Explosive first half sends Raith into next round

Raith players celebrate Lewis Vaughan's opener. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Raith players celebrate Lewis Vaughan's opener. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Raith Rovers 4 Ross County Colts 0

It was men against boys - quite literally - as Raith Rovers thrashed Ross County Colts in an Irn-Bru Cup mismatch at a sunny Stark's Park.

Raith fielded a full-strength side for the second round tie, but it was their professional approach to the game that made all the difference as their work-rate and movement that was simply too much for the best under 20 side in Scotland last season.

Rovers picked up where they left off at Bayview the previous week as they blew the youngsters away in an explosive first half, scoring four times through a Lewis Vaughan double, Bobby Barr and Liam Buchanan, before taking their foot off the pedal after the break.

With Ross Callachan transferred to Hearts during the week, Ross Matthews took his place in midfield while Euan Murray replaced Kevin McHattie at left back.

New signings Dario Zanatta and John Herron were both unavailable with the on-loan Hearts forward cup-tied, while international clearance for Herron did not arrive in time.

With County Colts having won the SPFL Development League title last season - and having knocked Forfar out in the previous round of the competition - this was not a game Raith could consider a foregone conclusion.

But it was apparent from the offset that the home side were up for it - and given their recent form - that was bad news for County Colts who looked out of their depth in a completely one-sided first half.

The away goal had already come under threat on a few occasions before Vaughan broke the deadlock in spectacular style on six minutes, finding the top corner from 30 yards with a superbly struck free-kick, to score for the ninth game running.

By the 10th minute it was 2-0 as Buchanan showed sublime skill to beat two defenders on his way into the box before teeing up Bobby Barr, who needed two attempts to beat goalkeeper Ross Munro from six yards.

With confidence flowing through the Raith team, the football was top notch, and County Colts were been pulled apart by the formidable front four.

A third goal was coming and it arrived on 20 minutes as Greig Spence forced Munro into a diving save but Vaughan was lurking with intent and he tucked away the rebound from a tight angle.

Six minutes later it was four as a clever corner-kick from Vaughan was played along the deck to Buchanan who swept the ball home from just inside the box.

At this stage it seemed a case of how many Raith would go on to score, particularly as League One leaders were refusing to ease off.

Barry Smith was still barking demands from the touchline, while the players were encouraging each other to keep pushing. This team clearly takes a pride in its work rate.

However, it was always going to be hard to motivate themselves for the second half, and so it proved, with the second 45 effectively a non-event.

Vaughan had a couple of opportunities to complete his hat-trick but fired straight at Munro when well positioned while at the other end, Graeme Smith avoided a completely inactive match by diving to save County's only shot on goal, a 25-yard drive from Russell Dingwall.

The argument over whether Colts teams should be involved in a cup competition for senior clubs is one for the powers-that-be to sort out.

Raith simply got the job done.

Raith Rovers: Smith, Thomson, Murray, Benedictus, Davidson, Robertson, Barr (Berry 76), Matthews, Vaughan, Buchanan (Osei 56), Spence (Court 83). Not used: Brian, McKay, Valentine, Bell.

Ross County Colts: Munro, Kelly, Johnson, S.Morrison, Grivosti, Ashmore, G.Morrison, Dingwall, McKay, Wallace (Turner 64), Maciver. Not used: Herbert, Johnstone, Gallacgher, Murray, Grant, Macbeath.

Referee: Gavin Ross

Attendance: 1035