A bug forced the Fifers to cancel training the day before and almost left them unable to fulfil that fixture but manager Ian Murray was able to field a team come the weekend, though, in a throwback to his team’s injury-ravaged end to last Scottish Championship season, he was only able to name two outfield substitutes.
Both those subs, Josh Mullin and Callum Hannah, had their services called upon, the former replacing Dylan Easton on 63 minutes, scoring four minutes later from a Lewis Vaughan assist, and the latter coming on for Shaun Byrne with just over quarter of an hour left to go.
Mullin’s goal made it 3-0 to the hosts at Kirkcaldy’s Stark’s Park, Callum Smith having put them ahead on 32 minutes from an Adam Masson through ball and Easton having doubled their advantage on 58 following a Sam Stanton assist.
Paul Watson got one back for their visitors from Angus on 72 minutes but Raith held out in front of a crowd of almost 1,400 to ensure progress to next month’s quarter-finals, though home goalkeeper Kevin Dabrowski was forced to pull off a top-drawer save late on to stop 85th-minute substitute Ryan Williamson narrowing the gap further..
“Out of nowhere really, we picked up a lot of sickness over the prior 48 hours, so we had to basically close down the footballing side of things on Friday,” he told Raith TV after Saturday’s win.
“It just wasn’t worth it. If we’d lost one more player, we’d probably not have been able to field a team.
“When you’re working in large groups, like we do, in close proximity to each other, these things can spread like wildfire through the squad really, really quickly.
“A couple of boys today even had no energy. In an ideal world, they wouldn’t have been in the squad and taking part, but we needed them and it’s testament to our mentality and character that they wanted to play.
“When you’ve got guys like Euan Murray and Ross Millen missing out through sickness – experienced professionals and good players – then you know there’s something serious going on, but we’ve managed to weather that and we’ve got through it.
“We’ll need them to really recover this week and make sure they’re ready for Arbroath.
“On the positive side, hopefully that’s our little sickness bug out of the way and we can move on and get everybody healthy.
“I’d expect us to be a bit healthier and stronger next week.”
Raith are on the road at Arbroath this coming Saturday, with kick-off at 3pm, and they go into that trip sitting second in the table, on 17 points from eight fixtures, five points and two league places better off than their hosts at Gayfield Park.
Both Easton and Byrne had to go off injured at the weekend but Murray is hopeful they’ll be available for selection against Arbroath.
Looking ahead to the trophy’s next round, Murray added: “It’s going to be a really competitive last eight and we’re just delighted to be in it again.
“We just want to progress as far as we can.”