County Counted Out The Cup
The Rovers arrived in Dingwall looking to continue their unbeaten run. Grant Anderson was rested, taking a place on the bench, with Greig Spence coming into the starting 11. The Rovers remained 4-3-3 as they had finished the Livingston game on Saturday.
County had shuffled their pack and made nine changes from the side that narrowly beat Dundee – interestingly Derek Adams only switched two of his back four. The Dingwall side welcomed new signing keeper Mark Brown. Midweek away before a Derby game meant that a number of Raith fans chose to not travel but the small band of travelling fans were rewarded by the best performance of the season and returned down the A9, hearing pundits talking of how the final score flattered the home side.
The Rovers started smartly and some good passing probed the County back line in the 3rd minute. Fitzpatrick crossed and Morrow headed over in the 6th minute before Malone’s free kick tested Brown. The Rovers were getting more of the ball. Fitzpatrick and Morrow combined again but McGurn claimed the header easily. In the 14th minute another period of good Rovers’ play saw Spence’s overhead kick from 6 yards go wide, with Brown flat-footed, having been set up by Thomson’s intelligent header. Brian Graham got away from the back four but his early shot went wide.
The game had settled into a pattern of Rovers having more possession and County’s forays forward becoming rarer. Kurtis Byrne shot over after a lucky bounce off Stuart Anderson. The Rovers opened the scoring in the 24th minute when livewire Graham turned brilliantly to play in Clarke, who drew the keeper, and left Greig Spence the simplest of tasks to score from 6 yards. Byrne tried to get the rocking home side back into the game but McGurn pushed his driven effort wide. Scott Boyd – the home captain – was short with a pass and Thomson scampered down the field but his cross was half cut out by the red-haired defender.
Laurie Ellis – who’d engaged in a curious stretch lying on his back during a break in play – was replaced by big Colin Wilson in the 29th minute. County saw a free kick fly harmlessly over the Raith bar as their ‘fight back’ fizzled out. Clarke, who was relishing his wide left attacking role, shot just wide from 22 yards after a corner with Brown again beaten. The Rovers were really clicking and County struggled to concede a corner. Brian Graham met the cross unhindered and his front post header whipped into the net, doubling the Raith lead. Morrow had a long range effort just after the re-start in the 40th minute which bounced through to McGurn. Then Byrne got goal side and, as the Raith support berated the linesman, the Highland man’s touch let him down and McGurn mopped up.
The travelling fans saw the County side come out early for the second half – no doubt with Derek Adams’ displeasure ringing in their ears. However, 15 seconds in, Clarke was played in by Walker and, taking it on his chest, his volley went just wide from 20 yards. Walker’s first time shot was held by the increasingly worked Brown. Garry Glen forced a save in the 48th minute but, for much of the second half, Dave McGurn was just another Rovers’ spectator. Another foul by a County man saw Walker whip in a free kick and Dougie Hill nodded the third in off the foot of the post. Eddie Malone had taken a heavy knock to the head as the ball came in but he played on.
Mark Brown then saved well from another Clarke effort after Pat was teed up by Spence. The ex-Old firm keeper then managed to bundle Pat’s vicious free kick over the bar. Brown could stop Clarke getting a deserved goal but couldn’t stop Graham doubling his tally after Hamill’s ball into the box saw Spence’s shot blocked. Brian Graham spun and smashed the ball low into the side netting to make it 4:0. Par’s man, Craig Robertson, in the stand probably didn’t expect the Rovers fans to be chanting “Easy, Easy” as he travelled north, and for some reason he didn’t join in.
The game continued with Mark Brown doing his best to stop Pat Clarke scoring and the distribution of free pies in the away end did nothing to dampen the mood. In the 79th minute, Spence was replaced by Grant Anderson then Hamill was replaced by Callachan in the 83rd. County did little but got a late consolation in the 84th when Glen’s header back found Russell Duncan whoput it in from close range.
Mark Brown played very well for a debutant and did his bit to keep the score down. The Rovers played well without exception – Anderson and Walker in the midfield linked well and the front three were dangerous throughout. Colin Wilson again proved he can come off the bench and do well. This was a cracking performance and more of the same along the road on Saturday will keep smiles on Rovers fans’ faces.
Report – John Mainland
Library photos, not match footage, copyright Tony Fimister and Eddie Doig .Match action added by courtesy of Ross County