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Hibernian 2 Raith Rovers 3: Raith and wrath as Hibs crash out

With Hibs comfortably placed in mid-table in the Premiership at Easter Road and facing a team from a lower division that had not scored a goal in some five matches, the result was surely inevitable and so it proved.

Raith's Number 5 Dougie Hill is congratulated after scoring his side's second goal Photograph: SNS
Raith's Number 5 Dougie Hill is congratulated after scoring his side's second goal Photograph: SNS

This was, after all, the Scottish Cup.

For Grant Murray, the Rovers manager, it brought back warm memories and ensured that he will have some from his management career to match those from his playing days.

"That's right up there," he said. "I was fortunate enough that when I signed for Raith Rovers in my first season we had a run like this that got us to the Scottish Cup semi-final in 2010. It took performances like that. We had a great win up at Aberdeen and we had a great win at Dundee and this out there today ranks right up there beside that."

With a Scottish Cup quarter-final to look forward to now in a competition that has been blown wide open, all of them can take enormous satisfaction from having done both, not least because of the additional challenges they had to overcome.

Even setting superstition and form aside everything should have favoured the home team once proceedings got under way.

When the big team goes behind in such cup ties and responds immediately with a nerve-settling equaliser, their momentum should be irresistible. That happened not once but twice.

Meanwhile, the wee team's relative lack of strength in depth should also make the loss of one central defender to injury almost impossible to compensate for. Not only did Raith have Reece Donaldson stretchered off with a suspected fractured cheekbone during the first half, but with close to 20 minutes of playing time remaining his partner Dougie Hill also had to be replaced due to a calf niggle.

Naturally then, they were subjected to quite an assault thereafter but one way or another, thanks to a little luck but much more so to resolve, they held out, goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw making some fine stops including one at the very end when he got down quickly to hold a close-range Jordon Forster header.

Even in those closing stages, however, Raith carried sufficient threat that their hosts could not concentrate solely on attack.

Their opener, just six minutes in, was well crafted, Joe Cardle skipping past Michael Nelson down the left to fire in a low cross which was only half cleared into the path of Kevin Moon, who picked his spot with an angled shot from inside the penalty box.

A fine strike, it was nonetheless eclipsed by Sam Stanton's equaliser, measured perfectly from around 22 yards to go in off the inside of Laidlaw's left post after he had cut infield from the right.

Coming just minutes after they had opened the scoring, that might have demoralised the Raith players, as might the sight of Donaldson requiring treatment before being carried off.

They responded to that test of character with their second goal, Hill volleying from close in after a long-range free kick had been headed into his path, only to be subjected to yet another when Nelson rose at the back post to head past Laidlaw a minute later.

Since those goals came just before half-time, the psychological advantage had to lie with Hibs, yet Raith again seized the initiative when, from a Cardle cross, Grant Anderson managed to flick a header over Williams in 61 minutes.

The growing feeling at that stage was that if they could cope with Hibs' raised energy levels for 10 minutes or so this time, the game situation would start to favour Raith as the favourites became jittery.

Hibs tried during that period to employ the methods that had got them back on terms in the first half, Nelson getting on to the end of another cross only for his header to loop over, before Stanton made an incisive run but dragged his shot just wide.

Thereafter, the always creative Duncan Watmore sparked a move which saw Liam Craig provide Paul Heffernan with the best of a series of late opportunities.

Laidlaw, at full stretch, reeled that one in as he and his defenders finished what their creators and finishers had started.

Unsurprisingly, Hibernian manager Terry Butcher failed to share the joy of the Raith travelling party. He said: "No words can describe that, there are a few but I can't repeat them. I am bitterly disappointed. We didn't deserve anything at all."

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