Raith Rovers 2 Alloa Athletic 1
Raith Rovers got back to winning ways following a hard-fought victory over a battling Alloa Athletic side on Saturday evening.
The performance was a bit up and down - Rovers had good spells and bad spells - but overall this was one of the more enjoyable 90 minutes spent at Stark’s Park this season, albeit in front of one of the lowest crowd’s with a variety of factors - including the 5.30 p.m kick-off time for live TV - contributing to a poor 1100 attendance.
The most gratifying aspect for Rovers, aside from the three points, was the exciting display of teenager Lewis Vaughan, who not only found the net for the third time in four starts with a superbly executed finish, but was also at the heart of Rovers’ best forward plays.
There is nothing as uplifting for a supporter than seeing one of your own home-grown players produce an eye-catching, and on this occasion, match-winning turn.
Vaughan’s confidence is growing and after spending a frustrating season on the bench, the 19-year-old is now grabbing his chance in the first team with both hands, while developing a good understanding with Mark Stewart.
The front pair have only started four league games together and the team has won three of them, with Vaughan and Stewart sharing five of the seven goals scored during those games.
It is the most fruitful strike partnership Rovers have had this season, yet has been the most under-used, but if they continue to pose the same threat as they did to Alloa on Saturday, and Livingtson a few weeks back, they will surely keep their jerseys for forthcoming games.
The return of Stewart in place of the suspended Christian Nade was the only change to the Raith starting line-up from Tuesday’s midweek defeat to Hearts, with no place in the squad for the injured Kevin Moon and Barrie McKay.
The match kicked off in glorious, spring-like conditions and initially it seemed the players were content for a stroll in the park as the game lacked tempo in the early exchanges.
It is the most fruitful strike partnership Rovers have had this season, yet has been the most under-used
But with Alloa fighting for their lives down at the bottom of the table, and Raith keen to back-up their own claims that their season isn’t over, the players soon picked up the pace.
Rovers were first to threaten on 19 minutes as Grant Anderson sent a cross to the back post but Stewart’s header was tipped over the bar by ‘keeper Craig McDowall, for his first save of a busy game.
Just two minutes later, at the other end, Kevin Cawley’s neat turn and shot which flew narrowly wide of David McGurn right-hand post showed that the visitors meant business.
Fresh from earning a point at Ibrox in midweek, Alloa played with a confidence that belied their lowly league position and they threatened again on 26 minute with McGurn at full stretch to push behind Ryan McCord’s 22-yard strike.
From the corner, the Wasps worked a clever routine that saw the ball rolled through the legs of to the edge of the area where Liam Buchanan cracked an effort off the top of the crossbar.
The game was back and forth and Raith made their next chance count as Stewart refused to give up on Vaughan’s dinked ball forward, pouncing on hesitation between defender and goalkeeper to knock the ball into the net.
It was Stewart’s first goal since December 13 and the relief in the striker’s celebration was obvious.
Rather than build on their lead, Raith let it slip just three minutes later as they couldn’t clear their lines from a corner, and when the ball was returned to the box, Buchanan showed good skill to trap it, turn and shoot low past McGurn.
Raith then endured a real rocky spell in the lead up to half-time as Alloa dominated possession, although a breakaway from Ross Callachan saw him set up Stewart for a low shot that McDowall just managed to tip wide.
Raith regrouped at half-time and regained the lead just two minutes after the restart.
Anderson showed great speed to beat his man down the touchline and cross for Vaughan who sent a well controlled first-time volley low inside the keeper’s left hand post – a great piece of technique.
Rovers nearly had a third goal in the 60th minute as Anderson took a great touch to bring down McKeown’s raking pass but his shot was pushed away by McDowall.
Alloa introduced marquee signing Michael Chopra in the 65th minute and the striker who has commanded £10m in transfer fees in his time went close with a deflected effort from 25 yards.
As Alloa threw more bodies forward in search of an equaliser, space opened up for Raith in the final third and Ryan Conroy tested McDowall from the edge of the area but the Alloa keeper made a fine save.
Vaughan then produced a moment of individual brilliance as a mazy run took him past three Alloa defenders only for his final shot to lack the power to beat McDowall.
Raith had produced a solid second half but there was a scare in the second minute of added time as Cawley’s dipping effort from 20 yards clipped the roof of the net on its way over. In the end, Rovers had done enough without the need to use the bench, despite this being their fourth game in 11 days.
Rovers hopes of still challenging for fourth place may be extremely remote, but if they continue to grind out wins like this, then perhaps the season may at least have some life in it yet.
Raith Rovers: McGurn, Thomson, McKeown, Watson, Barr, Fox, Anderson, Stewart, Callachan, Conroy, Vaughan. Subs not used: Hill, Elliot, Scott, Robertson, Matthews, Campbell, Cuthbert.
Alloa Athletic: McDowall, Doyle, Meggatt, Gordon, Marr (Benedictus 17), Holmes, McCord, Docherty (Rutherford 82), Cawley, Buchanan, Roberts (Chopra 65). Subs not used: Layne, Tiffoney, Flannigan, Cowser.
Referee: Brian Colvin