Managerless Raith are humiliated in the Highlands

Victoria Park, home of Ross County FC.
Victoria Park, home of Ross County FC.

Ross County 5 Raith Rovers 0

Raith Rovers were subjected to a football lesson as life after Barry Smith began with a 5-0 humbling in the Highlands.

All five Ross County goals were scored in a humiliating first half as managerless Raith capitulated against the impressive Championship leaders in this Irn-Bru Cup second round tie.

Most of the damage was done by former Rovers striker Brian Graham who helped himself to four first half goals, showing that he's lost none of the prowess that made him such a favourite among the Kirkcaldy faithful during his two year spell at the club under Grant Murray.

For the small band of travelling Raith fans, it was a case of watching the first half unfold through their fingers as the goals rained in, and the same could be said for Kevin Cuthbert, who could not have envisaged such a chastening experience for his first match in charge.

Cuthbert spoke of embarrassment and shame afterwards, but if anyone was blameless for this defeat, it was the caretaker boss.

Left as the only coach at the club, the former goalkeeper set the team up properly, and even changed tactics twice to try and spark a reaction, but the players let him down.

Footballers, though, are only human and events of this week are sure to have impacted the mindset of the squad.

If this was an adverse reaction to the manager's sudden departure, then let's hope the players have now got it out their system in a competition of less priority, because they can't afford to be this far off the pace when the league resumes at Brechin next week.

Two changes were made to the side that collected a 4-0 home win over Forfar the previous week.

Liam Buchanan dropped to the bench - and provided some help to Cuthbert by taking the team warm-up - while Nathan Flanagan was left out the squad due to injury.

In came Lewis Vaughan for this first start of the season following his two goals off the bench last week, while Kyle Benedictus also returned after recovering from a facial injury.

County used the the break from league business to freshen up their starting XI, making five changes to the side that beat Falkirk 2-0 the previous week.

Rovers had a scare in the first minute when Graham found acres of space at the edge of the box but screwed his volley wide.

In the third minute, Raith went close to the opener as Vaughan's 30-yard free-kick struck the top of the crossbar with goalkeeper Ross Munro beaten.

However, most of the early traffic was heading in the opposite direction and by the 10th minute, County had registered four decent attempts, all narrowly off target.

County did not need any encouragement, they were already cutting through with ease, but Raith's sloppiness in possession meant they were unable to relieve the pressure.

The hosts eventually made their dominant start count on 17 minutes when Graham's deft flick from Josh Mullin's cross sent the ball into the bottom corner of the net.

After a difficult week it didn't take much for Raith heads to drop, and they conceded again on 28 minutes.

Graham saw a header denied by a finger-tip save from Wright, but from the corner, the young 'keeper flapped, and Graham was on hand to hook home from close range.

County were in the mood, while Raith were mimicking the national's team defending against Belgium as Jamie Lindsay made in three on 34 minutes.

Graham was denied his hat-trick as his 20-yard effort struck the post, but Raith couldn't clear the danger and the ball was returned to the back post for Lindsay to head home.

Rovers were being completely overrun but instead of showing pride and buckling down until half-time, the visitors simply downed tools and allowed County to add another two goals with ridiculous ease.

The fourth and fifth were both scored by Graham, just two minutes apart, with free headers inside the six yard box taking his individual tally to four. It made the defending at Hampden last night look watertight and Cuthbert could only stare on in disbelief.

His half-time message was simply one of damage limitation and Nat Wedderburn was dropped back from midfield into a five-man defence.

It wasn't enough to restore pride, but at least it stopped things getting any worse.

County continued to dominate despite dropping to second gear, and Raith only threatened to reduce the deficit once when, in a very rare attack, Chris Duggan broke the offside trap down the right and his shot from a narrow angle but blocked by the legs of 'keeper Munro.

The full-time whistle could not come soon enough, and the long journey home only prolonged the disappointment.

Now all eyes are on the board who must now steady the ship as quickly as possible with the right appointment.

A victory at Glebe Park next weekend and this result will be quickly forgotten.

Ross County: Munro, Kelly, Fontaine, Morris, Draper, Lindsay, McKay (McManus 68), Demetriou, Mullin (Dingwall 58), Keillor-Dunn, Graham (Stewart 52). Not used: Fox, Gardyne, Vigurs, Cowie.

Raith Rovers: Wright, Watson (Valentine 84), Murray, Benedictus, McKay, Gillespie, Weddeburn, Matthews, Vaughan (Milne 68), Nisbet (Berry 84), Duggan. Not used: Thomson, Buchanan, Stevenson.

Referee: John Beaton

Attendance 1232