Raith March On After Ibrox Victory
Raith Rovers eased themselves into the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup, after a sensational 2-1 win against Rangers at Ibrox.
Rovers boss Grant Murray made two changes from the side which drew 1-1 at Easter Road, with Ryan Conroy starting in place of Barrie McKay who was ineligible to play against his parent club, while Dale Carrick replaced Mark Stewart up front. It was an attacking looking line up from Raith, with Carrick partnering Christian Nadé up-top, and Conroy and Grant Anderson out wide. Ross Callachan and Kevin Moon were assigned with the task of anchoring the midfield.
For Rangers, much had been made of the five new loanees from Newcastle United, but only two started the match, with Remie Streete partnering Lee McCulloch at the heart of the back four, while Haris Vuckic started just behind Jon Daly.
Despite the attacking looking line-up from Rovers, the match was something of a slow starter, with both sides possibly affected by the odd atmosphere within the sparsely populated Ibrox. Both were slightly sloppy in possession, but the away side were arguably the brighter of the two teams, with Grant Anderson getting on the ball frequently and testing Lee Wallace.
Workrate and diligence has been key to Rovers good run recently, which has seen them go five games unbeaten, and that was again in evidence early on, with a rambunctious and spiky showing from the Raith players. Ross Callachan caught Kenny Miller after the experienced forward turned him in the middle of the park, while Dale Carrick dumped Lee McCulloch onto his posterior, as Raith snarled into challenges in the middle of the park. While that meant that Rangers were afforded a number of set-pieces, the majority of them were wasted, much to the chagrin of the home support.
The ponderous opening to the game was summed up by the fact it took quarter-of-an-hour for the first chance to emerge, with Dougie Hill flinging himself at a Ryan Conroy corner, but he was held at bay by two Rangers defenders.
It was clear that Rovers weren’t intent on sitting in, attacking with vim and vigour, and in good numbers, and that attitude produced two chances in a matter of seconds, both of which fell to Christian Nadé. The first saw him flash a header past Steve Simonsen’s post, while the second was a 25-yard shot which disappointingly went well wide. The French front-man would probably feel he should have done better with both.
Rangers first chance was on twenty minutes. Richard Foster careered down the right-hand side before sending in an excellent cross for Jon Daly, but with the Irish striker waiting to pounce, Paul Watson stretched every sinew in his neck to divert it away.
Daly did get on the end of a cross five minutes later, but from close range, his header was slightly too close to David McGurn, who palmed his effort away to safety.
While the suspicion was that Rangers were just starting to exert some authority on proceedings, it was Raith who almost snatched the lead in the 27th minute. A corner was swung in by Ryan Conroy, and Paul Watson rose higher than anyone to nod the ball towards the corner of the net, but a combination of Foster’s head, and the inside of the post, somehow saw the ball in Simonsen’s hands.
Although Rangers attacks were fairly lacklustre, their most productive player was proving to be Vuckic, who was getting the ball down and looking to push on. Picking up the ball in midfield, his reverse pass almost picked out Daly, but the ball fell to Kenny Miller, whose shot from distance was scooped up by McGurn.
The first-half ended with Rangers having to shuffle their deck, with Remie Streete going off after picking up an injury, replaced by Darren McGregor.
Rovers had to do the same at the start of the second, with Mark Stewart replacing Dale Carrick who hobbled off with a knock.
The speedy forward was involved straight away however, picking up the ball wide on the left and slipping it inside to Ross Callachan, who advanced to just outside the area, only to be impeded by Kyle Hutton. Ryan Conroy has already demonstrated this season that he’s a more than accomplished set piece taker, and he showed it again, by curling an outstanding finish past Simonsen and into the Rangers net, to give Rovers a surprise lead in the 54th minute
Unfortunately for the away side, the lead would last just eight minutes. Kyle Hutton gained possession in the middle of the park, and weighted a superb pass towards Vuckic, who had arrowed into the Raith penalty area on the right-hand-side. His first touch was excellent, as was his finish, which was placed expertly past McGurn to bring the scores level.
While Rovers had been playing well, the feeling at that point was that the wind would be stripped from their sails, but to their credit, they continued to go on the front foot. Another Conroy set piece caused diffiulty, when it was nodded down to Watson, but his volley went high over the bar.
