UGWU AND TAIT SEE RAITH THROUGH
Raith eased past a dogged and determined Stirling Albion side, with headed goals from Gozie Ugwu and Dylan Tait seeing Rovers into the Third Round of this season’s Scottish Cup. While Stirling played some good quality football and flowed well through midfield in passages of each half, in truth Raith didn’t look in danger and once Ugwu had headed the visitors into the lead just before the interval, the result was never in doubt.
For Raith, with a worrying lack of goals over recent games in danger of developing into a habit, John McGlynn made a number of changes from the weekend draw at Somerset Park. Mindful of the congested run of fixtures being faced by most teams outside the Scottish Premier League at present, McGlynn started Gullan, King, Tait, and Kennedy in midfield, with Gozie Ugwu also recalled to lead the line. Within two minutes of kick-off, Gullan had fired at Currie from distance, and a marauding Kieran MacDonald had forced another near-post save from the Stirling keeper – Stirling captain Ross MacGeachie trailing in his wake.
Stirling returned to League Two action with a deserved win over Brechin at Forthbank on Saturday, left-sided midfielder Kieran Moore’s controlled finish the difference between the two sides. The win preserved the Binos’ second place in the table, five behind Ray MacKinnon’s Queens Park, and three points ahead of Elgin and Stranraer in joint third. Stirling’s most recent defeat came as far back as November 21st when Elgin were the visitors – indeed, Elgin’s visit on League duty this coming Saturday may have played in manager Kevin Rutkiewicz’s mind in naming his team: strikers Declan Byrne and Andy Ryan, with nine goals between them this season, each dropped to the bench, amongst seven changes overall.
While Raith enjoyed the bulk of the early possession, they had a real scare on ten minutes, as Kieran Moore passed up a gilt-edged chance to put the hosts ahead – Jack Leitch’s lovely diagonal ball found the Raith defence pulled badly to one side, leaving Moore clear in on goal – the youngster held his head in his hands as his shot flew wildly over MacDonald’s bar.
Stung by their defensive lapse, Raith upped their tempo, and within a minute Jamie Gullan fired at goal from Tumilty’s cross, with keeper Currie doing well to concede only a corner. Gullan, the most lively Rovers player in the first half, set up Kennedy who drilled another shot into the keeper’s midriff on twenty minutes. At the other end, Dylan Mackin set Sean Heaver flying down the right wing, the midfielder’s early cross cut out by Musonda at full stretch.
Kai Kennedy was next to threaten for Raith – with a corner only headed partially clear, the Rangers loanee set himself and whipped a fine drive narrowly outside Currie’s left-hand post. For the hosts, Ross MacGeachie found space to cut inside and drive a cross-shot at Jamie MacDonald, the Raith keeper remaining alert to gather underneath his cross-bar.
The momentum was now firmly with Raith – great work from Dylan Tait created space for Adam King to fire on goal; Currie blocking well with his legs. With three minutes to the half, Tumilty’s flashing cross was flicked just wide by Gullan as Rovers’ pressure continued to build – and on the stroke of half-time Raith had their reward as Gozie Ugwu headed home at the far-post from Tait’s corner with Currie grasping at thin air. While Stirling had had their moments, Raith had earned their lead having controlled possession and having created a number of good openings.
Seeking to press home their advantage, Raith started strongly in the second period, with first Tait then Tumilty crossing dangerously into the Binos’ six-yard area. Stirling centre-half Meggatt was caught in possession, and only last-ditch defending by El Zubaidi prevented Gullan’s clear run in on goal.
Rovers continued to press, and continued to generate a number of half-chances, with Currie’s goal peppered with long-range shots and deep crosses. With Dylan Tait and Kai Kennedy continuing to draw the eye with a number of athletic bursts through midfield, Adam King had a fine chance to score on the hour but couldn’t make contact, Ugwu’s header flew just over, and Gullan’s free-kick on sixty-six minutes fizzed straight into Currie’s midriff.
Despite Raith flowing freely through midfield, Stirling’s Kevin Rutkiewicz made a couple of attacking chances, with new signings Jordan Allan and former Forfar man Jordan Kirkpatrick given licence to drive at the Raith defence; Kieran Moore moved across to right midfield, the position from which he had scored the winner for the Binos against Brechin City at the weekend – having said that, Raith continued to press, and notched a second with Tait’s glancing flick from Tumilty’s fine centre.
Kyle Banner’s header drifted over and Jack Leitch rasped a drive straight at MacDonald as Stirling sought to fashion a response – Raith’s second seemed to have put paid to any chance of Stirling’s more attacking players making an appearance from the bench: Byrne, Ryan, and Roberts would all likely be rested prior to the resumption of League business at the weekend. Mackin and Heaver each came close as the ball flew around the Raith area as the match passed the mark of fifteen minutes to go.
To their credit, Stirling continued to press – Kirkpatrick was visible on the left, pressing Musonda into a mistake in possession, and Mackin’s shot was ruled out for offside; Sean Heaver’s shot drifted just wide. In turn, Raith substitutes Lewis Vaughan and Dan Armstrong each had driving runs at the home defence, looking for a third which would put the tie beyond the hosts if any such doubts remained given Rovers’ two-goal advantage. Timmy Abraham was introduced for the closing minutes, and gave El Zubaidi and Meggatt cause for concern with two forays forward. Referee Newlands’ final whistle brought proceedings to a close, with Raith deservedly earning themselves a Third Round date with David Martindale’s Livingston.
Photo’S © GRAHAM HAMILTON
RaithTV spoke to John McGlynn after the win in the Scottish Cup
Raith Rovers have another quick turnaround this week, with a Scottish Cup tie against Stirling Albion at Forthbank on Tuesday evening.
The tie was initially supposed to be played in January, but due to lockdown restrictions was put off until this week, with the two sides facing off for the first time since a fourth round Scottish Cup tie at the same venue back in 2014.
Rovers came out on top by two goals to nil on that occasion, with the strikes coming from Barrie McKay and Grant Anderson.
The two teams last shared a division back in the 2010/11 season, but while the Binos may be in the basement division at the moment, they go into this tie on a fine run of form, albeit a good run that straddles a shutdown.
Kevin Rutkiewicz’s side are now six games unbeaten, and go into this one on the back of a 1-0 win over Brechin City at the weekend, a victory that takes them up to second in the League Two table, just five points behind a high flying Queen’s Park team.
This second round tie must be played to a finish on Tuesday, with the winner travelling to Livingston in the third round.
Rovers have a good record in this fixture, with six wins and three defeats from the last 10 meetings.
Tuesday night’s match referee will be Alan Newlands.
Head-To-Head Cup Record Versus Stirling Albion:
Stirling Albion Wins: 4 | Raith Rovers Wins: 9 | Draws: 0
Stirling Albion Goals: 19 | Raith Rovers Goals: 35
Stirling Albion: W-D-W-W-W-W
Raith Rovers: L-W-D-D-L-D
Stirling Albion: Andy Ryan 6 | Declan Byrne 3 | Jack Leitch 3
Raith Rovers: Manny Duku 10 | Daniel Armstrong 4
Stirling Albion: 7/2 | Raith Rovers: 4/6 | Draw: 31/10