Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup Final
Raith Rovers v Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Saturday March 28th 2020
McDiarmid Park, Perth
Ticketing arrangements to be confirmed in due course
John McGlynn’s Rovers squad made it to our second Challenge Cup final in six seasons on Friday evening, after a thrilling 2-1 win over Partick Thistle at Firhill, and it’s been a feature of Rovers run to the final that every hurdle has been an exciting 90 minutes….
Entering the competition at the second round (back in August in Dingwall) against Ross County under 21s, it looked at one stage that it might trip up John McGlynn’s men.
Two nil up at the interval thanks to a brace from Lewis Allan with two fine finishes, Ross County fought back to level thanks to goals from David Keillor-Dunn and Mark Gallagher.
A last gasp goal from Ross Matthews saw Raith snatch a second round victory.
Final score 3-2 to the Rovers.
The reward for getting past Ross County was a third round tie with fellow League One title challengers Falkirk, which also had the added element of ex-Raith boss Ray McKinnon returning to Stark’s Park.
An open, back and forth spectacle between two teams who both played strong sides eventually came down to what happened from the penalty spot, but not in terms of a shoot out, with referee Greg Aitken awarding three penalties in the match.
Raith were given the majority of them, with Regan Hendry scoring both, one in either half, but Charlie Telfer was less adept with his attempt, lashing it off the bar as Rovers made their way into the last 16.
Final score 2-0 to the Rovers.
The fourth round brought a home tie against Northern Irish side Glenavon, and it brought about one of the strangest goals witnessed at Stark’s Park in some time.
Rovers dominated the opening stages, with Keiron Bowie handing the home side an early advantage, before Rhys Marshall shocked the home side with an equaliser against the run of play.
Daniel Armstrong handed Rovers the lead again, but it was a far more even second period, with Glenavon pushing strongly for an equaliser, before Raith got the highly unusual clinching goal in injury time.
Bowie was played in on goal, but checked his run when the linesman raised his flag, an action which also stopped the Glenavon players in their tracks.
However, the referee overruled his assistant and waved play on, which only Bowie and his fellow forward, Lewis Allan seemed alive to, allowing Bowie to slip the ball across the face of goal, to give Allan what must be the easiest goal he could ever wish to score, much to the chagrin of the Glenavon players. Final score 3-1 to the Rovers.
The win over the men from Ulster set up a quarter final tie with Elgin City at Stark’s Park, and again Rovers raced into a strong position.
Kieron Bowie had Raith two goals to the good in the opening 25 minutes, but Kane Hester and Shane Sutherland didn’t give the Raith defence a minute’s peace, and both ended up on the scoresheet.
Hester reduced the arrears with 10 minutes of the first half remaining, and despite Dave McKay seemingly making progressing to the semi-final assured with a goal 10 minutes into the second, a Sutherland strike in the 84th minute made for a nervy few moments. Final score 3-2 to the Rovers.
Rovers saw out that match to seal a semi-final berth, and there were some similarities between the last eight fixture and the match against Partick….
Against Partick Thistle at Firhill, Rovers put themselves into a dominant position, thanks to a corner headed home by club captain Kyle Benedictus and a composed finish from Regan Hendry
A late Lewis Mansell goal made for a nail biting climax, before noisy celebrations at the full time whistle to mark the clubs first cup final appearance since 2014.
Final score 2-1 to the Rovers.
With Inverness Caledonian Thistle defeating the Rangers u21 side on Sunday, Rovers will battle it out with the men from the Highlands for the right to lift the Challenge Cup on Saturday 28th March at McDiarmid Park, Perth. The Final will be broadcast live on BBC Alba and will kick off at 4.10pm.
This will be the Highland club’s fifth final in the tournament, with their last win coming just two years ago. If the fixture is anything like Raith’s previous ties in this season’s competition, then it should be an occasion to savour!