Rangers boss Kenny McDowall made a change, bringing on Kris Boyd for Jon Daly, but the like-for-like swap, failed to change the momentum of the match. Boyd was given a brief glimpse of goal, but his shot was held by McGurn. Nicky Law then lashed a shot from distance both high and wide, which summed up a frustrating afternoon for the home side.
Stewart was proving to be something of a nuisance to the home defence since his introduction early in the second-half, and he was to be instrumental in the incident which settled the match with 15 minutes remaining. Grant Anderson and Jason Thomson combined down the right, and the defender did excellently to get to the bye-line and send the ball across the face of goal. Stewart and Simonsen collided in the six-yard-box, but with the ball loose, and Rangers defenders falling and flailing, Christian Nadé was able to prod the ball home from a yard out.
The presumption was that Raith would have to batten down the hatches for the final stages, but in truth, it was Rovers who looked the likelier in the last quarter-of-an-hour. Anderson’s shot was well repelled by Simonsen, while Jason Thomson came close with a late effort.
The full-time whistle brought a cacophony of boos, aside from a small enclave of Raith fans in the corner, who sang the praises of the players who had put the Kirkcaldy side into the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup for the second consecutive season.
It was an outstanding performance from the players, and the result was richly merited. The draw for the quarter-finals takes place at 2pm on Monday.
We are unable to host highlights of this cup fixture on our own site due to broadcasting rights issues. However, you can view the full game on BBC iPlayer until Sunday 15th February here:
©Eddie Doig 2015
Raith Rovers will hope to take impressive fine league form into the Scottish Cup this Sunday, as they travel to Ibrox, to take on Rangers.
Grant Murray’s men are in fine fettle, after a backs-to-the-wall display at Easter Road last weekend, ended up producing a precious point, after a late goal from Christian Nadé levelled the match up, after Martin Boyle had nudged the Leith side in-front early in the second period.
The draw means Raith have now gone five games unbeaten in the Championship, and while their two previous encounters with Rangers this term have produced heavy defeats, they head to Govan with their tails up.
Rangers go into the match on the back of another cup tie, but last Sunday’s League Cup semi-final was a disappointment for Kenny McDowall’s side, as they went down 2-0 to Celtic.
On the back of that defeat however, Rangers supplemented their side with five new arrivals, all of whom have come from Newcastle United on-loan. Shane Ferguson is a left-sided player who can play either in midfield or at full-back, and the versatile 23-year-old has 18 caps for Northern Ireland. Gael Bigirimana is a central midfielder, who has 13 appearances and 1 goal for Newcastle United, while attacking midfielder Haris Vuckic, has one cap for Slovenia.
Remie Streete is a central-defender who has yet to make an appearance for his parent club, while Kevin Mbabu, who has also yet to start for Newcastle United, can play in the middle of the back-four or on the right.
This will be the two clubs tenth meeting in the Scottish Cup, and Rovers will be hoping it’s tenth time lucky, as they’ve yet to record a victory over the Glasgow club in the competition. It’ll be their first Scottish Cup encounter since 1989, when Rangers won a third round replay, after a 1-1 draw at Stark’s Park. It was their second successive meeting at that stage, after Frank Connor’s men had also taken Graeme Souness’ side to a replay in the previous year’s competition, after a 0-0 draw in Kirkcaldy.
Despite never tasting victory over Sunday’s opponents in the tournament, Rovers can take some solace in the fact they have come close on a number of occasions, with four draws from the nine previous Scottish Cup encounters.
Sunday’s match referee will be Bobby Madden.
Head-to-Head-Cup Record at Ibrox:
Rangers wins: 10 | Raith Rovers wins: 0 | Draws: 2
Rangers goals: 50 | Raith Rovers goals: 12
Raith Rovers: L-W-W-W-D-D
Biggest Home Win: 16/12/1967 First Division Rangers 10 Raith Rovers 2
Biggest Away Win: 21/11/1959 First Division Rangers 2 Raith Rovers 3
Top Goalscorers in All Competitions:
Rangers: Nicky Law 10 | Kris Boyd 9 | Lewis McLeod 8
Raith Rovers: Ryan Conroy 7 | Christian Nadé 6 | Mark Stewart 4
Rangers: 2/7 | Raith Rovers: 8/1 | Draw: 19/4