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Raith Rovers 1 Rangers 0: they'll be dancing in the streets of Raith all over again

EVEN a cup sponsored by a pawn­broker can provide memories that money cannot buy.

Raith Rovers manager Grant Murray is hoisted in the air by his jubilant players
Raith Rovers manager Grant Murray is hoisted in the air by his jubilant players

Raith Rovers' great old history has been written, but it is time to pulp the last chapter and add a vibrant update.

The 2014 Ramsdens Cup is not up there with the 1994 League Cup and maybe not even with leading Bayern Munich in the Olympic Stadium. But they were expected to be the quiet patsies against Rangers and instead made themselves the story yet again. Twenty years ago they made a fool of Celtic. This time it was Rangers.

When the Rangers players slumped along to get their runners-up medals there were shouts of "you're a disgrace" from the pockets of their fans still to leave the ground. Most already had, the exodus beginning as soon as John Baird rammed the ball into the net four minutes from the end of extra-time.

Baird's biggest challenge might have been to compose himself amid a fit of giggles at Rangers' awful defending. Greig Spence thought the headlines were his but Cammy Bell saved his shot and the rebound fell to Baird, who was on it like a flash to bury the winner.

What else did this result bury? Some of these players' Rangers careers? Ally McCoist's reputation as manager? It was joy unconfined for Raith and for Kirkcaldy; venom and shame for Rangers. Scarves were thrown in disgust. They are supposed to be halfway through their journey but, boy, it felt like they were back to square one after this.

They did have the better of Raith Rovers - who are seventh in the SPFL Championship, having won only two of their 10 games before this - and Bilel Mohsni should have scored a header in each half but could not hit the target with either of them. Nicky Law floated one elegant shot on to the top of a post. But those chances were not the story of the day. This was an abject Rangers performance, riddled with errors, and lacking in authority and quality.

For Raith's goal Mohsni slipped, Lee McCulloch's attempt to clear was embarrassing and the ball broke off Richard Foster for Spence and then, gloriously for Raith, Baird. Rangers have the second highest wage bill in the country, they pamper their players in fine hotels before games, they have every advantage going, yet this was only the second time this season they have played a team from a higher division and they were immediately exposed.

It was the biggest crowd for any of this cup's finals since the competition began in 1990. Three sides of Easter Road were red, white and blue, an enormous Rangers support descending in party mood. They dominated the atmosphere, of course, but Raith had 4000 who made themselves heard. They were united by one thing: all were witnesses to a truly awful game. Players made mistakes which went unpunished because an opponent quickly made one too. Poor passes, limited technique, miscontrol of the ball, the wrong decisions, yawning periods with no chances or fluffed efforts to apply pressure, the final was an eyesore. Given their experience and reputation Rangers' use of the ball was especially terrible. Foster gave it away, Mohsni gave it away, Steven Smith gave it away, Ian Black gave it away, Lee Wallace gave it away … they all did.

There was excitement in that big Rangers support when they flooded into Easter Road and that soon gave way to exasperation. Mohsni put a header over the bar when no-one was marking him from a Smith free kick. Smith himself forced Lee Robinson into a full-length diving save from a free kick. The Raith goalkeeper began his career with Rangers - the raw material for a cup final hero story was right there - and he did well again to save with his legs when Wallace had a chance at the start of the second half.

Raith's punters were in the Famous Five Stand. Their team gave them a nervous opening, conceding far too many silly free kicks and inviting Rangers pressure, before the game settled into a relatively even non-event. Calum Elliot and Baird are a higher calibre of striker than Rangers have faced this season and their movement and strength meant they were a handful for Mohsni and McCulloch. Raith's great failing was their inability to do enough with all the possession Rangers gifted to them. Elliot pounced on a scrap when Foster slipped but having shaped his body for a shot to curl inside the far post he overhit the effort and put it well wide. He howled for a penalty - and all the Fifers howled with him - when the ball struck McCulloch's arm but the Rangers captain was on the turn and knew little about it.

Mohsni should have buried a back-post header from another fine Smith free kick but mucked that up as well. Rangers often gave away the ball around the edge of the Raith penalty box, inviting counterattacks which would have left them outnumbered, but it did not look like Grant Murray's men were ever going to be good enough to capitalise.

And then it came: one last act of comedy/horror in the Rangers performance, at last a first flash of quality to punish them. After 20 years it was time to dust down that iconic old line: last night they were dancing in the streets of Raith.

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