Tough afternoon for 10-man Stenhousemuir as Raith Rovers run riot

Chris Duggan scores Raith's fifth, with Stenny 'keeper Graeme Smith suffering a head knock in the collision which followed. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Chris Duggan scores Raith's fifth, with Stenny 'keeper Graeme Smith suffering a head knock in the collision which followed. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Raith Rovers 5 Stenhousemuir 1

Stenhousemuir were already short on bodies for their trip to Raith Rovers, so the last thing they needed was to lose another man after just 20 minutes.

Already a goal down, the early red card for defender Connor McBrearty left the visitors with a mountain to climb, and although the 10 men rallied to level the match at 1-1, they seemed powerless thereafter as the home side coasted to a 5-1 victory.

The irony of McBrearty's red card for the second Saturday in succession was that the defender was only available due to a successful appeal against his second yellow card the previous week on the grounds of mistaken identity.

With his centre-back partner Morgyn Neill already suspended for the trip to Kirkcaldy, on top of loan players Harry Paton and Kevin O'Hara returning to their parent clubs, it was a weakened Stenny side that lined up at Stark's Park.

"We knew it was going to be difficult in the first place but to go down to 10 men after 20 minutes it's not ideal," said player-manager Colin McMenamin.

"Their front four really terrorised us in the first half with their movement. They are as good as I've seen at this level.

"It was difficult, but we managed to get a hold of the players at half-time and kill the game a wee bit in the second half.

"We worked hard and got into a good shape, and I'm happy to get away only losing one goal in the second half."

Raith lost top scorer Kevin Nisbet to an early injury but it did not affect their potency in attack.

The home side took the lead in the 17th minute with Daniel Armstrong racing to the by-line before picking out unmarked Iain Davidson who swept home the cut back.

A goal down, and just three minutes later Stenny were also a man down. From a ball in behind, Chris Duggan's pace saw him reach a ball before McBrearty and the defender slid in late to deny the Australian a clear run on goal, leaving referee Grant Irvine with little choice other than to brandish a red card.

If Raith thought they were now on easy street, they were given a rude awakening in the 24th minute when the 10 men drew level, Sean Dickson's cross being nodded home from close range by Sebastian Ross, and it seemed Stenny had thrown themselves a lifeline.

However, Raith's recovery was immediate and emphatic, scoring three times in seven minutes to take a 4-1 lead into the break, and obliterate any thoughts Stenny had of salvaging something from Stark's Park.

They gave the home side a helping hand in the 32nd minute, with Alan Cook's overhit pass-back resulting in Graeme Smith slicing his clearance straight to Gillespie, who still had plenty to do, as he stepped one way, then the other, to escape two defenders before placing a composed finish beyond the flustered 'keeper.

By the 37th minute it was 3-1 as Gillespie played a terrific ball wide to Vaughan, who chipped the ball into the box for defender Euan Murray to outjump two defenders as he bulleted home a header.

Two minutes later it was 4-1 and game over as Raith worked the ball to Vaughan, and the forward buried his chance beyond Smith at the near post.

Stenny now had only damage limitation on their minds and to some extent they were successful after the break, restricting Raith to just one further goal which came six minutes after the restart, with Duggan latching onto Murray's dinked through ball to stab the ball beyond the advancing Smith.

The subsequent collision resulted in the Stenny 'keeper suffering a head knock and being unable to continue, replaced by sub stopper Lewis McMinn, who will be pleased to have escaped with a clean sheet.

Rovers failure to add more goals was certainly not down to the lack of chances created, with multiple opportunities falling their way.

Duggan twice had the ball in the net only to be denied by the offside flag, Vaughan passed up two clear openings, while several other attempts from in and around the box were either saved or off target.

Make no mistake, it could easily have been seven or eight, but Stenny worked hard to keep the ball out and prevent such an embarrassing scoreline.

The Ochilview men will hope to make a better account of themselves when they host league leaders Arbroath next Saturday.