Dogged Aberdeen Junior side Banks o’ Dee exited the Scottish Cup after a 3-0 defeat to Championship Raith Rovers at Spain Park.
In the end, the full-time, second-tier visitors were just too strong for their sixth-tier hosts, who hung in admirably and were only one goal down until the final few minutes at Spain Park.
Despite an early onslaught from Raith, tenacious Dee defending, inspired goalkeeping and wasteful finishing meant the fourth-round tie stayed goalless until the second period.
However, a stroke of good fortune eventually saw Sam Stanton net the vital goal to send John McGlynn’s side into the last-16 – although Dee’s push for a late leveller made for an exciting finale.
That push ultimately saw them concede further goals to Raith subs Matej Poplatnik and Aidan Connelly, but they were still applauded off the park by bumper 870-strong crowd who packed into the Granite City ground to watch the cup clash.
Keeper Hobday shines in opening period
A crowd of numbering 870 were there for the biggest tie in North Region Junior Superleague kings Dee’s 120-year history. Meanwhile, Raith arrived having seen their winless run stretch to five matches in losing at Arbroath last weekend.
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Dee were without suspended skipper Kane Winton for the cup tie, while former Premiership players Christophe Berra – a long-time Scotland centre-back – and goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald among those given responsibility for keeping the home side out for Raith.
Ex-Aberdeen youngster Ethan Ross also started in attack for the Kirkcaldy outfit.
The tie began as David and Goliath clashes often do.
Championship title-hopefuls Raith came out of the blocks quickly, with Jamie Gullan firing wide of the left post on two minutes.
Goalkeeper Fraser Hobday made a good double stop soon after – first low to his right as Gullan tried to find the far corner, before also blocking Berra’s effort despite a wicked deflection off of Stuart Duff.
Ex-Don Ross had his first opportunity on seven minutes, but fired Berra’s knock-down from a free-kick too far left to worry Hobday.
However, the goalie again impressed on 14 minutes, denying Ross Matthews one-on-one after a ball over the top unlocked the Dee backline.
Gullan was certainly chief among Raith’s wasteful attackers in the opening minutes, with the striker hitting the side netting two minutes later after the ball ricocheted off Darryn Kelly in the home side’s box. He would then fail to connect on the volley with Dario Zanatta’s cross from the right soon after, with the goal at his mercy.
Having weathered the early storm, Dee began to restrict the visitors to less clear-cut chances. Both Frankie Musonda and Berra had wild swings from distance as the first half ticked down.
However, Raith had two more big opportunities before the break, with Jack Henderson putting enough pressure on Liam Dick for the onrushing left-back to head wide at the back post, before Hobday stopped Tom Lang’s header from point-blank range.
At the interval, Dee co-bosses Jamie Watt and Roy McBain would have been satisfied with their team’s resilience, especially the sparkling display of goalkeeping from Hobday, but Dee – who had not given MacDonald a save to make in the opening period – would have to known they needed to find ways to get the ball forward in the second half to have any chance of an upset.
Stanton breaks the deadlock
It took until 58 minutes for the first chance of the second half to arrive – and it was again Raith coming close to breaking the deadlock, with defender Musonda finding himself eight yards out to connect with Zanatta’s cross from the left. The headed effort cracked off the outside of the left post with Hobday rooted to the spot.
But Raith finally managed to take a chance on 67 minutes, and it was as easy an opportunity as it was a fortunate one.
The visitors were awarded a dubious free-kick after Kelly put in what looked to be a good challenge on Ross 25 yards from the Dee goal.
Sub Aidan Connelly struck the set-piece into the home side’s wall, but it looped up and landed between the penalty spot and six-yard line. With Hobday stranded, Sam Stanton – finding himself in the perfect position – was able to tuck the ball into the corner.
Nevertheless, one goal does not make a cup win, and there was a glimmer of hope for Dee when striker Lachie Macleod broke forward on 78 minutes, however, following an exchange with replacement right-back Neale Allan, Macleod could only fire wide of the right post from a tight angle.
On 81 minutes, Macleod almost latched on to Musonda’s short backpass, but was felled just outside the area by Lang. It looked to be a clear goal-scoring opportunity, with only MacDonald between the striker and the goal, but referee Craig Napier curiously showed the Raith player a yellow card instead of a red one.
Macleod got to his feet and powered the free-kick round the wall, but MacDonald got two strong hands on the ball to prevent the strike sailing into the right top corner.
Dee would continue to push on without working the Raith keeper again and, with minutes left, the visitors put the result to bed when sub Matej Poplatnik tapped in the rebound from Ross’ shot to make it 2-0. It was Poplatnik’s first touch after coming off the bench.
Then, on 93 minutes, a quick Raith break allowed another sub, Connelly, to receive the ball on the right flank, before steering it across goal and beyond Hobday with his left foot via the inside of the far post.
Dee: Hobday, Young, Lawrie, Kelly, Lewecki, Duff, Henderson, Gilmour, Macleod, Philipson, Alexander
Subs: Allan (for Duff 52), Crosbie (for Henderson 59), Armstrong (for Alexander 73)
Subs not used: Armstrong, Macaskill, Watson, Robertson, Humeniak, Sweeney
Raith: MacDonald, Dick, Musonda, Berra, Matthews, Gullan, Zanatta, Lang, Stanton, Williamson, Ross
Subs: Connelly (for Zanatta 63), Poplatnik (for Gullan 89)
Subs not used: Thomson, Benedictus, Connolly, Riley-Snow, Arnott, Mitchell, Young