Raith Advance After Thorny Rose Tie
Raith Rovers made it through to the Fourth Round of the William Hill Scottish Cup today, but they were made to toil at Prestonfield, by an impressive Linlithgow Rose side.
Rose manager Danny Smith, had mentioned beforehand that a win for his side would arguably be the best result in the club’s 125-year history. After a first-half where they battered, and bettered their senior opponents, Smith must have been frustrated that his team weren’t quite able to pull off the unexpected.
Grant Murray made two changes from last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Alloa Athletic. Barrie McKay and Kevin Moon dropped to the bench, with Calum Elliot being restored to the starting line up, and Ryan Conroy returning to the left-flank.
As a crowd of well over 2,000 jostled for a prime position in Linlithgow’s tight, but impressive Prestonfield ground, an excellent atmosphere built up as kick-off approached. After pennants were exchanged between captains, Jason Thomson and Adam Nelson, the game kicked-off with the home side immediately in the ascendency.
Striker Tommy Coyne, son of the former Dundee striker, linked well with midfielder Blair Batchelor, who in turn teed up Calum Smith, who had been afforded too much space on Raith’s left-hand-side. Despite shooting straight at McGurn, it was an early warning that Rose were assured in possession, and dangerous going forward.
The opening stages didn’t look too encouraging from a Raith perspective, with just a deflected Grant Anderson attempt to show for their efforts. The main tactic appeared to be to get the ball to the Raith winger at the earliest available opportunity, and while it was leading to Raith winning their fair share of corners, they weren’t proving particularly fruitful.
Rose on the other hand were looking bright and expansive when coming forward, in particular, wingers Roddy Maclennan and Calum Smith, and the front pairing of Coyne, and Colin Strickland, who already have 21 goals between them this season.
Maclennan danced round two challenges after ten minutes, before putting his angled drive just wide, and the same player turned provider a few moments later, but after slipping a pass through to ex-Raith youngster Blair Batchelor, the midfielder failed to get his shot on target from a promising position.
Raith were very much on the back-foot at this stage, with little or no forward momentum against the busy Linlithgow midfield, and they were reliant on goalkeeper David McGurn to keep the scores level after 15 minutes.
Smith picked up the ball in midfield and was allowed to travel a considerable distance, before sending a goal bound shot towards McGurn’s left-hand-side, which the custodian did well to palm away.
Rory McKeown then sent a snap shot from 25-yards over the bar, during a Raith attack that were proving to be worryingly fleeting.
McGurn was certainly the busier of the two keepers, and he had to pull off an excellent stop midway through the first half, diving full length to his left to beat out a Strickland free-kick.
Rovers only chances were coming via set-pieces, but Linlithgow were even managing to fashion chances from Raith corner kicks, when Strickland and Coyne managed to break away on a two v two, after a Raith corner was cleared. McGurn was once again resolute, but with a touch more composure, the home side could, and probably should have taken the lead.
The final, and arguably best chance of the half was again eked out by Linlithgow, and it was one they really shouldn’t have spurned. Smith was again the architect, dancing away from two Raith defenders, before threading a pass to Coyne inside the area, sidestepping one challenge, he did well to give himself time and space, but from close range, he passed the ball wide of the right-hand post.
The shrill peep of Euan Anderson’s half-time whistle, was something of a relief to Raith fans ears, after a rambunctious first 45 minute performance from Linlithgow. Danny Smith’s men trooped off at the interval, possibly cursing both David McGurn, and their inaccurate finishing, for preventing them from taking the lead.
If the home players were feeling sorry for themselves, they didn’t show it as they restarted the second-half, and they once again asserted their authority on proceedings. Tommy Coyne was immediately presented with an opportunity from an angle inside the penalty area, but his finish was weak and straight at McGurn.
Maclennan was then allowed to pick up the ball on the half-way line, and run unhindered towards the Raith goal, before he was unceremoniously dumped onto the turf by Perry, who picked up a deserved booking.
While Raith were far from dominating the second period, they were looking far more comfortable. Paul Watson in particular was getting to grips with proceedings, while Linlithgow’s forward forays were lacking the potency they had in the first period.
Raith should have been able to take advantage of this, but Elliot and Stewart were struggling to combine at all, especially when they were feeding off long passes from the back, rather than anything funnelled through midfield, or the flanks.
Raith did eventually open the scoring on 66 minutes however, after Martin Scott linked up with Mark Stewart. The midfielder played it wide to Stewart, and after making his way inside the area, his run was halted by right-back Gary Thom. Referee Anderson deemed his sliding challenge to be a foul however, allowing Ryan Conroy to slip his penalty past Michael McKinven to put Raith one up.
Grant Murray made his first change, replacing Stewart with Lewis Vaughan, who went up front beside Elliot. With 15 minutes remaining he made his second, replacing Conroy who appeared to have a knock, with Kevin Moon.
While the goal didn’t necessarily appear to knock the stuffing out of Linlithgow, they did struggle to create anything meaningful in the closing stages, although there was no faulting their effort. With five minutes remaining though, Paul Watson put the tie beyond them, when he headed home a Vaughan corner.
Vaughan almost had time to score a third, when he scampered onto Elliot’s flick-on. After bearing down on goal, his effort had the sting taken out of it by McKinven, and was eventually hooked away to safety.
A third goal would have been extremely harsh on the hosts, who, in the first half at least, appeared to have Raith on the ropes. Rovers squeezed through to the next round however, in a match that was similar to last season’s tie at the same stage against East Stirling. Rovers will find out who they’re paired with on Monday, when the draw is made at two o’clock.
Photographs © Donald Sinclair 2014