Raith Rovers scrape through in Challenge Cup - and that's all that matters

Lewis Allan struck a double in the win over Ross County Colts.
Lewis Allan struck a double in the win over Ross County Colts.

Ross County Colts 2 Raith Rovers 3

Make no mistake, the result was all that mattered up in Dingwall on Tuesday night.

That Raith Rovers were fortunate to scrape through this Tunnock's Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup tie against Ross County Reserves is almost irrelevant, much like the competition itself, which has been ruined to an extent that even managers now admit it's a non-priority.

"To be honest, it's a game we could have done without," was John McGlynn's initial post-match assessment - and you can't blame him for taking that view.

A 320-mile midweek round trip to face a Colts side in a supposed 'regionalised' draw was an unappealing prospect - as shown by an attendance of just 264 - and huge credit to the small band of die hards who made the journey from Kirkcaldy.

With a number of injuries and knocks, Raith named just 14 players in the squad - no sub 'keeper - and even then, the three who filled the bench were not 100 per cent.

Given the circumstances, Ross Matthews' 89th minute winner came as a huge relief, not only to avoid an embarrassing result - albeit one that would have been quietly brushed under the carpet - but to avoid the prospect of extra-time, risking further injuries.

Rovers made four changes from the side that beat Clyde 5-2 on Saturday with ypungsters Dave McKay, Jamie Watson, Jack Smith and Dylan Tait all drafted into the starting 11, with the latter making his first start for the club.

The League One side had looked comfortably on their way through the tie at half-time as a quickfire double from Lewis Allan had given them a 2-0 lead.

The striker pounced on a misjudgement from goalkeeper Tommy Dixon-Hodge on 32 minutes, who left his box but got nowhere near the ball, to finish into an empty net.

Three minutes later, he raced onto a glorious outside-of-the-boot pass from Regan Hendry before sending a low shot towards goal that Dixon-Hodge got a hand to, but could not keep out, for his fourth of the season.

Dylan Tait, making his first senior start for Raith, and who showed an eagerness to get on the ball, went close to making it three with a diving header that the County 'keeper stopped with his legs at point-blank range.

Despite the scoreline, County Colts had impressed with some of their play in the first half, and with Raith minds clearly turning to Stranraer on Saturday, the youngsters took a firm grip of the game after the break, with chance after chance being created.

The pressure paid off on 55 minutes when the impressive Davis Keillor-Dunn, who has featured 40 times for the County first team, back-heeled home a cut-back from the equally eye-catching Harry Paton to reduce the deficit to one.

Rovers performance disintegrated after that to the extent that the County youngsters were peppering the away goal with alarming regularity, and David McGurn was required to make several excellent saves to keep the hosts at bay.

Keillor-Dunn also went agonisingly close to an equaliser with a long-range effort that cannoned down off the underside of the crossbar.

McGlynn made all three subs within a five-minute spell in an attempt to stem the tide - bringing Iain Davidson, Brad Spencer and Keiran MacDonald off the bench.

For a spell Raith regained some composure but a rare mistake by McGurn in the 83rd minute gifted County an equaliser as he dropped Keillor-Dunn's free-kick into his goalmouth, and Mark Gallagher pounced for an equaliser the hosts more than deserved.

With reputations now at stake, Rovers regrouped at 2-2 and started to go back on the attack - something they had forgot to do for the entire second half.

They were rewarded in the 89th minute when Hendry's brilliance took him down the right and into the box, where his cut-back was thumped home by the inrushing Matthews, to inflict a harsh defeat on the home side, and put Rovers into the hat for today's third round draw.

"Cup ties are all about getting through and we found a way to win," McGlynn added.

The real victory, however, was simply getting through the tie without any further injuries.

Ross County Colts: Dixon-Hodge, Kelly, Reid, Fraser, Murray, Hughes, Dunn, Gallagher, Wallace, Paton, MacDonald (Wright 58).

Not used: Williamson, Grant, Mackenzie, Wright, Stephen.

Raith: McGurn, Miller, Benedictus (Davidson 64), Hendry, Allan, Anderson, Matthews, McKay, Watson, Smith (MacDonald 69), Tait (Spencer 66).

Referee: Graham Beaton

Attendance: 264