Late Goal Ensures Tynecastle Replay
A late equaliser by Declan McManus secured the draw that means Raith Rovers and Hearts will replay their Scottish Cup third round tie at Tynecastle this midweek. This afternoon’s 1-1 stalemate at Stark’s Park was the proverbial game of two halves, with Hearts utterly dominant in the first period, but Gary Locke’s men raised their game following the break and ultimately deserved their trip to the capital on Wednesday.
Neither side could lay claim to good form of late – Rovers’ winless run stretches back nine games, and Jambos boss Ian Cathro has made an inauspicious start to his tenure with a solitary win in his opening six matches – but this televised clash was provided with spice and interest given the hearts connection at Stark’s Park just now.
Rovers made two changes to the starting eleven following last week’s defeat at Morton, with Mark Stewart and Ross Matthews taking the places of the two Ryans, Hardie and Stevenson. The Tynecastle outfit introduced several of their January signings, including veteran Northern Ireland full-back Aaron Hughes in a new-look defence.
The two clubs last met in this competition back in 1979, and the opening exchanges suggested that a repeat of the score line that day – Hearts won 2-0 win in Kirkcaldy – was on the cards, as the visitors exerted total control of the game, with Rovers looking to break quickly up-field on those rare occasions they had meaningful possession. With tem minutes played, hearts midfielder Martin tried a shot from distance, though it was row z as opposed to Kevin Cuthbert’s net that was troubled. Shortly afterwards, Kitchen’s powerful header came much closer to a goal, though the big defender’s effort shaved the outside of the post with Rovers’ defence static.
Hearts peppered the Rovers penalty box with dangerous crosses, though Cuthbert was largely untroubled. Don Cowie threatened before Ross Callachan went on a surging run down the right wing. The Rovers midfielder’s neat low cutback fell invitingly for Mark Stewart, but the striker failed to control the ball and the chance was lost.
Hearts left-back Lennard Sowah was fortunate to escape a booking from referee John Beaton for a heavy challenge on Bobby Barr, before Hearts took a deserved lead on 35 minutes. Jordan Thompson’s loose pass on the halfway line was seized upon by Cowie, whose surging run deep into the Rovers half was haled by McHattie’s sliding tackle. However, the loose ball fell invitingly into the path of Jamie Walker, who steered his shot into the corner of the net from 12 yards.
Hearts immediately looked to increase their lead before half-time, but Rovers were relieved to reach the sanctuary of the dressing-room without further concession.
For all Hearts’ lead was a slender one, the Gorgie’s club’s healthy travelling contingent would have been confident their side would see the tie out with relative ease. However, Rovers emerged for the second half with renewed purpose, clearly keen to take the game to the visitors. Callachan drilled a shot narrowly wide of the target as a demonstration of intent, before good link-up play down the right sent Barr scurrying into the box, though his cross was cleared with little fuss. Thompson then lashed a shot over the bar – the youngster ignored appeals for a pass from midfield colleague Callachan, much to the latter’s frustration – before Mark Stewart made a nuisance of himself under yet another inviting cross by Barr.
However, with an hour played, Stewart passed up a glorious chance to equalise. McHattie cut into the box, and his low cross found Stewart with an open goal at his mercy, six years out. However, with the sough stand ready to acclaim the goal, the forward somehow managed to scoop his shot up against the bar, and the ball was cleared. It was a glaring miss, and that sinking feeling was evident among the home fans.
Rovers continued to press, however, and shots by Davidson and Callachan were athletically parried to safety by Hearts keeper Jack Hamilton as Rovers continued to seek tangible reward for their endeavours.
Ryan Hardie was then introduced to the fray at the expense of Chris Johnston as Rovers went with two up front. Despite this, Hearts appeared to have weathered the storm, and with tem minutes remaining Johnssen thundered a shot narrowly over the bar. Former Hearts hero Rudi Skacel was then brought on to a raucous reception from the away fans, along with Decal McManus – a double substitution that would prove an inspired one before the game was finished.
As the clock ticked down, it appeared as if Rovers’ second half showing was going to be in vain, but Locke’s men refused to throw in the towel and scored the goal their play merited. A corner kick on the right was headed on by Kyle Benedictus at the edge of the penalty area. The ball fell invitingly for the lurking Skacel, whose venomous shot was glanced into the net by McManus on the six-yard line. Hearts appealed that the Rovers player had been offside, but TV replays showed the goal was a fair one.
Incredibly, Rovers almost snatched an unlikely winner in injury time, with Hamilton relieved his parry from M’Voto’s header failed to find a blue shirt. There was just time left for Davidson to pick up a yellow card for a wild tackle on the touchline, before the final whistle sounded.
Given the lacklustre and disjointed nature of the first half from a Rovers viewpoint, a draw can be deemed a positive outcome for Locke’s men. In the grander scheme of things, the second half performance may serve as a boost for the remainder of the season as Rovers chase a place in the play-offs. However, for the time being, the not insignificant matter of the cup replay will be uppermost in the minds of those of a Raith Rovers persuasion.
RaithTV spoke with the Gaffer after the 1-1 draw with Hearts in the Scottish Cup
RaithTV spoke with goalscorer Declan McManus after the 1-1 draw with Hearts in the Scottish Cup
The Championship is put to one side this weekend, when Hearts travel to Kirkcaldy for a Scottish Cup Fourth Round tie this Sunday.
While the two sides haven’t met in this competition since 1979, when Hearts prevailed 2-0 in a Third Round tie at Stark’s Park, the two have played out a handful of encounters far more recently.
The Jambos won all four encounters on their way to securing the second tier title in the 2015/16 season, whilst the Gorgie side eventually won on penalties in a fiery League Cup tie in Kirkcaldy in 2013.
Liam Fox had given Rovers the lead in that one early in the second half, but Jamie Hamill soon levelled the tie from the penalty spot.
The finely balanced tie then turned when Dougie Hill was dismissed after a coming together with Hearts midfielder Hamill, and although Raith held on to take the match to penalties, Gary Locke’s team eventually won through 5-4 on spot-kicks.
Ian Cathro’s side may not be going into the match in the richest of form, with just one win from their last six league matches, but the new manager has spent little time in rearranging his squad, with four new arrivals in the January transfer window.
Central defender, Aaron Hughes has joined up after leaving Kerala Blasters in India, and the hugely experienced former Newcastle and Fulham man will be expected to fill the gap left by Igor Rossi who recently left to join Saudi Arabian side, Al-Faisaly Harmah.
Hughes could also be joined in the starting line up by former Hamilton left-back, Lennard Sowah, French midfielder, Malaury Martin who has joined from Lillestrom, and Slovenian defender, Andraz Struna, who signed for the club after leaving Greek side, PAS Giannina.
Raith’s record in this fixture isn’t an impressive one, with just three draws from the last ten fixtures in all competitions.
Their last win against Hearts came 24 years ago, when a Davie Sinclair goal sealed a 1-0 win at Tynecastle in the Premier Division.
Sunday’s match referee will be John Beaton.
Head-To-Head Cup Record At Stark’s Park:
Raith Rovers Wins: 4 | Hearts Wins: 8 | Draws: 1
Raith Rovers Goals: 14 | Hearts Goals: 16
Raith Rovers: L-D-D-L-L-L
Top Goal Scorers:
Raith Rovers: Mark Stewart 5 | Declan McManus 4 | Ross Callachan 3
Hearts: Jamie Walker 10 | Callum Paterson 9 | Barry Nicolson 5
Raith Rovers: 21/4 | Hearts: 1/2 | Draw: 10/3