Impressive Raith Make Final
Raith Rovers qualified for their second Challenge Cup final in six years, after a hard fought semi-final win against Partcik Thistle at Firhill.
A first half header from Kyle Benedictus gave Rovers a lead at the interval, while Regan Hendry put the game beyond Ian McCall’s men in the second period, although a late Lewis Mansell header did give the game a nervy conclusion for the large travelling support.
John McGlynn made just one change from last week’s draw with Stranraer, with Dave McKay replacing Michael Miller at right back.
Partick looked quite dangerous down that side in the initial stages, with Joe Cardle looking to get on the ball and get crosses into the area as frequently as possible, but while the ex-Raith winger looked lively, the Raith defence were coping with his deliveries.
It was another ex-Raith player, Brian Graham who almost broke the deadlock during that opening period, when he stabbed home from close range after the ball broke to him, but the linesman flag was already up by the time the effort left his foot.
The same player came close again a few moments later, when a cross from the right found him in space at the back post, only for Iain Davidson to block his goal bound effort with a fine intervention.
Cardle then should have done better after twisting and turning one way and another at the edge of the penalty area, but while his approach work was impressive, his finish was less so, blasting high over the bar from a decent distance.
It was a let off for the visitors, but they steadily started to feel their way into the game, putting Thistle on the back foot, and making chances of their own.
Kieron Bowie was the first to get an opportunity, getting on the end of a Dylan Tait cross, but he was unable to get the ball under control before being crowded out by the Partick defence.
Bowie was proving to be a handful, and it was his pressurising in the 30th minute which led to Raith gaining possession deep in Partick’s half, before winning a corner.
And from it, Raith took the lead, when Benedictus took advantage of some lacklustre defending from the home side, making space for himself and thumping a header past Scott Fox.
Partick looked to hit back almost immediately however, and Robbie Thomson did well to divert a James Penrice effort from close range past the post, after the left-back had got on the end of a low cross in the six yard area.
While Rovers had just about managed to keep Partick at bay for the opening period, the home side possibly felt aggrieved to trail at the interval, but Raith took the game to the hosts in the second period, as they started to get on top of their Championship opponents.
Tait’s cross found Steven McLean in the centre, and while the on-loan Hearts man did well to wriggle to get free from the shackles of a Partick defender, he was unable to steer his shot from 12-yards on target.
Bowie then did well to roll his marker on the half way line before running at the heart of the Partick defence, but his shot from 20-yards failed to test Scott.
The custodian was called into action a few moments later though, after a fine piece if play down Raith’s left, ended up with Hendry shooting low which he saved with his legs, before more impressive build up teed up Baird, whose shot was turned away.
Thomson pulled off an even better stop in the 68th minute, tipping away a Shea Gordon header which was heading to the bottom left corner.
Rovers were still in the ascendency, but there was concern that their missed chances would come back to haunt them, and they missed the best of the bunch in the 71st minute, when Ross Matthews header from inside the area bounced down and off the bar, prompting boos from the home support.
However, Raith doubled their advantage just two minutes later, with a richly deserved strike for Hendry.
He combined with McLean in the penalty box, and for what felt like an eternity, the midfielder sold umpteen dummies before planting a shot low past Fox and into the bottom right hand corner, sparking wild scenes in the away end, which Hendry sprinted 80-yards to take part in.
It felt like that was the game up at that point, but Partick hit back with a goal of their own with seven minutes remaining, when Cardle’s cross was headed home by Mansell, which set up something of a tense, grandstand finish.
Mitch Austin struck the outside of the post late on, and the substitute should really have done more in the final minute, shooting straight at Thomson after getting a clear run at goal from an acute angle.
The final whistle arrived soon after though, prompting celebrations both on the park and in the stands, with a cup final on March 28th against Rangers Development side or Inverness to look forward to.
© Eddie Doig 2020
John McGlynn spoke to RaithTV after tonight’s semi final win
The Club Captain spoke to Raith TV after the 1-2 win in the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup
Raith Rovers have an opportunity to reach their fifth cup final on Friday evening when they travel to Firhill to play Partick Thistle in the semi-finals of the Tunnocks Caramel Wafer Cup.
The Maryhill side currently sit bottom of the Championship, two points behind ninth placed Alloa Athletic.
Ian McCall’s side reached the last four with wins over Montrose, Connah’s Quay Nomads and Stenhousemuir, and will be looking to reach their first final since 2013, when they lost on penalties to Queen of the South in the final of the Ramsdens Cup.
The two sides haven’t met since 2013, when they drew 0-0 in a SFL First Division match, and they last met in a cup competition at the quarter final stage of this competition in September 2012, when the Jags won by three goals to nil.
The two teams can’t be separated across their last 10 meetings, with three wins and four draws apiece.
Friday night’s match referee will be Alan Newlands.
Head-To-Head Cup Record Versus Partick Thistle:
Partick Thistle Wins: 5 | Raith Rovers Wins: 8 | Draws: 3
Partick Thistle Goals: 26 | Raith Rovers Goals: 23
Partick Thistle: D-L-L-L-D-L
Raith Rovers: W-D-L-W-W-D
Partick Thistle: Kenny Miller 10 | Shea Gordon 7
Raith Rovers: Kieron Bowie 9 | Jamie Gullan 7 | Lewis Allan 6
Partick Thistle: 1/1 | Raith Rovers: 13/5 | Draw: 13/5