Lewis Vaughan and Gozie Ugwu were the Fife derby heroes as Raith Rovers defeated wasteful Dunfermline to tee up a Premiership playoff semi-final showdown with Dundee.
Rovers’ dream of ending their 24-year absence from the top-flight remains undimmed after they navigated several excellent Pars opportunities in the first period — before displaying a clinical edge sorely lacked by their opponents after the break.
Vaughan opened the scoring from close-range, a sixth goal in his last three home games against Dunfermline, before ex-East End Park marksman Gozie Ugwu climbed from the bench to make the victory safe.
Rovers, only promoted to the Championship by a points-per-game margin of 0.03 last April, will now face the Dee over two legs for the right to play the team which finishes 11th in the Premiership.
The promised land for the Kirkcaldy club is a step closer.
Stevie Crawford, who cut a chastened figure following Dunfermline’s 5-1 defeat at Stark’s Park in March, set out to ensure there would be no repeat of that powder-puff showing, beefing up midfield with the selection of Lewis Mayo ahead of Declan McManus.
The on-loan Rangers kid would go on to turn in a superb showing.
However, Dunfermline certainly didn’t park the bus and, like Tuesday’s first-leg stalemate, created the vast majority of clear opportunities.
Rovers goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald fielded two speculative drives from Kevin O’Hara and Dom Thomas prior to an altogether more impressive point-blank save to deny Craig Wighton after the ex-Dee attacker had artfully dribbled into the box.
Raith skipper Kyle Benedictus then sliced an attempted clearance inches over his own crossbar as he sought to deal with an O’Hara cross.
As always, the hosts were knocking it about nicely and incredibly easy on the eye — but they were failing to breach the Pars’ organised shape and, defensively, were living on the edge.
John McGlynn’s men did register a shot on target prior to the interval when new dad Kieran MacDonald stung the palms of Owain Fon Williams from distance. The driving rain and slick artificial surface was making any pop at the target a worthwhile endeavour.
When Pars captain Euan Murray saw his towering header blocked on the line at the start of the second half, those of a Dunfermline persuasion could have been forgiven for fearing the worst. The missed chances — in both legs — were stacking up.
Vaughan strikes again
Dunfermline’s worst fears were realised after 63 minutes when a ferocious, deflected Regan Tumilty shot was too hot for Fon Williams to handle, allowing Vaughan to poke home the loose ball.
McManus, pitched into action as the visitors chased parity, skewed a drive wide of the post after being superbly teed up by O’Hara; rather summing up Dunfermline’s efforts over the two fixtures.
Jamie Gullan, on loan at Rovers from Hibernian, almost lived up to his nickname — ‘Hammer’ — when his shot from all of 30 yards zipped narrowly wide of the post. Vaughan then rippled the side-netting with a shot of his own.
However, those misses were moot when Ugwu entered the fray and produced a sensational half-volley from 25 yards beyond the flailing Fon Williams.