Nineteen years on from the cup final which still stands as the greatest moment in Raith Rovers' 130-year history, the class of 2013 now have the chance to mirror that achievement.
November 27, 1994 is a day which carries great significance to many who frequent Stark's Park. Pictures of that famous League Cup triumph, coming in a penalty shootout win over Celtic after the game was tied at 2-2, still adorn the corridors of the ground, while the goals scored by Stevie Crawford and Gordon Dalziel are spoken about with affection in hostelries throughout the Fife town. Yesterday's 3-0 Ramsdens Cup semi-final win over Annan Athletic at last gives those success-starved fans a fresh topic of conversation to get excited about as they dare to dream of what might be when the final on April 6 eventually comes round.
In the lead after just 50 seconds through Peter Weatherson's own goal, the SPFL Championship team were only troubled fleetingly in the opening half hour as they rampaged towards their first cup final since that historic day at Ibrox in 1994. And, while reaching this term's showpiece is not quite on the same scale as appearing in that of the League Cup, a sense of massive achievement was rightly claimed by Grant Murray.
"To win a semi-final 3-0 and keep a clean sheet is fantastic," said the Raith manager. "The win of 1994 is a massive incentive. The pictures from it are hanging up in the corridors and the players see them every time they come in. I'm sure every one of them wants to be the next player who is on that wall with a medal round their neck and a trophy in their hand."
Raith were absolutely relentless in their pursuit of that final place against either Stenhousemuir or Rangers, with the dynamism of Joe Cardle the catalyst for most of their forward play. The 27-year-old has excelled since leaving Dunfermline Athletic last season, with his guile, excellent close control and delivery a familiar sight yesterday. Indeed, the midfielder's clever play drew a foul in the opening 30 seconds, with his resultant delivery rebounding off Weatherson's lazy leg and into the net to start the rout off. He was to go close himself with a dipping effort seconds before the break whizzing by a post, while his driving run and shot on 54 minutes rattled Kenny Arthur's upright before rebounding to safety.
"I've just heard it is 20 years since the club has been in a final, that just shows how massive a result this is," said Cardle. "It doesn't bother me who we get. I'd happily play the game at Ibrox if we were to get Rangers; the bigger crowd the better."
Jim Chapman's visitors did well not to be rattled by their early lapse, with left-sided midfielder Kieran Brannan the best in a yellow and black jersey. He forced David McGurn into a fine save on 11 minutes with a bending right-foot shot from the edge of the area before Raith's goalkeeper tipped his dinked effort just over the bar a quarter of an hour later.
Yet as the Annan players tired, Raith's sustained pace and stamina proved increasingly troublesome. The Kirkcaldy side eventually capitalised on their dominance on 72 minutes, Cardle again starting things off, his ball finding Callum Booth out wide, with the left-back's drilled cross being knocked goalwards by Greig Spence, allowing Calum Elliot to get the final touch at the back post. That was the former Hearts striker fifth goal of the season, and his sixth came with just seconds remaining in the form of a sumptuous right-foot shot from 20 yards which arced high beyond Arthur. It was no more than they deserved, with several chances spurned to heighten the frustration on Chapman and his men
"We got off to a terrible start," said the Annan manager, who watched Andrew Mitchell go the closest for his side with a 25-yard rasper which cannoned off the bar at 1-0. "You need a bit of luck, you need the right decisions, and I thought the free-kick for the first goal was never a foul. But we gave a very good account of ourselves and I'm immensely proud of my players."