Rovers through to playoff semi-final after victory over Dunfermline
A place in the Premiership play-off semi-final against Dundee awaits Raith Rovers after their 2-0 victory over Fife rivals, Dunfermline. Jake Gray reports.
Kai Kennedy missed out for the home side, replaced by Dan Armstrong. For the visitors, Declan McManus dropped to the bench in place for Rangers loanee, Lewis Mayo.
The opening 10 minutes provided little in the way of chances, as both teams looked to settle into what was certain to be a cagey Fife Derby encounter.
The first chance of the game fell to the visitors. Euan Murray sent a long ball towards an offside Kevin O’Hara, who looked like he was going to leave the ball. However, the ball bounced off Iain Davidson, allowing O’Hara to pick the ball up and fire a shot at goal from the edge of the box. His powerful effort was spilled by Jamie MacDonald in the Raith goal, who gladly gathered at the second attempt.
Mayo attempted to burst through the Raith midfield in a pursuit to get the ball to Ewan Henderson on the left, but he was fouled by Raith’s Lewis Vaughan. From the subsequent free kick, Dom Thomas’ effort swerved away from MacDonald, who awkwardly parried the ball behind for a corner.
In one of Rovers’ few chances of the first half, Regan Hendry delivered a dangerous looking cross into the Pars box, however it evaded everyone and went behind for a goal kick.
Just moments later, Craig Wighton drove past Kyle Benedictus and into a shooting position, but MacDonald did well to close down the angle and prevent the striker from opening the scoring.
Armstrong picked up the ball on the right-hand side and twisted and turned through the Pars defence, but he couldn’t quite get his shot away and Paul Watson was able to clear. From the subsequent corner, the ball was cleared only as far as Benedictus who powered a shot at goal, but Murray put his body on the line to block his effort.
The visitors almost found a breakthrough in the 35th minute. O’Hara played the ball into the box and Benedictus sliced the ball towards his own goal, but it went narrowly over the crossbar, much to the relief of the Rovers captain.
The opening stages of the second half started much the same as the first. Thomas fired a shot at goal from outside the box, but it was high and wide of MacDonald’s goal.
The Rovers found the opener in the 63rd minute. Reghan Tumilty picked the ball up on the right-hand side and fired a shot, through many bodies in the box, and Owain Fon-Williams spilled his effort, allowing Vaughan to pick up the pieces and dink it into the net.
Some good link up play between Aaron Comrie and O’Hara allowed the latter man to flick the ball forward to McManus. The chance opened up for McManus, however his effort was well wide of the mark.
Jamie Gullan almost doubled the home side’s advantage. He gathered the ball on the left of the box and curled an effort narrowly wide of the bottom right corner, much to the disappointment of the Hibs loanee.
Vaughan almost found his second of the game just moments later. Cutting in from the left, he fired a low and powerful shot at goal which deflected wide for a corner, but the Pars were able to clear.
The hosts put the game out of the Pars reach in the 89th minute. A long ball was played towards substitute, and former Pars striker, Gozie Ugwu, who raced away from the Pars defence and dispatched the ball brilliantly past Fon-Williams to make it 2-0.
John McGlynn shared his jubilation at getting through to the semi-final of the Premiership playoffs:
“I’m delighted with the attitude, the commitment, the way we played, the way we defended, and I’m delighted to be in the semi-final.
“I cannot give the players enough praise and credit, they’ve been fantastic. We’re just happy to be in the semi-final, it gives us an opportunity, so bring it on.”
Stevie Crawford was disappointed as Dunfermline’s season drew to a bitter close:
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t manage to do that clinical thing, put the ball over the line. Whether that’s credit to Jamie MacDonald, or us just not having that ruthlessness over the two ties to give us the opportunity to win the game.
“Our application was very good over the two games; I can’t fault that. It just didn’t fall for us. We came here and created opportunities, but if you don’t score goals, you don’t win games, and that’s the harsh reality.”
Raith Rovers welcome Dundee to Stark’s Park on Wednesday night for the first leg of the Premiership play-off semi-final, as they look to take the next step towards securing promotion to the top flight.