ROVERS TAKE PRIDE IN LIONS DEN LOSS.
Raith Rovers travelled to Livingston for the Scottish Cup tie on the back of the thrashing of Dunfermline in the Fife derby in midweek.
Rovers had planned to start with only one enforced changed to that midweek line up with Dylan Tait replacing Ross Matthews in midfield, however a further late change was made with Iain Davidson replacing Kieran MacDonald (injured in the pre match warm-up), meaning Frankie Musonda moving to left back and Davidson at centre half alongside Benedictus. This was Iain Davidsons 500th appearance for Raith Rovers – a remarkable achievement for a Raith Rovers stalwart. Livingston meanwhile started with the same eleven that drew with Hibs in their last league game.
The Tony Macaroni Arena is where the Rovers cup campaign from last season came to an end, with the Rovers leading 1-0 from a John Baird first half goal, until succumbing to two penalties from Lawless and a goal from Dykes in a game that was much closer than the final scoreline suggested.
Rovers go into this game having won three in a row, whereas Livingston’s mid-season form has slipped and they have only won once in the last 5 games. Still, Livingston went into this game as big favourites.
Bobby Madden took charge of this tie with the pitch covered in April sunshine, albeit with a cool breeze.
Livi kicked off with Rovers defending the goal to the left of our reporting position. Rovers created the first chance in the opening minute with a shot from Dylan Tait that just went wide. It was also a bright start from Livingston with Jay Emmanuel Thomas looking a real threat for the home side with their first real chance falling to him in the 10th minute.
Rovers were more than holding their own with some neat passing interplay albeit mainly in their own half with Jamie McDonald required to make several clearances. However, Raith pressure earned them a free kick just outside the Livi box and up stepped Lewis Vaughan with a terrific strike from the free kick right past Robbie McCrorie in the Livi goal at the near post to give Rovers a 1-0 lead.
This goal shell-shocked Livingston and spurred the Rovers on to further attacks. In the 12th minute Reghan Tumilty drove past 2 defenders on the right hand side of the box and fired a shot at the near post but was saved by the Livi keeper. Three minutes later, Regan Hendry tried a shot from outside the box but again saved by McCrorie.
Livingston came back into the game, taking an early free kick in the 21st minute that caught the Rovers defence off-guard, but Jay Emmanuel Thomas shot into the near side netting. Livi continued to press Rovers with dangerous crosses but the Rovers defence held firm to clear.
Rovers came back into the game with Jamie Gullan driving into the box but couldn’t get his shot in before being crowded out by the Livi defence. Gullan again drove into the box in the 38th minute with Vaughan in a great position for the cutback but was halted by the Livi defenders. Just moments later Gullan signalled that he was injured with what looked like a hamstring injury and was replaced by Manny Duku.
There was time for one more chance in the first half as Tumilty drove a fierce low shot but was saved again by the busy McCrorie.
A terrific first half from Rovers who were fully deserving of their lead in this tie.
HALF TIME – Livingston 0 Raith Rovers 1
The second half kicked off with no changes to the teams. Livi started the second half in determined fashion, dominating the early stages. 5 minutes in to the second half, Emmanuel-Thomas tried a shot in the box but was foiled by Frankie Musonda. Minutes later, Jackson Longridge weaved his way into the Rovers box, beating Jamie MacDonald but cleared off the line by Musonda.
Good control by Dylan Tait, and he passed the ball over to Regan Hendry who hit a shot just wide of the Livingston goal. Livingston then had a penalty claim as Benedictus went in for a hard challenge with Devlin. Both players required treatment but the referee waved away any penalty claims and awarded a goal kick to Raith.
It was Livingston, however, that had the next chance as Jon Guthrie knocked down a cross into the path of Jack Fitzwater who hit a right footed shot into the back of the Rovers net to equalise. 1-1
Livingston then upped their game with chances for Sibbald, Mullin, Holt & Devlin all repelled by the resolute Rovers defence, but the home side were certainly now on top in the latter stages. With 5 minutes remaining, Dylan Tait had a shot spilled by the Livi keeper but with no-one there to take advantage.
Rovers made a double substitution with 2 minutes of normal time remaining with Gozie Ugwu and Dan Armstrong coming on for Lewis Vaughan and Kai Kennedy. Armstrong nearly broke through the Livi defence moments after coming on but the game remained 1-1 and went into extra time.
FULL TIME – Livingston 1 Raith Rovers 1
Extra time was kicked off by Rovers towards the shopping centre end. The first half saw chances for the home side for Mullin and Devlin but Rovers were still in this game and also had half chances for Duku and Ugwu, as this was still a very even game although Livingston were now becoming stronger in possession as Rovers tired.
Livingston started the second half of extra time in strong fashion with good build up play finished up with a shot way over the bar from Mullin in the 106th minute. The ever busy Nicky Devlin drove in to the box but his shot was well saved by Jamie MacDonald. Devlin was involved 2 minutes later as he fired in a low cross from the left and Matej Poplatnik was there for Livi to slot home at the back post to make it Livingston 2 Raith Rovers 1.
Rovers then brought on Adam King to replace Dylan Tait as they tried desperately to get back level. Manny Duku had a great goal bound header but was ruled offside, Reghan Tumilty fired in a firm cross into the box but cleared with a diving header from the Livi defence. Rovers continued to apply pressure in the dying minutes in the Livi half with 3 corners but could not make the breakthrough. Brad Spencer had the Rovers last chance with a shot from outside the box but it just flew past the post.
With that, Bobby Madden blew the full time whistle and Livingston progressed to the next round of the cup. It was a brave performance from Rovers who, like last season led until the latter stages of the game, but this is a Livingston side who are sitting 5th in the SPFL Premiership and have been one of the surprise packages in the top league this season. Raith can take immense pride in matching Livingston for so much of the game, after a hectic run of matches.
The Rovers now have a rare midweek with no fixture and are back in Championship action at home to Arbroath on Saturday.
RaithTV talked to John McGlynn after the Scottish Cup tie against Livingston:
Raith Rovers will put league business to the side this weekend, when they travel to Livingston to play the Premiership side in the third round of the Scottish Cup.
Rovers go into the game on the back of one of their best performances in years, after a 5-1 win over local rivals Dunfermline in midweek.
A goal from Regan Hendry and braces from Lewis Vaughan and Jamie Gullan handed Raith their biggest victory over the Pars since 1983, and the win kept Rovers in second place in the table, with just five games remaining.
Their opponents on Saturday have enjoyed another fantastic season, reaching the League Cup final as well as securing top six football once again.
It’ll be the second time they’ve met each other in this competition in two seasons, with Livi coming out on top by three goals to one.
It hadn’t looked like that would be the case going into the final stages however.
Raith led by a goal to nil with just 13 minutes remaining thanks to a goal from John Baird, but two goals in as many minutes, from Lyndon Dykes and Steve Lawless turned the game on its head, and a goal in the final few seconds from Lawless sealed the win for the home team.
It’s just under five years since Rovers last win over Livi, when an Aidan Connolly goal was enough to seal a 1-0 win in the Championship.
The head to head record couldn’t be more even in recent times, with five wins apiece from the last 10 meetings.
Saturday’s match referee will be Bobby Madden
Head-To-Head Cup Record:
Livingston Wins: 3
Raith Rovers Wins: 0
Livingston Goals: 3
Raith Rovers Goals: 8
Raith Rovers: D-L-D-W-W-W
Livingston: Alan Forrest 11, Scott Pittman 6
Raith Rovers: Manny Duku 10, Daniel Armstrong 4, Jamie Gullan 4, Regan Hendry 4
Raith Rovers: 19/4