Raith Rovers: Disappointment in penalty shootout against lower league rivals

Raith Rovers 1, Stirling Albion 1(Stirling won 5-4 on penalties)

By Ralph Mellon
Saturday, 16th July 2022, 5:32 pm
Updated Saturday, 16th July 2022, 5:32 pm
Aidan Connolly opens the scoring for Raith Rovers against Stirling Albion (picture by Fife Photo Agency)
Aidan Connolly opens the scoring for Raith Rovers against Stirling Albion (picture by Fife Photo Agency)

Raith Rovers faltered at the bonus point spot kick decider stage of their Premier Sports League Cup group match with League Two Stirling Albion on Saturday.

Fans arrived at Stark’s Park in confident mood after their team’s 6-0 destruction of Peterhead in midweek but many may have been disappointed as their team failed to produce similar form against opposition from an even lower division.

A first-half opener by captain for the afternoon, Aidan Connolly, was negated in the second half by an equaliser with a tinge of controversy and, while Rovers had chances, they found Darren Young’s side in tight, well organised form – competent in defence and dangerous on the counter.

The Binos were reduced to 10 men for the final seven minutes after a second yellow card for Jordan McGregor but Rovers couldn’t capitalise and the tie went to a penalty decider for the bonus point.

Jamie MacDonald saved Stirling’s opening kick from Robbie Thomson but Albion stopper Blair Currie denied Quinn Coulson and, at the ‘sudden death’ stage, Scott Brown.

Raith lined up with Dario Zanatta back in the starting XI, after missing their midweek game through suspension, while Kieran Mitchell took a seat on the bench.

Ethan Ross went close with a deflected shot after only a couple of minutes while, at the other end, Kieran Moore got behind the Rovers’ defence in the fourth minute but shot straight at home 'keeper MacDonald.

Albion's Thomson collected a loose pass after eight minutes and ran towards goal but his final shot was hopelessly wide.

Ross decided to go on his own after collecting a long-range pass from Christophe Berra on the left and sent a curling shot narrowly wide.

Stirling were showing some enterprise, however, and Moore floated a free kick into the box which Dale Carrick headed over from just a yard out, with strenuous claims by MacDonald for offside.

Connolly, hwoever, settled Raith after collecting an excellent pass from Scott Brown and scoring in 20 minutes with a precision left-foot drive into the corner of the net.

Cammy Clark came close to an equaliser for Stirling after 29 minutes with a superbly-hit free kick which was equally well saved by MacDonald.

Rovers had a strong shout for a penalty waved away five minutes from half time when a Ross shot from Dylan Easton's lay-off appeared to be handled in the box.

A minute from the break, Stirling Albion equalised amid controversial circumstances when Sam Stanton seemed to be fouled by Carrick but play continued and he transferred the ball to Moore, who scored from close range.

There was still time for Blair Currie in the Albion goal to make a superb close-range save from Scott Brown.

Another mild flashpoint occurred in the 54th minute when Currie appeared to handle the ball outside the penalty area but no action was taken, despite referee Calum Scott being positioned close by.

Ross Millen was cautioned on the hour for protesting about a challenge on Ethan Ross by McLean.

A well-drilled Stirling Albion outfit had an effort on target in 63 minutes, with MacDonald saving a shot from Moore, while Connolly struck the side netting after a good move on 70 minutes.

With seven minutes remaining, Jordan McGregor, who had been booked on 75 minutes for a foul on Easton, was dismissed after a second yellow card for handball.

A shot from Brown with 90 seconds remaining was palmed past by Currie, while Liam Dick cleared from in front of the goal line during three and a half minutes of stoppage time.

Raith’s scorers in the spot kick settler were Gullan, Dick, Mahady and Easton, while on target for Stirling Albion were Cummins, Clark, Burns, Moore and Banner.

Raith Rovers: MacDonald, Dick, Millen (Mahady 85), Berra (Arnott 78), Connolly, Gullan, Zanatta (Mitchell 68), Stanton, Brown, Ross (Coulson 78), Easton. Subs (not used) - Thomson (GK), Young, Masson.

Stirling Albion: Currie, Clark, McLean, McGregor, Cummins, Dunsmore (McGeachie 82), Carrick (Cooper 73), Denholm (Burns 89), Banner, Moore, Thomson. Subs (not used - Law (GK), Wyles, Greenhorn, Harrower, Curtis, Lamont.

Referee: Calum Scott.