Highland Defeat Eliminates Rovers
Raith Rovers suffered a 4-1 defeat to Inverness Caledonian Thistle, a result which means the Kirkcaldy club will be unable to qualify for the next round of the competition, despite having two games remaining.
Trailing by a single goal at the interval, Lewis Allan temporarily restored parity at the beginning of the second period, but the concession of two goals within the space of two minutes shortly thereafter, effectively ended the tie as a competition.
John McGlynn made three changes from the side which lost to Dundee, with Brad Spencer, Joao Victoria and Kieron Bowie all dropping out of the starting eleven.
In there place came Kyle Benedictus, Michael Miller and Grant Anderson, as McGlynn reverted to a five at the back formation, in an attempt to nullify the Championship sides attacking ability.
It’s been 19 years since Rovers last experienced victory over Inverness, a period spanning 18 matches, and they never looked like improving on that abysmal record, going a goal behind after just five minutes.
Jordan Keating’s corner kick failed to be defended properly, despite an abundance of defensive options on the park, allowing Jordan White the opportunity to head the home side in front from close range.
It was the worst possible start for the away side, and it looked like it was going to get worse, with Rovers on the back foot for large trenches of the first half.
It should really have been two just after the quarter hour mark, with a chance that was almost a carbon copy of the opening goal, with Keatings delivery again outwitting the Rovers defence, only for White to sloppily pass over the chance with the goal gaping.
Keatings has an excellent scoring record against Rovers down the years, but it was his deliveries which were causing the damage this time around, with Ross Munro having to look lively to eventually gather a cross in the 20th minute, with forwards waiting to pounce.
Rovers had rarely been seen as an attacking force in the opening quarter, taking until the 25th minute to register their first effort at goal, but Anderson couldn’t quite guide his chance into the top right corner after being teed up by Allan.
Rovers were struggling to shackle White, who had an impressive scoring record in cup competitions last season, and he almost added to his tally after half an hour, firstly heading a cross into Munro’s arms, before sending a weak effort from a James Vincent cut back straight at the ‘keeper.
After being under the cosh for the bulk of the half, Rovers started to create some chances of their own, and should really have been level from one of two openings in the 37th minute, with Regan Hendry instrumental in both.
The first saw him swing the ball out to the left to the advancing Kieran MacDonad, whose cross was turned over the bar by the head of Anderson, and from the corner, excellent work by Hendry saw him turn his marker in the area and dig out a cross for Benedictus, who headed wide.
It was tentatively encouraging signs that Rovers could get themselves back into the game, and that positivity continued into the second, when Rovers equalised in the 48th minute, with a well worked effort.
The ball was retained from back to front and right to left, finding MacDonald who had timed his run well. His low cross may have been intended for Ross Matthews, who couldn’t quite turn it home, but it found its way to Allan, who had time to trap it and pick his spot past Ridgers to bring Raith level.
It was a just reward for their efforts to fight their way back into a match which could have been done and dusted in the opening half hour, and they should have taken a surprise lead just two minutes later, but Fernandy Mendy couldn’t steer his header from a Matthews corner on target.
Rovers would regret that missed chance, as the game was effectively over just five minutes later, after two quickfire Caley goals.
The first, again came from an inability to defend set-pieces, with Coll Donaldson glancing in a header from a corner at the front post, while a moment later, Tom Walsh’s cross from the right was slammed home by Aaron Doran to give the home side a two goal cushion.
It was going to take an unlikely comeback to get something from this point, although Benedictus did test Ridgers after an hour, but his speculative long range effort was meat and drink for the goalie.
While the Rovers captain had attempted the spectacular, Thistle almost got their own wonder strike with 15 minutes remaining, when Walsh wandered past five Raith players before bringing out a fingertip save from Munro with a stinging angled attempt.
Walsh was causing Rovers havoc all over the park, and he popped up on the left hand side next, with his low cross to substitute Nikolay Todorov bringing out another good stop from Munro, as Inverness ended the game strongly.
Todorov was not to be denied though, and again Walsh was the provider, taking his number of assists to three, sending in cross from the left which Todorov side footed home.
While John Robertson’s side were the far better side, the 4-1 scoreline was a little harsh on the visitors, who had initially done well to hoist themselves back into the match, but were eventually over-run after being forced to chase the game.
Rovers next group game is on Tuesday evening, when they host Peterhead at Stark’s Park.
The match highlights video will appear here the day after the match
© Eddie Doig
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After Saturday’s League Cup loss to Dundee, Raith Rovers travel to Inverness to face a Caledonian Thistle side, with both requiring a win to stay in the competition.
While John Robertson’s side had a free weekend last week, they were surprisingly held by League One Peterhead on Tuesday, before losing out in an extraordinary penalty shoot-out at full-time.
After 21 consecutive successive penalties, goalkeeper, Mark Ridgers missed the 22nd, meaning the bonus point went to the Blue Toon, leaving ICT third in the table, four points behind Dundee and Peterhead.
Rovers currently prop up the Group D pool, and with only the group winners and four best runners-up qualifying for the next phase, both sides need full points from this one.
John Robertson has retained the majority of last season’s squad which reached the Premiership playoffs last term, with five out and five in over the summer.
In midfield, James Vincent returned north after leaving Dundee, while David Carson was signed from Morpeth Town. 19-year old Mitchell Curry has also been brought in after the teenager was sent out on loan by Middlesbrough.
The final two signings are both forwards, with ex Hearts, Hibs and Dundee United striker James Keatings brought in, while Nikolay Todorov has been signed up, after a spell at Falkirk.
If Rovers are to get a win on Saturday, they’ll need to overturn one of their poorest records against any side in recent years, with no wins in 18 attempts and 19 years against the Highland side.
Rovers last victory was a 2-1 win in the First Division back in October 2000, and since then, they’ve managed just two draws in 18 meetings.
Their last match up was in the same competition a year ago, when a late Daniel McKay goal sealed a 2-1 win for the home side after Grant Gillespie had brought Rovers level, following Nathan Austin’s opener.
Saturday’s match referee will be Gavin Ross.
Head-To-Head Cup Record Versus Inverness Caledonian Thistle:
Inverness Wins: 4 | Raith Rovers Wins: 0 | Draws: 0
Inverness Goals: 9 | Raith Rovers Goals: 1
Inverness: 8/15 | Raith Rovers: 15/4 | Draw: 16/5