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'Everyone wrote us off, but we stopped them'

EMOTIONAL Raith Rovers hero John Baird, who was watched by 15 of his family yesterday and scored the Ramdens Cup winner deep into extra-time, believes that strike has justified his faith in his own ability at the end of a difficult season for the striker.

John Baird celebrates his winner. Picture: SNS
John Baird celebrates his winner. Picture: SNS

Baird may be the archetypal Scottish football journeyman, with his second spell at Rovers being the ninth club he has played for, but at the age of 28 he has proven that eventually you can get the rewards.

His winner not only took Rangers to new levels of embarrassment, it will make him a legend in Kirkcaldy. It was made all the better by the fact he had so many members of his family in attendance, travelling through to Edinburgh in a mini-bus.

An unsuccessful spell at Partick Thistle had him wondering whether he still had a future in the game. So he could be forgiven for being a tad teary when he discussed the moment that will join the iconic images of that scoreboard in Munich when Raith Rovers led Bayern Munich and the famous League Cup triumph of almost 20 years ago against Celtic.

"I don't think there are words to describe scoring a winner against one of the Old Firm in a cup final with a minute to go," said Baird. "It's just a dream. These are the things you work for through your career, playing at Montrose, stuff like that, people writing you off. And then you go into a cup final.

"If someone had told me a week before the transfer window closed I'd be playing in a final against Rangers and scoring a winner I wouldn't have believed them because I was at a low. I wasn't playing football.

"So this is just unbelievable. I just know a lot of my family will be proud. They came through in a mini-bus and they pay a lot to watch me. There was 15 of them here today - I could have had more but the mini-bus was packed!"

And Baird admitted Rovers found extra motivation after being written off before the game. Widely available at 6/1 by bookmakers, with pundits also queuing up to dismiss their chances against a team with a wage bill that would leave their chairman Turnbull Hutton speechless, Baird took delight in proving them wrong.

"Everyone wrote us off," he said. "You looked at the papers this morning and we were written off as well and quite rightly so. That's a team with Premiership players. They've been cherry picked to come and win finals and take Rangers where they have to go. That was a big day in Rangers history today - and we were the ones to stop them."

Raith's spirit was summed up by Calum Elliot, who admitted his recollection of much of the game was hazy after being taken off with concussion following a clash of heads with Rangers captain Lee McCulloch. "I can't even remember what happened at the collision," he said. "I remember going back and asking who I was supposed to be picking up. I think they thought I was at it! The chance I had was the last thing I can remember. Or the first thing I can remember . . . before that is a bit of a blur.

"I think we were spurred on by being written off. We saw some comments towards the players in the papers that were a wee bit embarrassing. If anything, we looked at it and thought it was going to be our day today. And I thought we were different class.

"We didn't need to pin anything up in the dressing room. We saw the comments in the papers when they seemed to be already talking about their next game. They thought they were going to win. But we have a determination in our dressing room that is second to none."

Rangers had the humiliation of not only suffering a hugely humbling defeat, but also had to watch some of their irate 17,000 fans fling scarves onto the pitch as their anger was made clear.

And striker Jon Daly admitted the fans had every right to make clear their displeasure and vowed to make it up to them in next week's William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final against his old club, Dundee United. "They turned out in great numbers again for us, they're disappointed, as are we," he said. "We were favourites and there was an expectation we'd go on and win the game.

"We didn't take our chances and they are more than right to air their disappointment and we need to respond to it and try to give them something to cheer about next week.

"We're bitterly disappointed, we created enough chances to win the game but didn't take them and you must give Raith credit for sticking in and taking their chance when it came along at the end. Scoring so late in extra time doesn't give you a lot of time to go and get an equaliser and you must give them credit for the way they have set up and it has paid off for them.

"At the moment there's a time of reflection and over the next day or two we'll see what happens and where we went wrong. We didn't play as well as we could but still had the better chance in the 90 minutes and Nicky Law hit the post in extra-time. But that's cup finals for you, if you don't take your chances you're going to get beat."

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