Raith Rovers 5 PARS 1

ATHLETIC'S play-off aspirations suffered a huge hit as they suffered a humiliating defeat at Raith Rovers at Stark's Park tonight.

Although Kevin O'Hara cancelled out Regan Hendry's early opener for Raith, Lewis Vaughan's double had the hosts deservedly ahead at the break, with Jamie Gullan adding a fourth two minutes into the second period.

Gullan grabbed his second, and Raith's fifth, with 13 minutes to go to earn Raith their biggest win over the Pars since a 6-0 win in 1983, and leave Dunfermline fifth in the table on goal difference.

This was a dreadful performance by the visitors, who were outplayed comprehensively and outfought by a sharper, hungrier side.

It leaves Stevie Crawford with much to ponder as he tries to rally his side for Saturday's meeting with leaders Hearts.

Crawford made three changes to the side that started Saturday's 3-2 defeat at Dundee.

Paul Watson, a pre-match injury doubt, missed out, while Dom Thomas and Iain Wilson dropped to the bench.

Lewis Mayo dropped back into central defence in place of Watson, while Kerr McInroy, Scott Banks and new loan signing from Celtic, Ewan Henderson, were all brought into the starting line-up.

There wasn't much to choose between the teams in the opening quarter of an hour, but it was the Rovers who had the first opportunities.

Ross Matthews forced Owain Fon Williams to push clear low to his right-hand side, and Jamie Gullan sent a decent curling effort wide, but they hit the front in the 17th minute.

It was a simple goal - Brad Spencer played a nice pass into the penalty area, between the visiting defence, to find the run of Hendry, who coolly slotted home from around 12 yards.

However, within four minutes, the visitors were level.

O'Hara did ever so well to chase a long kick upfield and put pressure on Jamie MacDonald, who had come out of his goal to meet it.

The keeper could only put it out for a throw which, taken by Aaron Comrie, saw Banks play in a fine cross to allow O'Hara to head home his second goal in as many games, and his eighth of the campaign.

However, Dunfermline were only level for 10 minutes when Rovers took the lead for a second time.

The home side were patient on the ball, working it well to release Kieran MacDonald on the left, who sent a fine low ball across the six yard box, where Vaughan was lurking to slide home.

The striker, who had netted his first goal since September 2019, doubled his tally six minutes before the break.

Having won his team a free-kick, left of centre around 25 yards out, he sent a curling ball into the box that eluded everyone and found the far corner of Fon Williams' net.

Whether Vaughan was shooting or not, Rovers had their third and a deserved two-goal cushion at the break.

Crawford reacted by throwing on Lewis McCann and Iain Wilson for Banks and McInroy, and Wilson was immediately involved, finding O'Hara for a shot that was comfortably held by MacDonald.

But, with just two minutes gone in the second half, Dunfermline conceded again.

Raith worked the ball to the edge of the box where Gullan managed to send the ball beyond Fon Williams and in for the hosts' fourth.

That goal all-but killed the match as a contest, with Athletic struggling to fashion anything meaningful, although Fraser Murray did scoop a shot over at the far post when it looked easier to hit the target.

Two minutes after that, Raith rubbed salt into an already open, gaping wound by firing home a fifth through Gullan, who slotted low across Fon Williams.

It brought to an end a dismal, desperate evening that leaves Dunfermline outside the top four for the first time this season.

Raith Rovers: J. MacDonald, Tumilty, K. MacDonald (Armstrong 56), Benedictus, Hendry, Vaughan (Duku 80), Matthews, Spencer, Musonda, Kennedy (Tait 70), Gullan.

Subs not used: Abraham, Ugwu, King, Thomson.

Goals: Hendry (17), Vaughan (31, 39), Gullan (47, 77).

Booked: Vaughan (79).

Pars: Fon Williams, Comrie, E. Murray, Mayo, Edwaeds, F. Murray, McInroy (Wilson 45), Henderson (McManus 60), Banks (McCann 45), Wighton, O'Hara.

Subs not used: MacDonald, Allan, Thomas, Gill.

Goal: O'Hara (21).

Booked: O'Hara (35), Comrie (58), Mayo (69), Edwards (71), E. Murray (79).

Referee: Euan Anderson.