing several different positions - while his performances have been equally admirable, although not surprising, given his obvious talent.

After a frustrating few years being held back by injury and poor judgement of his Stark's Park bosses, this could, finally, be his year.

With Iain Davidson suspended, Dave McKay made only his second senior start in the heart of defence, while there was a place on the bench for Kevin McHattie, listed as a trialist as he looks to seal a return to the club following his release at the end of last season.

Barry Smith stuck with the same personnel and 4-3-1-2 formation that worked well against Cowdenbeath the previous week, but with Alloa finding acres of space down the flanks in the early stages, the manager was swift to revert to a 4-4-2.

Not before the hosts took the lead, however, as a long diagonal ball left Raith out-numbered in the left back area, and when the cross came into the box, Rovers were slow to react in defence as the ball was laid off to Kevin Cawley, who fired a low drive beyond Aaron Lennox from 18 yards.

It was not the start expected of the bookies title favourites, with the whole team guilty of misplacing passes, standing off the game and allowing Alloa to dictate.

The manager took matters into his own hands after just 20 minutes, altering the system, although he waited until half-time before making a double change to the line-up, replacing Ross Matthews and Dave McKay with Bobby Barr and Kevin McHattie.

Raith did, however, have chances to level before the break.

Shortly after the change in tactics, Liam Buchanan crossed for Vaughan, whose deft flick looked to be heading in until keeper Neil Parry threw himself down to his left to save.

Greig Spence looked set to score the follow-up but was denied by a defender on the goal-line as the hosts somehow survived.

Another good chance arrived on 27 minutes when a wonderful ball from Buchanan found the head of Spence six yards out but he planted his header straight at Parry,

Rovers also hit the post before the break, Matthews sending a cross towards the far post that Spence stretched for but failed to connect with as it bounced off the far post.

The number of chances created despite a rather disjointed first half was encouraging, but the double change at the break gave Raith's shape a more balanced look, with Barr and McHattie linking up down the left, and Euan Murray moving inside to centre-half.

Rovers dominated territory and possession but found it very difficult to break down a stubborn Alloa defence, while the hosts remained a threat on the break.

Home striker Craig Malcolm, who started his career at Raith over a decade ago, went close to extending Alloa's lead on 53 minutes glancing a header narrowly wide.

At the other end, Spence and Buchanan were working their tails off for little reward, although Spence wasn't too far away with a curling left-foot effort from 18 yards.

Raith claimed a penalty on 69 minutes as Jason Thomson was tripped as he crossed the 18-yard line, but ref Barry Cook awarded a free-kick, much to the consternation of the visiting players, and the large travelling support.

The big chance Raith craved arrived on 76 minutes, but they couldn't take it.

Buchanan's flick sent Spence through on goal but Parry was quick off his line to block the striker's effort.

Spence reclaimed the ball, rounded the 'keeper and fed Vaughan six yards out, but with three defenders between him and the goal, his effort was deflected behind for a corner.

Defeat was now firmly on the cards and as the minutes ticked down it seemed Raith had ran out of time.

Jonny Court was introduced from the bench as Raith went with four strikers, but Alloa almost put the game to bed on 88 minutes as Cawley ran through on goal from midfield, completely untracked, but was denied by a good save from Lennox at his near post.

However, Raith's refusal to accept their fate paid dividends in the 90th minute - and it came via a route one approach.

Lennox sent a high kick downfield which found its way to Spence at the edge of the area, the striker looked up and fed Vaughan, in space on the right side of the box.

It was sure to be Raith's last chance, and Vaughan made sure this one counted with a crisp low drive that the 'keeper got a hand to, but could not keep out, to spark celebrations, borne mostly out of relief, in the away end.

Rovers were out of jail although, incredibly, they almost conspired to lose the match for a second time as deep into injury-time, defender Murray, who had only minutes earlier suffered a heavy head knock, sliced a clearance towards his own goal that shaved the post.

When the full-time whistle blew, Raith were more than happy to accept the point, which could turn out to be an important one further down the road.

Raith will need to improve on this showing if they are to fulfil their title ambitions, but the character shown in the closing stages will certainly stand them in good stead.

If nothing else, this has given the club an early lesson over just how tough this league will be.

Alloa Athletic: Parry, Taggart, Crane, Graham, Meggat, Robertson, Cawley, Flannigan, Malcolm (Renton 59), Fleming (Hetherington 72), Cook (Martin 77). Not used: Grant, McKeown, McDonald, McDowall.

Raith Rovers: Lennox, Thomson, Callachan, Murray, Benedictus, Spence, Robertson (Court 80), Buchanan, Vaughan, Matthews (Barr 45), McKay (Trialist 45). Not used: Osei, Berry, Watson, Brian.

Referee: Barry Cook

Attendance: 1114