Dressing room lock-in as Raith Rovers humbled by Cove Rangers

Raith midfielder Regan Hendry is fouled by Cove defender Scott Ross. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Raith midfielder Regan Hendry is fouled by Cove defender Scott Ross. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Cove Rangers 3 Raith Rovers 0

Raith Rovers players were kept in the dressing room for an hour after this humbling at the hands of Cove Rangers.

The final Betfred Cup group match may have been a dead rubber in terms of progression to the knock-out stages, but the manner of the defeat has set alarm bells ringing ahead of next week's league opener at Dumbarton, with the performance described by manager John McGlynn as both "unacceptable" and "embarrassing".

Rovers were second best in every department to the SPFL newcomers, who had enough chances to inflict an even more humiliating loss, prompting a seething response from the Raith boss when he finally emerged from a lengthy post-mortem with his players.

"We let ourselves down, the club down and the fans down by coming up here and not showing the attitude that was required," McGlynn added.

"We can't have that happening, and hopefully it's something we can respond from."

The biggest worry based on this Betfred Cup campaign is that last season's major shortcoming does not appear to have been addressed with the frustratingly recognisable trait of losing cheap goals contributing to the team finishing bottom of the group.

Rovers made three changes to the side that produced an impressive 3-1 home win over Peterhead in midweek with David McGurn replacing Ross Munro in goals, Jamie Watson stepping into right back for Michael Miller, who was attending a family wedding in America, and Grant Anderson displacing Joao Victoria.

In his first spell in charge McGlynn's teams were renowned for being well organised and hard to beat, but too often throughout this second spell those characteristics have been missing, and this was another example.

The manager warned all week that last season's Highland League champions were not to be taken lightly - after all they had beaten Rovers at the same stage last season - but it appeared to fall on deaf ears as his team were passive from the off.

The ease with which Cove set up their first attack in the third minute set the tone, as the Raith midfield were caught napping, allowing Jamie Masson to collect a kick-out from the goalkeeper in space, run unchallenged towards goal, before teeing up the impressive Declan Glass for a shot that went narrowly wide from the edge of the box.

McGurn was required to make two stunning point-blank saves as Cove continued to create openings with worrying ease, first from a Martin Scott header, then from Chris Antoniazzi close range effort, with both players finding themselves unmarked six yards from goal.

Rovers were also looking vulnerable at set pieces, and two headers from Daniel Higgins and Scott Ross had to be cleared off the line, with the lack of a commanding presence apparent.

With Aberdeen temperatures reaching 22 degrees referee Craig Napier called a water break on 25 minutes, which allowed McGlynn to gather his players for a pep talk, and for a brief spell Rovers gained some control of the match, with Lewis Allan finally testing Stuart McKenzie with a powerful 25-yard strike that the 'keeper held.

But in typical Raith fashion, they just had to shoot themselves in the foot on the stroke of half-time.

The two centre-halves were caught miles apart with Iain Davidson initially giving the ball away, then Kyle Benedictus selling himself on the halfway line allowing Glass to run unchallenged towards the box, before setting up Masson on his left to steer a low shot beyond McGurn.

If the Rovers fans who had travelled over 90 miles hoped their team's problems would be addressed at half-time they were left sorely disappointed as the home side doubled their lead just seven minutes after the restart.

Watson afforded Masson far too much space on the left and his low cross was blocked by Davidson, who only succeeded in setting up Daniel Park for a shot at goal, and although the centre-back recovered to make a block, the ball fell to Antoniazzi who had the simple task of clipping the ball into a gaping net.

Raith's response was to bring Victoria off the bench and he provided some attacking spark, setting up chances for both Regan Hendry, who fired over the bar from 16 yards, and Allan, who saw his effort blocked by goalkeeper McKenzie.

Davidson appeared to be carrying an injury and was replaced by Fernandy Mendy, McGlynn's big recruitment gamble, with the Frenchman still looking to settle into Scottish football after a shaky start to his Rovers career.

It should have been 3-0 on 73 minutes when both Mendy and Benedictus stood claiming offside but the flag stayed down allowing Jordon Browne to go one-on-one with McGurn, but his attempt was weak allowing the Raith 'keeper to save.

The miss only delayed the third goal by a matter of seconds as in Cove's next attack, nobody closed down Glass at the edge of the area and he thumped a stunning strike into the net via the inside of the post that left McGurn with no chance.

Rovers were now well beaten but a misjudgement in the Cove defence allowed Allan a chance to claw one back as he ran through on goal, but the striker appeared to be held back and his effort in the end was easily held by McKenzie.

A fourth goal would not have flattered Cove and they were only denied one by the crossbar as Glass again was afforded the space to have a shot from the edge of the box which skimmed the woodwork on its way over.

Conceding 11 goals in four games, culminating in a convincing defeat to lower league opposition, is far from ideal preparation for the league campaign, but a good start at Dumbarton next week and the Betfred Cup results will be quickly forgotten.

If this is a sign of things to come, however, then Rovers fans have every right to be concerned with the direction the club is heading.