Raith Rovers 0 Rangers 4
Raith Rovers manager Grant Murray admitted that his team were their own worst enemy against Rangers at Stark’s Park on Friday night.
Rovers were on the wrong end of a 4-0 scoreline for the third time in four matches following the recent hammerings against Dundee and Hearts.
While Rangers produced a clinical display of attacking football, Murray felt his players gave them a helping hand towards an easy win.
“You give a team like Rangers a one-goal start early and it lets them get on top,” he said.
“We looked like going into half-time one goal behind but we brought pressure on ourselves with a couple of mistakes and before you know it we’re 3-0 down. The game then becomes an uphill battle.
“We’ve tried to galvanise the boys for the second half but Rangers quality showed in the end. Even at 4-0 down they were still hunting us down and we needed Ross Laidlaw to make some important saves.
“It’s a heavy defeat and the boys are really disappointed, but we’ve came up against a really good Rangers side.
“We have to pick ourselves up because it’s still early and there’s a lot of important games coming up, starting with Livingston next Saturday.”
Rangers assistant manager Kenny McDowall described the performance as Rangers’ best of the season so far.
“It’s not often you get everyone in the team performing to the standard they did,” he said.
“They’ve been working hard and it’s been coming. It’s no surprise because we know they can play at that level.
“They have been knocked over the last couple of years but they’ve shown the standards they can set.”
The Raith starting team included only four players from the side that beat Rangers in the Ramsdens Cup final in April and a repeat of that historic win never looked on the cards.
The visitors were on the front foot from kick-off and it took them just 16 minutes to make the breakthrough as the dangerous Fraser Aird crossed for Nicky Clark to head home from eight yards, with Raith’s marking non-existant.
The one-way traffic continued - it was men against boys - and the visitors struck twice in less than 20 seconds before half-time to effectively end the match as a contest.
Raith skipper Jason Thomson was at fault as he gifted the ball to Rangers in his own half and midfielder Ian Black charged forward before unleashing a powerful long range shot that took a huge deflection off Paul Watson to leave Laidlaw helpless.
Straight from kick-off Rovers lost possession cheaply again and Rangers flooded forward, working the ball to Nicky Law on the edge of the area, and under little pressure, the midfielder steered a sweet right-foot shot inside the left hand post.
Quality finishing, but Rovers ineptitude made it almost embarrasingly easy for a Rangers team that has struggled of late.
It was effectively a damage limitation job for Raith in the second half although they made a chance inside 60 seconds of the restart as Mark Stewart crossed for Martin Scott, who could only loop his header into the hands of Steve Simonsen.
Still, it was a first effort on target.
Normal service was quickly resumed however as Rangers surged forward in search of a fourth and it looked odds on when Kris Boyd raced clear in 49 minutes only for the normally deadly front man to pull his shot wide.
Laidlaw then denied Boyd with a stunning save in the 55th minute, changing direction superbly to push a close range volley wide before also denying the striker in a one-on-one. Rovers were fortunate Boyd was having one of those nights, as it could’ve been even worse.
Soon afterwards Laidlaw was flying across his line to keep out Clark’s header - the keeper must have felt like he was the only one standing between Rangers and more goals as the team in front of him continued to capitulate.
In a rare Raith attack Thomson saw a 20-yard effort deflected wide for a corner but Rangers were relentless and when sub Grant Anderson tripped Lee Wallace in the box in the 72nd minute, referee Brian Colvin awarded a penalty.
McCulloch stepped up and fired his spot kick low past Laidlaw, who despite losing four goals, was easily Raith’s best performer.
The ‘keeper was again called into action again to deny Law late in the game as Rangers pushed for a fifth.
Scott wasted a chance to put Rovers on the scoresheet in the 89th minute as he looped a header wide from Anderson’s deep cross.
However, by that time a large section of the Raith support had left for home, no doubt mortified by their team’s awful display.
Raith Rovers: Laidlaw, Thomson, McKeown, Perry, Watson, Scott, Moon, Fox (Anderson 60), Conroy, Vaughan (Elliot 77), Stewart. Not used: Callachan, Ellis, Robertson, Bates, McGurn.
Rangers: Simonson, McGregor, Mohsni, Aird, Wallace, McCulloch, Law, Black, MacLeod (Daly 77), Clark (Templeton 70), Boyd (Shiels 77). Not used: Smith, Zaliukus, Peralta, Robinson.
Referee: Brian Colvin