Rovers’ unbeaten run continues after drama at Dens.
Rovers travelled north to Dundee for the SPFL Trust Trophy semi-final. Injuries and cup-tied players meant there were quite a few changes from the weekend with Robbie Thomson, Adam Masson, Kieran Ngwenya, Connor McBride, Sam Stanton and William Akio all coming into the starting eleven, leaving only two outfield players and Jamie MacDonald on the bench. The personnel change also meant a formation change with Rovers moving to a back 5 rather than the normal four.
It took Rovers a while to adjust to the new tactics and Dundee came out of the traps quickly to take full advantage. With just five minutes on the clock, Paul McMullan drifted past Brad Spencer and Ngwenya on the right wing, and his cross was perfectly met by the unmarked Lyall Cameron who shot low past Thomson. Dundee 1-0 Rovers.
Rovers had a short reprieve when a nice run from half-way saw McBride shoot just wide. It wasn’t long before Dundee were on the ascendency again, though. Kwame Thomas found space inside the Rovers’ box but shot straight at Thomson. Dundee then doubled their lead in the 28th minute. Neat passing down the left eventually saw the ball cut back to Cameron who slotted home for his second of the game. Dundee 2-0 Rovers.
Alex Jakubiak should have killed the game off three minutes later when the ball broke to him across the face of goal, but somehow he put it over from two yards. Ian Murray took decisive action in the 35th minute: bringing Aidan Connolly on for Masson, and reverting to four at the back. It almost paid immediate dividends when Stanton and Connolly combined down the left and the latter’s cross found Ross Millen at the back post but his header was superbly saved by Harrison Sharp – although he should have scored.
Half-time: Dundee 2-0 Raith Rovers
Rovers started the second half on the front foot and were first to threaten through a nice run from Stanton and lay off to Connolly, but his shot wasn’t hit cleanly and ended up straight at Sharp. Spencer was next to threaten but his shot was easily plucked out of the air by the Dundee keeper.
Rovers made their only other outfield substitute in the 67th minute, with Dylan Easton replacing Scott Brown.
The game seemed to be drifting towards a low-key home victory but Rovers gave themselves a glimmer of hope in the 77th minute. Ryan Nolan met Connolly’s deep corner, his header found Stanton who diverted towards goal, and William Akio was on hand to head it over the line. Dundee 2-1 Rovers.
And five minutes later, Rovers drew level: Ngwenya’s throw found Easton and his right-footed cross was perfectly met by Sam Stanton’s diving header, and he guided it beyond the out-stretched Sharp. Dundee 2-2 Rovers.
87 minutes on the clock and Rovers should have won it. Stanton – probably Rovers’ best player on the night – broke into the box and his cut back found Akio, but the striker couldn’t quite connect and his effort was saved by Sharp low to his left. A follow up shot was blocked and cleared by the ‘keeper and his defenders.
Ben Williamson then had a strike to win it for the home side but his shot was superbly blocked by Thomson, after he had dropped the initial cross.
The game had become a proper end-to-end cup-tie but 90 minutes couldn’t separate the teams.
Full-time: Dundee 2-2 Raith Rovers
Rovers were first to threaten in extra-time with a Connolly dribble down the right, which ended in a bit of goalmouth scramble, but the ball stayed out. Williamson’s deflected shot was the next effort but Thomson saved comfortably down to his left. Luke McCowan should have given Dundee the lead 5 minutes into extra-time when he was clean through on goal but pulled his shot just wide of the target. The same player did the same a minute later but this one was further wide.
Rovers got deeper and deeper as the half went on and it was clear the lack of fresh legs from the bench was starting to tell.
Half-time (ET): Dundee 2-2 Raith Rovers
Rovers were first to press in the final period winning a corner but it came to nothing. Dundee’s McCowan then saw a speculative effort from distance fly well wide. Three minutes from time, Spencer saw his effort punched away by Sharp and Dundee cleared for a Rovers’ corner. This turned into five corners in a row but none of them came to anything, and the game finished 2-2.
Full-time (AET): Dundee 2-2 Raith Rovers
Dundee won the coin toss so the penalties took place in front of the home fans, with Rovers taking the first penalty.
Spencer – scored; McGhee – scored. (1-1)
Akio – scored; Williamson – scored. (2-2)
Connolly – saved; Tolaj – scored. (2-3)
Millen – scored; Anderson – saved (3-3)
Easton – scored; Robinson – post and missed (4-3)
Final result: Dundee 2-2 Raith Rovers (Rovers win 4-3 on penalties)
Rovers progress to a third consecutive Final in this competition and will face Hamilton Accies on Sunday March 26th 2023 at a venue to be announced.
by David Proudfoot
Photos Courtesy of Cameron Goodsir – Maguire at Capture Through The Lens Photography
Ian Murray spoke to RaithTV after the win in the SPFL Trust Trophy semi-final against Dundee FC:
Raith Rovers start their big week of cup action this Wednesday evening, when they travel to Dens Park, for their SPFL Trust Trophy semi final tie with Dundee.
The winners will face either Hamilton or Queen of the South, who face off in the other last four fixture on the Tuesday, with the final scheduled for Sunday the 26th of March.
Raith and Dundee have already faced off three times this season, with Rovers winless across the trio of games.
An early Josh Mulligan goal was enough for Dundee to take all three points from Kirkcaldy back in August, while it was Zack Robinson who did the damage in the next game at Dens Park in November, with a brace in a 2-0 win for the Taysiders.
In the most recent match, Aidan Connolly had fired Rovers into the lead at Stark’s Park last month, but a late Jordan McGhee goal meant the points were shared.
The two have met once before in this competition, with Dundee overcoming Rovers in the quarter final stage back in the 1990/91 season, with Gordon Wallace’s team going in to lift the trophy by beating Ayr United in the inaugural final.
Both sides have had difficult runs to reach this stage of the competition, with Dundee knocking out The New Saints, Falkirk and Dunfermline, while defending champions Raith have triumphed over fellow Championship sides Cove Rangers, Morton and Queen’s Park.
Wednesday night’s match referee will be Colin Steven.
Dundee wins: 76
Raith Rovers wins: 35