THEY had gone five games without getting a goal but, against Hibs, it took Raith Rovers just six minutes to end the drought and kickstart their season with the kind of triumph that will bolster confidence as they face up to big games ahead.
Hibernian 2-3 Raith Rovers
Scorers: Hibernian - Stanton (14), Nelson (45); Raith Rovers - Moon (6), Hill (45), Anderson (62)
For Hibs, in this competition, it never rains but it pours. Twice the finalists from the past two seasons pegged back the Championship side, and twice it counted for nothing as Grant Murray’s men showed immense character and composure to enhance their cup pedigree.
“Not many people gave us a chance but, inside the changing room, we were confident and, luckily, we got through,” said Kevin Moon, who netted the Kirkcaldy side’s first goal of 2014.
“There are a lot of good teams left in the competition but the only cup tie we’ve lost this season was to Hearts, on penalties, in the League Cup. That’s quite a lot of games now. The manager’s good at getting us motivated for the cup competitions.”
The win sees Raith through to the quarter-finals, where they will now face St Johnstone, and they will also return to Easter Road on 6 April to play Rangers in the final of the Ramsdens Cup.
“We’ve also got that final coming up in this stadium so it’s been a great test for the boys. When it comes around, the manager will be able to say ‘we’ve done this before’ so he’ll expect us to perform,” added Moon
Those are the kind of cup runs that many more illustrious Premiership sides can only dream of now. Having dealt with Hibs, the boost for everyone still in the Scottish Cup is the lack of top-flight teams still contesting matters. “A lot of big teams are out,” said Moon, “and no disrespect to anyone else but it’s a great chance for any side to go and win it. But, I’ve had three semi-finals in the past so I won’t be looking too much into that. We’ve just got to enjoy this.”
No-one, not even the opposition could deny that Rovers did just that. Hibs manager Terry Butcher gave them huge credit for the way they contested every ball, took their chances and ruffled his players. Raith manager Grant Murray said he never doubted his player’s ability to get a result.
Moon said: “The gaffer had been saying to us through the week that we had to remember the way we’d played when things had been going well. Credit to him – he set us up strongly and we got the victory. We’ve been creating chances and not been getting the breaks then we go and score three goals.
“It didn’t matter who got the first goal. But you could see that it gave the boys a lift and that’s what we’ve needed in recent weeks. Hopefully, now we can take this into our league form.”
It wasn’t until the second half that Raith really took control, though. They took the lead twice in the first half, initially through Moon when the impressive Joe Cardle sent a cross into the danger area, finding the midfielder who drove it home.
The home side equalised eight minutes later thanks to Sam Stanton. Along with the impressive Duncan Watmore, the youngster was a bright spark in a team of under-performers. Having already looked lively as Hibs looked to build attacks, Stanton took a more direct approach by lashing a 20-yard drive towards goal and the ball found the net via Raith keeper Ross Laidlaw’s left-hand post.
The upright denied Ross Callachan at the other end after Hobs goalir Ben Williams had got a touch but Raith were not to be put off. Despite the uncertainty of an enforced reshuffle after defender Reece Donaldson was carried off following a clash of heads, they kept their focus. That composure was rewarded with a goal in the 45th minute.
Another ball into the box was directed into the net by the outstretched leg of Dougie Hill, with Hibs’ appeals for offside waved away by referee Steven McLean, who claimed the ball had taken a slight deflection on its way through to the Raith player. However, Hibs did use that sense of frustration to carve out an instant response, Michael Nelson heading past Laidlaw from a Liam Craig corner.
Raith, though remained undaunted, getting their third goal when Grant Anderson headed another Cardle cross into the top corner in the 62nd minute.
This time it was a lead they looked more comfortable with and it took Hibs until the closing stages to really threaten a third equaliser. Stanton, Haynes and Paul Heffernan all sent in efforts on goal, while Nelson hit the bar ,but Rovers held firm.
“The manager did a lot of work on our organisation and I think it showed,” said Moon. “We rode our luck at times but you have to do that coming to places like this.”
Luck played only a small part, however. It was a result Raith’s performance merited.