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Dundee United 0-1 Raith Rovers: Dylan Easton stunner downs Tangerines as Fifers go 5 clear at Championship summit

Rovers arrived in Tayside as league leaders, albeit having played a game more than the Terrors.

Dylan Easton's curling drive for Raith Rovers beats Dundee United keeper Kevin Dabrowski
Raith's Dylan Easton won the game with a superb strike. Image: SNS.

Dylan Easton produced another moment of magic to down Dundee United and send rampant Raith Rovers five points clear at the summit of the Championship.

Easton slammed home his ninth goal of the season to settle the contest, sealing a seventh successive win for the Fifers and condemning Jim Goodwin’s charges to a maiden league defeat.

While the Tangerines boast a game in hand over Raith, the Kirkcaldy club now find themselves firmly in the box-seat in the race for promotion.

Dundee United's Glenn Middleton attempts to burst forward against Raith Rovers
United’s Glenn Middleton attempts to burst forward. Image: SNS

United were dealt injury blows ahead of the top-of-the-table clash, with skipper Ross Docherty and fellow midfielder Declan Glass ruled out. Tony Watt required a fitness test to make the bench.

Jordan Tillson replaced Docherty in the starting line-up.

Rovers, meanwhile, made three changes from the side that defeated Arbroath 2-1 in midweek, with Euan Murray, Josh Mullin and Lewis Vaughan replacing Dan O’Reilly, Aidan Connolly and Jamie Gullan.

A first half to forget

With a combined 62 league goals scored by these sides prior to kick-off, one could have reasonably predicted a thriller.

That did NOT come to fruition in the first period.

Jim Goodwin demands more from Dundee United on the touchline
Goodwin demands more on the touchline. Image: SNS

United enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but created precious little, aside from Mochrie stinging the palms of Kevin Dabrowski from distance.

Kai Fotheringham and Glenn Middleton both zipped efforts wide of the post, while Scott McMann blocked a powerful Vaughan drive.

Easton magic

Having scarcely threatened in the first half, Rovers midfielder Sam Stanton fizzed a powerful shot across the face of Jack Walton goal-mouth a couple of minutes after the restart.

The bumper crowd at Tannadice for Dundee United vs Raith Rovers
An attendance of 10,334 was present at Tannadice. Image: SNS

Vaughan then warmed the palms of Walton from 25 yards after skipping past a Kevin Holt challenge.

A fine sprawling save was required from Walton to parry a Stanton header to safety after the ex-United man met a Liam Dick delivery.

Just as the Tangerines were wobbling, they almost claimed the lead. Mochrie surged forward and unleashed a ferocious low drive, only for Dabrowski to make a wonderful fingertip stop.

Fotheringham then glanced a Middleton delivery narrowly off-target. After some forgettable shadow boxing, this meeting of two Championship heavyweights was finally coming to life.

Raith Rovers fans in the festive spirit against Dundee United
Christmas came early for the Rovers faithful. Image: SNS

And it was Easton who landed the knockout blow, haring onto a Stanton pass before jinking into the United box. Despite the attention of three Tangerines defenders, he twisted, turned and unleashed a stunning drive past Walton.

With the hosts pushing for parity – bringing on Watt and Mathew Cudjoe – a sensational block by Ross Millen thwarted a goal-bound Middleton shot after the winger met a Moult knock-down.

Dabrowski pulled off another magnificent stop when the parried a speculative Moult drive wide of the post.

Middleton was presented with a wonderful opportunity to level six minutes into injury time, but headed an excellent Cudjoe delivery wide of the post from point-blank range.

Star man: Sam Stanton (Raith Rovers)

The former Hibs and United dynamo is enjoying a splendid season at the heart of this Rovers engine room.

Stanton was combative, calm in possession and made a swathe of lung-bursting runs forward.

Easton was also a strong contender; a constant menace and produced the moment of inspiration to send Rovers five points clear.

Player ratings

Dundee United (4-3-3): Walton 7; Grimshaw 6, Gallagher 6, Holt 6, McMann 7; Sibbald 7, Tillson 6; Fotheringham 6 (Cudjoe 63), Mochrie 6 (Watt 63), Middleton 6; Moult 7. Subs not used: Newman, Denham, Graham, Freeman, Duffy, Stirton.

Raith Rovers (4-1-3-2): Dabrowski 8; Millen 7, Brown 6, Murray 7, Dick 6; Byrne 7, Stanton 8; Mullin 7, Vaughan 6 (Gullan 82’), Easton 8 (Connolly 68), Smith 6 (Hamilton 73). Subs not used: Thomson, Matthews, Corr, McGill, Hannah, O’Reilly.

Ref: John Beaton

Att: 10,334