Late Livi Fightback Knocks Raith Out
Despite leading for much of the match thanks to a John Baird strike, three goals in the final 13 minutes for Livingston, put paid to Raith’s Scottish Cup hopes.
Despite a fine performance from the visitors, especially in the second period where Raith looked assured, two goals in a minute rocked them onto their heels, before the final knock-out blow was delivered from the penalty spot in the final minute, to send Gary Holt’s team through.
Manager John McGlynn made four changes from last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Forfar Athletic.
After taking his place on the bench at Station Park, Michael Miller returned to the right back berth in place of Jamie Watson, while Tony Dingwall came in for Grant Anderson.
Ross Matthews, who replaced Brad Spencer at the interval last week due to the latter picking up a heel knock retained his place, while David McKay returned to the starting line up, as Jamie Gullan returned to parent club Hibs.
Also coming back into the squad was Fernandy Mendy, who took a place on the substitutes bench after the defender’s loan deal recently ended at Kelty Hearts.
With Rovers two divisions below the Premiership high flyers, they were very much the underdogs for this one, and that fact was underlined in the opening few minutes, with the home side forcing three corners in quick succession, although the Rovers defence remained resolute in defending the trio of set-pieces.
It was from yet another corner that Livinsgton grabbed their first chance, when a knock down from Jon Guthrie found Aymen Souda, but his first time effort dribbled wide, with the forward stumbling backwards as he made a connection.
While Rovers were struggling to gain too much time in possession, any time they did get their foot on the ball, they were struggling to retain it, with Baird ploughing a lone furrow up front, while his midfield colleagues were toiling to get forward in support.
Roves had done a fine job at containing their hosts, but they almost went a goal behind in the 16th minute, when Lyndon Dykes got on the end of a cross from the right from Steve Lawson, but under pressure, he couldn’t quite get a good enough connection, and his attempt came back off the post.
However, Rovers fashioned their own good chance in the 20th minute, when a fine passing move ended with Matthews running in on goal, but after being forced out wide, no-one could get on the end of his cutback, which was lashed away for a corner.
If Rovers were downhearted at passing up a big chance, they needn’t be, as they had the lead within 60 seconds.
The corner was only half cleared, allowing Dingwall to header the ball back in, and Baird was lively enough to hook the ball past Ryan Schofield and into the net.
Stung by going behind, Livi were back on the front foot, and with a clear height advantage at set pieces, that’s where Rovers biggest challenge was coming from, with Ricki Lamie the next to win a header in the area, only to send the ball wide of Ross Munro’s post.
Iain Davidson then had to look alert to block a shot from Scott Pittman’s chance, after the midfielder had done well to run onto a Souda through pass and split the defence.
The game was now very much being played out in Rovers defensive third, with any clearance, sclaff or block coming straight back, but while the pressure grew as the half wore on, Rovers continued to dig in well as Livi probed for openings.
They fashioned one as the interval approached, with a low cross falling to Dykes, but the forward’s shot on the spin was well gathered up by Munro who pounced to his left.
The second half started in much the same way the first ended, with Livi on top and pressing Rovers deep in their own half any time they gained possession.
Rovers were doing their best to hit on the counter however, and while their forays were fleeting, it was a reminder to the home side that they were still a threat on the break.
However, the longer the half wore on, the more Rovers were starting to grow into it, and a spell of possession in the 60th minute ended with Dylan Tait bursting into the penalty area, but his touch was just too far ahead of him, allowing Schofield to gather.
Rovers had been excellent in the second period, harrying Livi into errors and keeping possession well Indeed, for the bulk of the second half, they’d looked comfortable.
However, that changed in the 76th minute, when Davidson was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box, allowing Lawless to sweep the ball home from the penalty spot.
Worse was to come though, when Rovers lost possession almost immediately from the restart, allowing Dykes a free run in on goal, and he made no mistake, placing the ball high past Munro and into the net.
Rovers had went from looking in control, to trailing in the space of a minute, and substitute Kieron Bowie was trying his best to get them back in it, winning a corner in the 81st minute, which eventually came to nought.
There would be no grandstand finish however, as Lawless made the game safe in the final minute, when Miller fouled Dykes who was running in on goal, to make Livingston’s place in the Fifth Round draw safe.
It was a slightly harsh reflection on a tie which at one stage had been there for the taking for Rovers, and they’ll be looking to put in an equally impressive performance next week, when they take on Montrose at Stark’s Park.
© Eddie Doig 2020
RaithTV spoke with Manager John McGlynn after the Scottish Cup game
Raith Rovers travel to Almondvale this Saturday, to take on Livingston in a Scottish Cup Fourth Round tie.
It’s the first time the two sides have been paired together in the competition, and Rovers will head into the game as underdogs, with Gary Holt’s team currently sitting fifth in the Premiership table.
Livi may be two divisions higher than Rovers this term, but they shared a league as recently as 2015/16, when Rovers won three out of the four Championship meetings, the last coming in May 2016, when an Aidan Connolly goal was enough to secure all three points.
Livingston would go on to be relegated to League One via the playoffs that term, while Rovers lost to Hibs in the Premiership playoff.
It’s been all change at the West Lothian club since then however, with two successive promotions taking them into the top tier for the first time since 2006.
Survival was the aim of the game last term, but a blistering start saw that virtually assured of that by Christmas, before a slowdown in their form saw them finish ninth, 12 points clear of eleventh placed St Mirren.
While many were predicting a difficult season this time round, the West Lothian club have again defied expectation, sitting fifth in the table, and concerningly for Rovers, with one of the best home records in the league.
Only Celtic, Rangers and Aberdeen have picked up more home points this term, a record that’s been built on a watertight defence, that’s conceded just five times at Almondvale, the joint best record in the division.
Rovers and Livingston are evenly matched over the last 10 meetings, with five wins apiece.
Saturday’s match referee will be Alan Newlands
Head-To-Head Cup Record Versus Livingston:
Livingston Wins: 2 | Raith Rovers Wins: 0 | Draws: 1
Livingston Goals: 5 | Raith Rovers Goals: 2
Raith Rovers: W-D-L-W-W-D
Livingston: Lyndon Dykes 10 | Steven Lawless 7
Raith Rovers: Kieron Bowie 8 | Jamie Gullan 7 | Lewis Allan 6
Livingston: 4/11 | Raith Rovers: 13/2 | Draw: 7/2