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Contrast between cup success and league struggle is a baffling mystery

THERE are some things in football that are just impossible to figure out.

How on earth did Emile Heskey earn 62 England caps? How did Greece beat the continent's best to win Euro 2004? And who at Liverpool thought paying £35m for Andy Carroll would be money well spent? To add to that list of unfathomable mysteries can be added Raith Rovers, 2013/14.

The disparity in the Kirkcaldy club's league form this season in relation to their performances in the cup makes for a curious case indeed. You have to go back three months to find the last time Raith won a league match, a 10-game unhappy sequence that has seen them slip perilously close to the relegation play-off spot of the SPFL Championship. In stark contrast stands their cup form.

In three knock-out competitions this season they have lost only once, and that a contentious League Cup defeat to Hearts on a penalty shoot-out. Raith had been leading that game only to be pegged back after their Premiership visitors were awarded what was considered a soft penalty. "We played well at Stark's Park against Hearts in the League Cup until that 'sniper' shot Jamie Hamill from the crowd - we've never found out who shot him yet," was how Turnbull Hutton, the Raith chairman, described that decision.

There have been happier outcomes in the other two cup competitions. Raith will face Rangers in the Ramsdens Cup final next month after battling their way through ties with Stirling Albion, Dunfermline, Falkirk and Annan Athletic. They have enjoyed a similarly prosperous run in the William Hill Scottish Cup, especially considering all three of their ties to date have been played away from home. If Raith had been expected to take care of East Stirlingshire in round three, then they were certainly outsiders when they played Dundee and then Hibernian.

They won both ties, a 1-0 win at Dens Park in November followed by a thrilling 3-2 victory at Easter Road last month that paved the way for this afternoon's quarter-final crack at St Johnstone. Victory will set up a frenetic finish to the season for Raith in three competitions, dreams of cup success offset by fears over their Championship status. The contrast in form is baffling even to those involved.

"We've had a few injuries this season but we had those injuries in the cup games as well so it really is hard to put your finger on it," Grant Anderson, scorer of the winning goal against Hibs, told Herald Sport.

"It's frustrating to say the least, especially given we were playing well in the league at the start of the campaign."

St Johnstone, as the Premiership side, will start the lunchtime tie as favourites but only the boldest of punters would bet the house on Tommy Wright's side given Raith's cup form this year. "You don't want to go in with the mentality that you can beat anyone as that's how you become complacent," added Anderson. "So we'll give St Johnstone the respect they deserve given they are the Premiership side.

"But given our cup form so far this season we've got a great chance of going through. Another cup run would be a real bonus."

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