Duku At The Double
Raith Rovers and Inverness served up an entertaining and attacking counter in a thrilling 3-3 draw, with Rovers clinching an additional bonus point, winning the penalty shoot out 3-2.
After a strong start to the league campaign, Rovers returned to Betfred Cup duty against Inverness CT at Stark’s Park with both teams requiring a win to maintain their hopes of reaching the knockout stage.
Rovers made several changes to the starting line up from the win over Morton at the weekend with Iain Davidson injured, Dylan Tait suspended and Lars Lokotsch cup-tied. In came, Mendy, Spencer & Duku – along with Robbie Thomson replacing Jamie MacDonald in goals.
Rovers only had 4 subs on the bench, MacDonald, Mahady, Arnott and Coulson highlighting the number of injuries within the squad at the moment.
It was a landmark night for captain, Kyle Benedictus making his 200th appearance in a Raith Rovers shirt.
Inverness made 5 changes from their match against Hearts last Saturday – in come Devine, Keatings, Doran, Sutherland & Vincent. The two former Rovers in the Inverness squad, Lewis Toshney and Kevin McHattie did not feature.
A relatively mild November night, no wind, floodlights on, a great night for a game of cup football, all that was missing were the supporters in the stands.
Rovers started the first half playing towards the McDiarmid stand. They started brightly with Ethan Ross shooting just wide in the 7th minute followed by Mann Duku forcing his way into the Inverness box a minute later, but his shot was straight at Ridgers in the ICT goal.
The bright start from the home side paid off in the 11th minute when Tumilty played a great ball to Manny Duku, who then drove past Danny Devine in the right hand side of the Inverness box and this time struck the ball firmly under the keeper’s legs and into the goal to give Rovers a deserved 1-0 lead.
Inverness responded with an opportunist James Keatings attempt from 40 yards to try and catch Robbie Thomson off his line but the ball just sailed over the bar.
Daniel Armstrong was looking lively and created a couple of chances for Manny Duku but the ICT defence managed to clear both attempts. Inverness then came back into it and Shane Sutherland raced through on goal but was offside. In the 23rd minute, Kennedy swung in a terrific pinpoint cross from the Railway stand side which was met by Shane Sutherland’s head and he directed it low and into the Rovers net to make it 1-1.
Raith responded well to this setback and dominated for the rest of the first half, creating chances for Armstrong, Ross and Matthews. Rovers couldn’t quite convert these but in the 41st minute were awarded a penalty after Frankie Musonda was brought down after driving into the Inverness box. Daniel Armstrong stepped up to take the penalty but unfortunately his effort just missed the target.
The referee blew to end what had been a very positive first half for the home side. Raith had been the better and more dominant team and deserved to be in front. Inverness however, always looked dangerous and were very much in this game.
Inverness started the second half in determined fashion and had the better of the early exchanges, with Doran and Keating terrorising the Rover defence. Keatings went closest with a rasper of a shot that just scraped over Robbie Thomson’s crossbar.
However, it was Rovers who took the lead slightly against the run of play in the 59th minute. A superb run from Ethan Ross down the far side and into the box and then drove a ball deep into the ICT 6 yard box and deflected off Devine and into the Inverness goal. 2-1 Rovers.
The away side resumed their dominant play and soon turned the game around. Inverness were putting huge pressure on the Rovers defence and had one penalty claim dismissed in the 61st minute but were then rewarded with a penalty being awarded to them by referee, Reid just 6 minutes later. James Keatings took the penalty and smashed it beyond Thomson, to make it 2-2.
Further Inverness pressure resulted in a free kick for Inverness just outside the Rovers box in 69 minutes. Keatings cracked this off the woodwork and Roddy McGregor reacted first and scrambled the ball into the Rovers net. Inverness 3-2 up after 2 goals in three minutes.
Rovers were rattled and further bad news looked imminent in the 72nd minute as Duku went down after a robust challenge. Manny looked to be in huge pain as he clutched his left shoulder. Huge relief all round as after a bit of treatment he was able to play on.
It had been a tough half hour for the Rovers, but back they came in a terrific spell in the last 15 minutes. With 11 minutes remaining, Regan Tumilty hit a low drive in from the right that had the Inverness keeper scrambling to save. Rovers were looking sprightly and back in control of the midfield. In the 84th minute Benedictus played a great ball to Armstrong who drove a low hard cross into the 6 yard box but Duku couldn’t quite get on the end of it. Just one minute later, Ethan Ross had a great strike, the Benedictus had a shot which Mark Ridgers saved at point blank range. A couple of minutes later, Regan Hendry went on a great run, played the ball to Ross, but his shot just went over the bar.
With a minute left in regulation time, Rovers got a deserved equaliser. Mendy headed down from a cross, straight to Duku who swept the ball in at the near post – 3-3!
Inverness then swung back into action to try and grab an injury time winner; they had a strong shout for a penalty with a handball claim, then Robbie Thomson produced a wonder reaction save to deny Todorov a winner for ICT in the final seconds.
After all that drama, there was still a penalty shoot out to see who would claim the bonus point. Thomson further frustrated Todorov by saving Inverness’ first penalty, with James Keatings missing their second – Rovers scored though, Hendry, Matthews & Armstrong to win the shoot out 3-2 and take the bonus point.
A hugely entertaining game from two lively attacking teams, 6 goals shared, lots of chances, drama & penalty claims – the teams meet again a week on Saturday up at the Caledonian Stadium in a league fixture.
Hearts win our Betfred cup group after their 3-2 win in Methil. There is a small, but mathematical chance that Rovers could progress as one of the best second place teams, but would need to win in Cowdenbeath on Saturday and rely on a number of other results going our way, so it’s highly unlikely, but in the league cup, you just never know…
Photo’s © Tony Fimister
Assistant Manager Paul Smith spoke to RaithTV after the Betfred Cup match against Inverness Caledonian Thistle