Five Goal Thriller As Raith Make Semis
On a cold winter’s Friday night in the Lang Toun, Raith Rovers booked their place in the Tunnock’s Cameral Wafer Cup semi-final thanks to a 3-2 win over opponents Elgin City in a keenly contested and enjoyable match. In truth, the final score did little to reflect the dominance John McGlynn’s men enjoyed over the ninety minutes, but of course that will hardly matter to the home side – a place in the last four was the aim, and ultimately Rovers didn’t disappoint.
In what was only the third competitive meeting of the sides – Rovers won the first two – the opening exchanges, played out in front of a live TV audience, were tentative, with the home side’s comfort in possession perhaps unsurprising given the fact that a division separates the sides. That said, Gavin Price’s team looked confident, unwilling to allow their hosts to impose themselves.
Mind you, Elgin, having removed Airdrie and Dundee earlier in the competition, were entitled to their optimism. They forced the first corner kick of the game in the first minute as if so emphasise their intent, although Rovers responded quickly, stroking the ball around midfield confidently before opening the scoring in the sixth minute.
Kieran MacDonald, hugging the touchline on the left wing, whipped an inviting cross into the box, and the ball was met with an intelligent header back into the danger area from John Baird, which Kieron Bowie swept home with the minimum of fuss.
Rovers immediately looked to cement their hold on the tie, and good work from Daniel Armstrong led to an inviting cross into the box which deserved a more positive response from the home side. Within minutes, Bowie should have doubled both the home side’s advantage and his personal tally, but the young striker dragged his shot wide of the target with the goal at his mercy.
Steven Anderson went close with a header, before Rovers scored their second goal with 24 minutes on the clock. Dave MacKay’s cross was flicked on by Baird, and Bowie, with work to do, evaded several tackles before rounding Thomas McHale and stroking the ball into the net for a fine finish. Perhaps fired by frustration, City’s Kane Hester earned the first caution of the match for a trip on Brad Spencer. Armstrong sought to take advantage, though his free-kick from thirty yards whistled past the post with McHale swatting at the air.
Elgin, however, tried to get themselves back in the match, and had legitimate claims for a penalty when Anderson appeared to play the ball with an arm, though referee Euan Anderson was unmoved. The visitors were enjoying a period of unexpected dominance, and they made it pay dividends with a fine goal. A sweeping move down the right wing ended up inside the Rovers penalty area, and a deflected pass fell into the path of Hester, whose first-time shot flew into the top corner of the net, giving Ross Munro no chance.
The City scorer had a chance to restore parity shortly afterwards, but his low shot was smothered by Munro at his near post. Despite this flurry by the visitors, it was the home side who almost increased their advantage before half-time. Baird’s astute pass found Spencer in space outside the box, and the midfielder’s shot was pushed away at full stretch by McHale.
The sides emerged for the second half determined to get on the front foot, and it was Rovers who threatened first, though Armstrong’s free-kick was easily gathered by McHale. McGlynn’s men had a half-hearted penalty appeal turned down – in truth, Baird’s tumble in the box wasn’t worthy of a spot kick – before extending their lead thanks to Dave MacKay.
Armstrong’s pass found MacDonald galloping down the left flank, and his raking cross was met by MacKay’s prodded shot from twelve yards which found the bottom corner of the net. Shortly afterwards, Bowie had a chance to secure his hat-trick, but the youngster’s shot flew over the bar from a promising position on the left hand side of the box.
As the game entered its final quarter, Elgin’s chances were seemingly dashed when they were reduced to ten men. Rabin Omar’s robust tackle on Kyle Benedictus deserved a red card, and at that point is seemed as if the visitors’ chances of getting back into the match were reduced to dust. Rovers, as expected, dominated possession, though they failed to create genuine goal scoring chances despite numerical advantage.
Lewis Allan replaced John Baird, and the young striker almost made an immediate impact, flashing a shot against the crossbar with the keeper beaten. Ross Matthews and Iain Davidson went close to extending Rovers’ lead, and Tony Dingwall was introduced for two-goal Bowie as the match entered its closing stages.
City then ensured an uncomfortable final few minutes for the home side by grabbing a second goal. Against the run of play, Shane Sutherland latched on to a through pass and steered a low shot into the net beyond Munro from close range. It was a goal out of nothing, but for all it threatened to galvanise the visitors, Rovers held out. Deep into injury time, Brian Cameron lashed a shot over the crossbar, before the final whistle sounded.
And that was that. Rovers fully merited their place in the last four of the competition, though Elgin’s brave resistance was such that the result was less than certain until the end. John McGlynn’s men now look towards their next cup tie, a Scottish Cup match against Peterhead, during this respite from league duty. The sense of positivity continues into the last weeks of 2019.
Photo’s © Tony Fimister
John McGlynn spoke to RaithTV after the 3-2 win at Stark’s Park
Raith Rovers will put league action to one side for two weeks, starting this Friday night, with a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup quarter-final clash with Elgin City.
It’ll be just the third time the two sides have met, with the first fixture coming in 2005, while the last came 10 years later in 2015.
That first meeting came in the first round of this very competition, with goals from Scott Crabbe, Paul McManus and a Stuart Cumming own goal eventually sealing a 3-1 win for Raith after extra-time.
The second and most recent game also saw Rovers come out on top, in a Scottish Cup 3rd round tie at Borough Briggs, where Ryan McCord and Grant Anderson handed Rovers a two goal initiative, before a Jordan Halsman goal gave Elgin a late consolation.
Elgin reached this stage of the competition by defeating Hibs under-21 team in the first round 4-3, and it was an even bigger scoreline in the next round, when they knocked out Brechin City by the odd goal in nine.
Their next two ties saw them knock out higher division sides, with Dundee being dispatched 2-1 at Dens Park, while League One Airdrie were knocked out 2-0 in the Penny Cars Stadium in the last 16.
Raith reached this stage with wins over Ross County’s development squad, Falkirk and Glenavon.
Friday evening’s match referee will be Euan Anderson.
Head-To-Head Cup Record Versus Elgin:
Raith Rovers Wins: 2 | Elgin City Wins: 0 | Draws: 0
Raith Rovers Goals: 5 | Elgin City Goals: 2
Raith Rovers: D-W-D-D-L-W
Elgin City: W-W-W-W-W-D
Raith Rovers: Lewis Allan 6 | Kieron Bowie 5 | Michael Miller 5
Elgin City: Shane Sutherland 19 | Kane Hester 10
Raith Rovers: 40/85 | Elgin City: 19/4 | Draw: 4/1