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Hibs 2 Raith Rovers 3: Nobody safe...team to be chopped up by Butcher

The pauses, then the extra emphasis placed on the end of key sentences during Terry Butcher's post-match analysis outlined the scale of the opportunity missed by Hibernian at Easter Road on Saturday.

Raith Rovers players celebrate after Grant Anderson scores the winning goal at Easter Road. Picture: SNS
Raith Rovers players celebrate after Grant Anderson scores the winning goal at Easter Road. Picture: SNS

The current squad know there is an expectation that their new manager will bring about wholesale changes in pursuit of his preferred playing style unless given persuasive evidence that he need not.

They knew, too, that the way things are going in the William Hill Scottish Cup this season that this was a particular chance to make a mark on history. "There's a lot of work to be done, so what team I'll put out next week is anybody's guess because virtually every position is up for grabs. And I mean up for grabs," Butcher said afterwards of his players' immediate prospects.

As for the misfired shot at glory he added: "[With] the history that Hibs has with the Scottish Cup, we've let the fans down badly today. Big time."

To place that in context, Hibs were at home, against a team that had not scored a goal since December 21 and was to lose both its central defenders in the course of the game.

Butcher did also rightly absolve Sam Stanton from responsibility, as the scorer of the first of their equalisers, as well as Duncan Watmore, which was all the more telling given how recently the latter was recruited.

Both offered danger whenever they were given the chance to do so, but that they were able to less and less as the game went on, at least until an inevitable late flurry, spoke to the way the SPFL Championship side grew in confidence.

To his credit, as disappointed as he was with his own men, Butcher readily congratulated the opposition and praised their repeated harassment of his defenders, their appetite to win second balls, their passing and their eagerness to disrupt which contributed to the Fifers' haul of four yellow cards. All of which represents a considerable compliment to his Raith counterpart Grant Murray, for whom this was quite a feat of management after such a goal drought.

To help get the mindset right he reminded his players not of the past month and a half but of the highly encouraging way they had begun the season. "When you come to ties like this you've got to have a belief that you can do something," Murray explained. His side had done just that, three times over the course of the afternoon with first-half shots from Kevin Moon and Dougie Hill followed decisively after the break by Grant Anderson's flicked header.

"We had that belief when we started the season in our league, which is a difficult league, with a 15-game unbeaten run so we knew we could do it," he added.

Twice that belief was tested, first by Stanton's measured strike, then when Hill's goal - that had looked to have been perfectly timed just ahead of the interval - was immediately cancelled out by a Michael Nelson header. However, with Joe Cardle in particular ensuring that the ball was frequently put into dangerous places, they remained positive throughout.

By contrast, Butcher's job is to persuade his men to show as much energy when on level terms as when they fall behind. To that end he said he could not wait to start preparing for next week's match, wished they could have been playing again the next day and would be interested to see how many of his current players felt the same way.

Similarly, albeit for different reasons, Murray made the right noises about returning to focusing on the league tomorrow, but as they sit some 13 points behind the Championship leaders, the excitement of cup competition - with the Ramsden Cup final against Rangers to come as well - will ensure a buzz around Kirkcaldy for the rest of the season.

First up, though, comes a winnable quarter-final, at home, in this tournament against St Johnstone in March.

"I told the players they've got to enjoy ties like this," said Murray. "A huge crowd, a fantastic stadium and the only way we'll enjoy it is to perform well or win the game."

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