Ally McCoist, the Rangers manager, came under renewed fire from angry supporters last night but insisted he did not fear for his future after the favourites crashed to defeat in the Ramsdens Cup final against Raith Rovers.
Fans booed, threw scarves, shouted abuse and left before the end as Raith, 7/1 underdogs to win the final, lifted the cup thanks to John Baird's goal four minutes from the end of extra-time. The SPFL Championship side partied in front of their 4000-strong support in scenes reminiscent of their great 1994 League Cup final glory against Celtic. They had beaten Hibernian in the William Hill Scottish Cup at Easter Road in February and returned there to defy the odds and a 17,000-strong Rangers support.
The result was Rangers' first defeat after 39 games stretching back to August but it was only the second time they have faced a team from a higher division this season. They had some chances but were dreadfully short of quality and terrible defending led to Baird's goal. McCoist has had seven domestic cup knock-outs since becoming manager in 2011 and an eighth seems very likely when Rangers face Dundee United in Saturday's Scottish Cup semi-final at Ibrox. Their only other defeat this season was to Forfar in the League Cup first round.
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"I don't fear for my future at all, no," said McCoist when asked about the inevitable criticism. "There's nobody will need to tell me anything, that's for sure."
He attempted to be philosophical about losing to Raith and denied that it was crucial for his future that Rangers beat United. "I'm not sure it's a 'must win'. We're playing one of the better teams in the country in a cup semi-final for which they'll be favourites. We want to win it, that goes without saying, whether it's a 'must win' I'm not so sure. Do I still think we can get a result against Dundee United? Yeah, definitely. I do.
"I've been here long enough as a player, coach and manager to know there are a lot of unhappy people - none more so than ourselves, the players and staff. I've had some big disappointments. That's up there with all the major disappointments that I've had, but it's not just about me, it's about the team and the club and the players, all of us together. So it's a big disappointment and we need to take it on the chin. We don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves.
"I'm extremely disappointed, as are the players. We didn't play well but I thought we had the better chances. If you don't take your chances you run the risk of losing a goal and that's how it worked out."
The bad news for McCoist was compounded when Lee Wallace came off with a thigh strain; the defender is now a doubt for the semi-final.
Grant Murray, the Raith Rovers manager, had given his men
a simple message before the game and again at half-time: seize your opportunity. "Rangers are a massive club,
I have a lot of respect for them, we were the underdogs going into the game," he said.
"But we told the players they had to have the belief and then they would have a chance.
"It probably wasn't the best game of football there's ever been in a final, but finals are about winning, getting your name on a trophy. When we turned up I told them 'you've got a silver medal . . . go and make it a gold'. What an achievement they've given me, the board of directors, the club and the fans especially.
"You come to a cup final to enjoy the day but you only really enjoy it if you win."