Kilmarnock 2-2 Raith Rovers: Raith Rovers win 5-4 on penalties to keep Viaplay Cup hopes alive
Rovers gaffer Ian Murray had admitted pre-match that a shootout victory was the very minimum required to keep alive the Kirkcaldy side’s hopes of qualifying for the second round and they managed it after an entertaining encounter.
The two points gained for Raith, fielding the same starting 11 for the third consecutive match, puts them third on six points from three games in Group F and means that victory in their final section game at Annan Athletic this Saturday will guarantee at worst a second-placed finish in the group and give Rovers at the least a chance of qualifying as one of the best three group runners-up.
Killie – who had won their first two group games under former Aberdeen gaffer Derek McInnes – signalled their intentions at Rugby Park on Wednesday night when Liam Polworth’s low effort from distance went just past the post.
The late first half action was all heading towards the Raith goal and the East Ayrshire side’s pressure paid off on 42 minutes when Innes Cameron turned in a cross at the near post to net past Dabrowski and open the scoring.
It almost got worse for Murray’s men shortly afterwards when Raith’s giant Polish keeper made an excellent stretched save in the dying embers of the opening 45 minutes.
Clearly Murray’s subsequent half-time team talk had the desired effect as his team levelled within a minute of the second half starting, Dylan Easton netting with a shot which went in off the post after fine set-up play on the right by Scott McGill.
Smith and Easton then both came close to putting Raith ahead as the Fife side established their superiority after the break, before Liam Dick headed home in brilliant style but the ‘goal’ was disallowed for offside.
And this pattern of play was rewarded when Raith did go 2-1 up on 73 minutes, and it was the aforementioned Dick who struck.
The number three thumped the ball high into the net past home keeper Will Dennis after Easton’s initial shot had been blocked.
Rovers were deservedly ahead, but then suffered the pain of conceding a scrappy equaliser with just 10 minutes remaining when Killie’s Stuart Findlay scrambled the ball in after Danny Armstrong’s set-piece.
That meant penalties and Josh Mullin netted first for Raith before Dabrowski saved Killie’s opener from former Rovers player Daniel Armstrong.
Smith, Jack Hamilton and Vaughan then scored Raith’s next three spot kicks, with Matty Kennedy, Kyle Magennis and Marley Watkins doing likewise for Kilmarnock to make it 4-3 Raith after four penalties each.
But it then became sudden death as Easton blasted his effort over the bar and Polworth equalised at 4-4.
Dylan Corr then restored Raith’s lead and Dabrowski saved from Cameron to seal Raith’s success.
Kilmarnock: Dennis, Mayo, Findlay, Ndaba, Armstrong, Watson, Lyons (Magennis 68), Polworth, Kennedy, Murray (Watkins 69), Cameron.
Raith: Dabrowski, McGill, Watson, Corr, Dick, Easton, Stanton, Mullin, Vaughan, Smith, Gullan (Hamilton 78).
Referee: John Beaton