STEPHEN GLASS couldn’t hide his disappointment after watching his Aberdeen side surrender a first-half lead against Raith Rovers and exit the Premier Sports Cup at the last-16 stage.

A Jay Emmanuel-Thomas thunderbolt had the visitors ahead and cruising at Stark’s Park before a Dario Zanatta-inspired comeback sent the team from Kirkcaldy into the last eight of the competition for the first time since 1994.

“It’s an enormous blow, you can’t hide from it,” said the exasperated Dons manager at the full-time whistle. “Particularly because of the way we played in the first half but we just couldn’t put it to bed.

“That’s probably a bigger blow than just losing the game because we were in control of it.

“We’re all bitterly disappointed but the important thing now is the reaction. The reaction in the game wasn’t great – there was a bit of adversity in the second half and it became a real cup tie – but the reaction between now and Thursday night needs to be positive.”

It was the Dons who quickly took control of possession, shifting the ball around neatly in a bid to expose a gap in the Raith backline. There were a few promising moves early on as the away side’s attackers buzzed hither and thither around the final third, but the first real opportunity to speak of fell the way of the hosts.

A throw-in near the Aberdeen box was collected by Ross Matthews and the midfielder managed to wriggle past his marker, but the angle was too tight and visiting goalkeeper Joe Lewis managed to bat the shot away. The ball fell kindly to the feet of Blaise Riley-Snow but the throng of bodies between him and the goal kept it at 0-0.

Raith would be made to rue that miss within minutes as Aberdeen opened the scoring in phenomenal fashion. Some neat play down the right resulted in Jack Gurr’s dinked ball over the home defence where Niall McGinn was waiting. The winger brought it down and rolled it into the path of Emmanuel-Thomas, who lashed an unstoppable daisy-cutter in at the far post.

The Dons were flying now and it looked like only a matter of time before Glass’ men doubled their advantage. Raith Rovers’ insistence in playing out from the back in the face of heavy pressure come what may led to the odd scare at the back but they managed to ride out the storm. A McGinn pot-shot and a Declan Gallagher header from a corner were the closest they came to a second but neither effort seriously troubled Jamie MacDonald.

Dario Zanatta almost restored parity on the stroke of half-time, squirming his way past Jonny Hayes and driving at goal from an angle, but could only hit the side netting.

The same man would play a crucial role as Raith hauled themselves level within minutes of the restart. The winger’s heels were clipped by Gurr on the edge of the area but referee Steven MacLean judged the foul to have taken place outside the box. Reghan Tumilty’s low, pacy delivery from the resulting set-piece caught the Dons napping at the front post as Ethon Varian nipped in to stroke the ball home.

That strike caused a dramatic shift in momentum; now it was McGlynn’s side who burst forward with purpose, and Aberdeen left looking ponderous and a touch lethargic. It was little surprise, then, when Raith took the lead.

A powerful effort from Riley Snow from 25 yards forced a smart reaction stop from Lewis as the goalkeeper palmed the ball away from goal. It was drifting towards Gurr but the full-back wasn’t aware of Zanatta, who timed his run well to dart in front of his man, nick the ball and rifle it into a near-empty net.

Established first-team regulars like Scott Brown, Ryan Hedges and Christian Ramirez were brought on as Glass shuffled the deck in an attempt to gain a foothold in the contest but the damage was already done. Aberdeen pushed hard for an equaliser but the day belonged to Raith Rovers: a fair reward for their efforts, mused McGlynn.

“I’ll concede Aberdeen had a lot of the ball but I don’t remember Jamie MacDonald making too many saves,” he reasoned. “Even when we were winning 2-1 and they were throwing the kitchen sink at us.

“We made ourselves very hard to beat while causing them one or two problems at the other end of the pitch. We showed composure in the second half – we didn’t show that in the first.”