Raith Rovers 0 Hibernian 2
The urgent need for a goalscorer was again evident at Stark’s Park yesterday as Raith Rovers were knocked out of the Scottish Cup by Hibs.
There was much to admire about the Raith performance - particularly the first half as they got stuck into the pre-match favourites - but it was again the lack of clinical edge in the final third that prevented Rovers from cashing in.
The difference between the sides was highlighted in the second half as Hibs made the most of their best spell of the match, scoring twice thanks to a brace of quality strikes in the space of two minutes, while Raith had nothing to show for their hard work.
Raith boss Ray McKinnon said afterwards that he hopes to announce the signing of a much-needed striker on Monday as he reflected on his team’s fourth round exit.
“I thought we were excellent in the first half,” he said.
“We were really good - but you need to capitalise especially against a really good team like Hibs at this level.
“We never done it and we paid the penalty in the second half.
“I said at half-time that we could go on and win this game - I thought we were on top and had the better chances.
“But Hibs are a good team, and they have matchwinners. When you can drop Cummings and bring in Dagnall that shows the gulf.
“But I can’t fault my players again - they gave it everything but ran out of steam in the second half.
“It’s very difficult to dominate a team like Hibs for 90 minutes and when they had their spell they got two goals- that’s the difference.
“They punished us when they were on top, and we didn’t punish them when we were on top.”
Rovers had expected to bring top goalscorer to bring top scorer Mark Stewart back into the side but the forward called off sick on the morning of the match for the second week running.
It left Raith with a strike force that has just one goal each to their name this season as Jon Daly - playing the last game of his senior career before moving into a coaching role at Hearts - partnered Mitch Megginson up front.
Raith’s only change from the previous week’s 1-0 defeat in the league at Easter Road was the return of Iain Davidson to defence, with David Bates moving to right back.
However, there was a clear change of approach as Raith, who spent most of last week in their own half, looked to attack Hibs at every opportunity.
Clear goalscoring chances were at a premium in the first half, but the Kirkcaldy side impressed with their endeavour, spirit and quality of football at times.
The midfield had a good balance with Ross Matthews and Scott Robertson breaking up play, while Ross Callachan and James Craigen looked to get on the ball and support the front two at every opportunity.
Callachan was first into referee Willie Collum’s book for a crunching challenge in the fifth minute as the match started proper cup tie in early stages with tackles flying in.
Raith came close to an opener on 15 minutes as Craigen’s cross was knocked towards his own goal by Marvin Bartley, under pressure from Callachan, and goalkeeper Mark Oxley had to make a diving save to prevent the ball crossing the line.
A superb Raith move followed on 24 minutes they won possession at their own corner flag, broke forward at speed, and Rory McKeown raced onto Craigen’s cross at the back post with perfect timing only to fire high over the bar.
Raith were enjoying a good opening half as Callachan’s tricked his way into the box but his low cut back found no takers, then moments later he curled high and wide from a good position at the edge of the area.
It took 36 minutes for Hibs to register a goal attempt as John McGinn’s corner was headed back across goal and Liam Fontaine hooked a volley high over the bar.
Raith were back on the front foot in the 39th minute as Jon Daly’s knockdown was left by Mitch Megginson for the inrushing Craigen who could only stab an effort wide from 14 yards.
He was under pressure but it was good chance.
All that was missing from Raith’s play was a goal and the hosts started the second half looking for one as McKeown’s cut-back resulted in Craigen twice seeing efforts blocked at close range.
Hibs took encouragement from Raith’s failure to take the lead and the visitors started to show their teeth on the hour mark when only an amazing finger-tip save from Kevin Cuthbert kept out Chris Dagnall’s top corner bound effort.
However, the Raith ‘keeper was beaten just two minutes later as Kyle Benedictus’ sliced a clearance straight to Darren McGregor who struck a powerful swerving shot underneath the diving Cuthbert from the edge of the area.
Before Raith could recover, Hibs doubled their lead as Dominic Malonga picked the ball up 25 yards from goal, and under no pressure, he picked his spot in the top corner of the net.
Raith should have pulled one back immediately when Grant Anderson, just off the bench, crossed for Daly and his knockdown was missed just two yards out by Megginson.
A couple of late long range efforts from Callachan - Raith’s best player on the day - were as much as Raith could offer in the closing stages as Hibs comfortably made it through to the last 16 of the cup.
The Edinburgh side only showed up for the last half an hour but against a team lacking a goal threat, that was enough.
Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Bates, Davidson, Benedictus, McKeown, Matthews (Anderson 65), Callachan, Robertson, Craigen, Megginson, (McCord 79) Daly.
Subs not used: Law, Petrie, Court, Ford, Ellis.
Hibs: Oxley, Gunnarsson (McGregor 54), Hanlon, Fontaine, Stevenson, Bartley (Henderson 59), McGeouch, McGinn, Keatings, Dagnall, Malonga (Boyle 84).
Subs not used: Brennan, Forster, Shaw, Anier.
Referee: Willie Collum