Rovers Progress After Glenavon Test
Raith Rovers made it safely into the quarter finals of the Challenge Cup, with a 3-1 win over Northern Irish side, Glenavon.
First half goals from Kieron Bowie and Daniel Armstrong handed Rovers a 2-1 advantage at the interval, but it took until the final minute for Raith to make the game safe, with a bizarre goal from Lewis Allan rounding off the day.
Manager John McGlynn made 4 changes from the side which drew last time out against Falkirk.
In goals, Ross Munro stepped in for David McGurn, while up top, John Baird started in place of Lewis Allan who dropped to the bench. Armstrong and Bowie came in at the expense of Dave McKay and the injured Kyle Benedictus.
Rovers started out on the front foot, forcing a flurry of corners in the opening five minutes, although they came to little, save for a shot from 20-yards from Baird which flashed wide of Johnny Tuffey’s left-hand post.
The hosts were enjoying the lion’s share of the ball in the opening exchanges, and they almost took the lead in the 10th minute, when good work from Bowie in the middle of the park saw him race through the Glens lines and fizzing a ball across goal that was just beyond the two Raith players who had hared forward in support.
At this point, it looked like Tuffey may be in for a busy afternoon, and he had to look alert to turn away a Hendry drive for yet another corner just a moment later, as Rovers continued to probe for the opening goal.
That duly arrived in the 13th minute however, after a fine piece of individual skill from Bowie.
The young forward picked the ball up wide on the right, and after cutting inside, he fired the ball past Tuffey from a narrow angle to put the hosts one up.
The home side looked like they were enjoying themselves, and Armstrong was next to threaten, nutmegging one defender before side stepping another, but he just overran the ball slightly, meaning the fans were denied another excellent goal from the winger in successive weeks.
Glenavon were entirely pinned back, and Bowie should have had a brace after 18 minutes after being put through, but with just Tuffey to beat, he couldn’t quite get the ball out from under his feet, and his meek shot was gathered by the ‘keeper.
If they’d been more clinical, Rovers could already have been a few goals to the good, but they were brought level in disastrous circumstances in the 23rd minute.
Kieran MacDonald looked to have averted danger in the penalty area, but he succeeded only in touching the ball away from Ross Munro and into the path of Rhys Marshall, who had the easiest of chances to prod the ball into an empty net from a yard.
Even more disconcertingly, MacDonald seemed to get hurt in the process, although he was able to continue after lengthy treatment.
The game was almost completely turned on its head just five minutes later, when Kyle Beggs drove at the Raith defence, and with players backing off, sent a rasping drive past Munro and just over the bar.
The home side seemed a little rattled at this point, but they should have regained the lead just after the half hour mark, when good work from Grant Anderson down the left, ended with him aiming a low cross towards Bowie at the far post, who screwed his shot wide of the post from close range.
It had looked easier to score, but Rovers fans weren’t left to linger on the miss for too long, taking the lead a minute later, when Armstrong was able to turn away from his marker on the edge of the area, before firing past Tuffey, who couldn’t keep it out, despite getting a touch on it.
They may have been dominating the match, but Rovers were almost clawed back again in the 38th minute, when a fine cross from the right was met by the head of Patrick Burns. It looked a certain goal, but Munro somehow managed to scoop the ball away, diving full length to his right to keep it out.
Glenavon had grown into the game the longer the half wore on and were starting to give the Rovers defence something to think about, a trend which continued into the start of the second period, as the Lurgan Blues started to accumulate their own corner count, albeit Rovers stood firm to them.
Rovers were forced into a change on the hour mark, when Grant Anderson was forced off with a shoulder injury, allowing Tony Dingwall his first taste of action this season.
Rovers chances were being restricted in this half, but Baird did bring a save out of Tuffey in the 61st minute, turning one way then the other on the edge of the box, before firing in a low drive which the custodian did well to hold.
Glenavon came close to scoring twice just a moment later though, when a free kick from the right was almost headed past Munro by Steven Anderson, and from the ensuing corner, Davidson had to hook the ball off the line following a shot from inside the area.
Rovers came close once again in the 66th minute, when Baird got on the end of a corner kick, allowing Steven Anderson to bacheel the ball towards goal, but it struck the post and trickled wide.
Rovers had a huge let off with 20 minutes remaining though, and it all came from their own set piece on the Glenavon bye-line.
After driving the ball across to Hendry, he was dispossessed, giving the Northern Irish side a three on two breakaway.
Despite playing it to perfection and giving Andrew Mitchell a clear run on goal, the striker panicked, and fired wildly over the bar.
Glenavon continued to pose some problems for Rovers in the final stages, but the game was put beyond the Northern Irish side in the final minute, with as strange a goal as you’ll see all season.
Bowie was sent clear, but as he ran in on goal, the linesman raised his flag to indicate he was offside, an action that caused Bowie and all the Glenavon players stopped. However, referee Bryn Markham Jones overruled his assistant, and while the Glenavon players failing to react, Bowie sprung into life, squared to substitute Lewis Allan who finished into the empty net, much to the chagrin of the visitors.
The result means Rovers will now be part of the quarter final of the Challenge Cup draw, which takes place on Wednesday.
The match highlights video will appear here the day after the match
Photos © Tony Fimister
Interviews will appear shortly
Raith Rovers can put league duty aside this weekend, as they welcome Northern Irish Premiership side Glenavon to Stark’s Park in the Fourth Round of the Tunnocks Caramel Wafer Cup.
The Lurgan Blues have been out of sorts of late, conceding 13 goals in their last two league outings, leaving them fourth bottom of the table, with just two wins in nine Premiership fixtures.
Gary Hamilton’s side reached this stage of the competition after a comfortable win in the Highlands, with a 3-0 win against Formantine United.
Raith also started their Challenge Cup campaign with a trip up north, as they kicked things off with a 3-2 win against Ross County’s under-20’s back in August, thanks to goals from Ross Matthews and a brace from Lewis Allan.
That then presented them with a Third Round round tie against Falkirk, which Raith navigated safely, thanks to two penalties from Regan Hendry in a 2-0 victory at Stark’s Park.
Saturday’s match referee will be Bryn Markham Jones.
Raith Rovers: L-W-W-W-W-D | Glenavon: L-W-L-W-L-L
Raith Rovers: Michael Miller 6 | Lewis Allan 5 | Grant Anderson 4
Glenavon: Rhys Marshall 4 | Conor McCloskey 3 | Andrew Mitchell 3