Raith Rovers struggle to Scottish Cup win over Peterhead

Raith Rovers striker Kieron Bowie celebrates his third minute header which proved to be the winner against Peterhead. Pic: Duncan Brown
Raith Rovers striker Kieron Bowie celebrates his third minute header which proved to be the winner against Peterhead. Pic: Duncan Brown

Raith Rovers 1 Peterhead 0

The notion that the result is the be-all-and-end-all in cup football was certainly evident at Stark's Park yesterday afternoon.

Raith Rovers were firmly second best for the vast majority of this third round tie at home to Peterhead yet they are the ones looking forward to tonight's draw.

Kieron Bowie's third minute header was virtually the only moment of quality the home side produced but it was enough to see them through.

The sense of disbelief was shared by both managers with Jim McInally bemoaning the referee for failing to award two "stonewall" penalties in the first half, while John McGlynn admitted his team had got out of jail.

"That was a struggle for 88 minutes," the Rovers boss said.

"In my two spells here I can't count too many times, if at all, where I can say, how did we win that game?

"To be fair to them they played really well, but we can't allow the opposition to have so much of the ball.

"From a performance point of view we've got to bin it."

Rovers lined up with the same 11 that secured a 3-2 win over Elgin in the Challenge Cup the previous Friday, but tactically, there were significant changes.

The back three was ditched in favour of a four-man defence, with Iain Davidson turning back the clock with an appearance in midfield in a throwback to McGlynn's first spell at the club.

It was a surprising move and one that didn't work as Rovers were forced back for almost the entire game, with Davo doing his best work in his own penalty box, particularly late in the second half with a brilliant goal-saving block.

Even before Bowie's third minute opener, Peterhead had twice gone close to opening the scoring themselves.

There were less than 30 seconds on the clock when the first chance fell to Simon Ferry who lobbed the ball onto the roof of the net after a simple ball over the top caught out the Raith defence.

Ex-Raith man Ryan Conroy then showed he still carries a threat from set pieces as his 25-yard effort struck the post.

Rovers sped to the other end where John Baird floated an inch-perfect cross onto the head of Bowie who steered a superb header beyond Greg Fleming for his eight goal of the season, and his third in two games.

It was another impressive finish from the teenager, which will have impressed the Arsenal scout in the stand, as well as the watching Dundee United manager Robbie Neilson.

If Raith fans hoped the goal would settle their side after a rocky start, they were sadly mistaken as Peterhead continued to dominate.

There were two solid penalty shouts within a minute when Ben Armour sped past a static Steven Anderson before falling under a challenge from Ross Munro. Referee Steven Reid took a long hard look but decided to keep his whistle in his pocket.

In the next attack, Kyle Benedictus slid in to block Armour just six yards from goal and the ball inadvertently struck his hand. Again, the referee turned a blind eye to leave the visitors enraged.

Still, Peterhead flooded forward and proceeded to miss a glorious chance on the half hour mark when Munro was forced off his line to palm the ball away from Rory McAllister, but only to Armour who steered a side-foot volley wide of the gaping net from 18 yards

If that was a let-off, then good defending prevented the visitors from equalising a minute later when Jordon Brown's powerful header from a Conroy corner was cleared off the line by Brad Spencer.

It had been a backs-to-the-wall first half for the completely out-of-sorts home side and there were groans of disapproval from the home support despite the scoreline.

Bowie failed to reemerge for the second half having taken a knock on the ankle, as Raith brought Lewis Allan off the bench, and while Peterhead created far fewer chances after the break, they continued to dominate.

In a rare Rovers counter attack on 65 minutes, Kieran MacDonald raced down the left and crossed for Ross Matthews to send a diving header narrowly wide.

Both Grant Anderson and Tony Dingwall came off the bench as McGlynn changed tactics, but still Raith could not get to grips with the game.

They were, however, more solid at the back than they had been in the first half, clearing everything that came into the box, with countless headers and blocks keeping Peterhead at bay.

With 13 minutes left, the goal opened up for Paddy Boyle and an equaliser looked certain as he pulled the trigger only for Davidson to fling himself in front of the left back's powerful close range effort.

Munro showed excellent handling throughout, making several saves from mostly well-struck long range efforts, and was probably the only Raith player on the day to produce an error-free performance.

In a last throw of the dice Peterhead sent everyone forward for an injury-time corner, including goalkeeper Fleming, only for McAllister to flash a header narrowly wide.

Rovers had rode their luck, and will certainly need to play much better if they are to reclaim first place in League One when Forfar visit Stark's Park on Tuesday.