Dumbarton Football Club - Sons of the Rock 1872

Dumbarton (2) v Raith Rovers (3)

Saturday 16th April 2016, Kick Off 5.15pm

Ladbrokes Championship

SO that's it then. The stage is set for Saturday.

Most of the concentration at Dumbarton will be on the game against St Mirren. But there'll be a fraction of an eye on events in Dumfries.

Sons gave themselves a cushion by beating Queen of the South in midweek. Against Raith Rovers, they used it.

All was going to plan at half time. A Christian Nade goal had them on course for the second of three victories they needed to seal survival without help from elsewhere.

But the promotion-chasing Kirkcaldy side showed after the interval why they are in line to compete for promotion to the top flight.

Ryan Hardie, Aidan Connolly and James Craigen scored for the visitors in a second half they dominated until the second minute of injury time.

That was when Steven Saunders headed one back for Sons. The right back triggered the comeback on Raith's last visit but there was never any possibility of a similar feat in the time that remained.

An equaliser would actually have changed very little ahead of Saturday. Had Sons drawn, they might have secured survival with a draw against St Mirren.

But now they must beat the Paisley side, and hope that Queen of the South stop Livingston winning at Palmerston.

If that happens, the job is done with two matches to spare, and completed on Sons' own territory.

Anything else and the journey rumbles on to Easter Road, and possibly Alloa.

Although this fixture was known to be a test, Sons started well. Jon Routledge saw off two Raith challenges on the edge of the area but couldn't dismiss a third and lost the chance to shoot.

However, Nade did that job emphatically on 13 minutes, controlling Tom Walsh's cross into the area and firing home from close range.

Walsh's fellow Rangers loanee Hardie – the two played together for the Gers at Dumbarton on this weekend last year – was close to getting Raith level, but Jamie Ewings blocked at close range.

After Walsh sent a low shot just wide from the edge of the area, that was really it for the first half. There had been few chances, but Sons didn't mind that with the scoreline being what it was.

Unfortunately for them, the lead only lasted four minutes after the restart. Hardie, who scored twice for Rangers in that game a year ago, found the net again after Raith stole possession and passed their way through.

Just after the hour mark came a moment of real quality, although to Dumbarton's cost. There seemed little danger when Connolly received the ball 25 yards out. One volley into the net later, there was.

Soon afterwards the evening continued to crumble for Sons as Nade went off injured, and with 20 minutes left Raith, to all intents and purposes, clinched it.

Another passing move was finished off by Craigen and, although already safe in the playoffs, Raith had pressed home a message that they were not downing tools.

Sons looked to fight back, but another low effort by Walsh narrowly missed the target, while at the other end Harry Panayiotou's header almost made it 4-1.

In injury time Walsh had another assist to his name after Saunders headed in his corner.

As it turned out, the horse had bolted. But all was not lost for Sons.

It's taken them 33 games to get to this stage. Their fate could be decided, in a positive way, in 90 minutes on Saturday.

Dumbarton: Ewings; Docherty, Saunders, Buchanan, Gallagher (Cawley 71), Fleming, Routledge, Lindsay (McCallum 77), Wright, Walsh, Nade (Heffernan 63). Subs: Brown; Taggart, Barr, Waters. Booked: Nade, Gallagher.

Raith Rovers: Cuthbert; Thomson, Callachan, Toshney, Benedictus (Matthews 81), Anderson (Craigen 60), Panayiotou (Thomas 76), Hardie, Connolly, McKeown, Barr. Subs: Law; McCord, Longridge, Court. Booked: Anderson, Benedictus.

Referee: Nick Walsh.

Crowd: 655.

Andy Galloway