Banks o’ Dee co-manager Jamie Watt thinks his players showed their ‘character’ against Championship Raith Rovers, despite losing 3-0 to exit the Scottish Cup.
However, a dubious free-kick allowed an until-that-point-wasteful Raith to score a fortunate opener, with the ball looping up off of the wall and straight to Sam Stanton to finish from close range.
With Dee taking the game to John McGlynn’s full-timers in search of an equaliser, substitutes Matej Poplatnik and Aidan Connolly would both net on the break late on to make the scoreline look more comprehensive than it was.
Watt encouraged his side, who he co-manages with Roy McBain, to channel their disappointment into securing further success this season, including possible promotion to the Highland League.
Watt said: “I said to them: ‘It’s a one-off this game, we focused on it and whatever happened on Saturday was never going to affect the rest of the season.’
“The boys have showed the character they’ve got. They’re disappointed, because they are not used to losing and it’s something that happens very rarely.
“I’ve told them they’ve got so much still to play for.
“We’ve got a huge game next week in the cup against Dundee East Craigie (third round of the Quest Engineering Cup) and then we’ve got Culter, which will be a big league game for us, so there’s a lot to focus on. We’re still in all of the domestic cups.
“Obviously the Aberdeenshire Shield is another one we’ll targeting and, if you win the cup and shield in the same season, it would be unbelievable.
“Like I say, there’s still so much left to play for, and hopefully an even bigger carrot at the end by making it to the Highland League.”
Raith – who had ex-Scotland stopper Christophe Berra at centre-half – flew out the blocks in the Granite City clash.
Dee’s Marc Young in action. Picture by Kath FlanneryWatt admitted his “nervous” side had to “weather a bit of a storm” early on, before getting to grips with Raith from 25 minutes onwards.
He hailed goalkeeper Fraser Hobday for his multitude of stops to keep them in with a fighting chance. Hobday stopped a low shot from Jamie Gullan – who was also guilty of missing the target several times – denied Ross Matthews one-on-one and also kept out Tom Lang’s header on the stroke of half-time.
The co-boss said: “Fraser’s really athletic, a really good shot-stopper, and I’d said to him before the game it was more than likely he’d be pretty busy.
“But he’s got that in his locker – he loves it when shots are flying around. He’s like a cat in getting around that goal really quickly.”
The second half free-kick which led to Rovers’ opener was awarded by referee Craig Napier when defender Darryn Kelly slid in to play the ball, but was adjudged to have caught former Aberdeen youngster Ethan Ross with his follow-through.
Watt, who revealed he was just about to “make the change and go two upfront”, said: “It’s not even a tackle. It was a pass. He’s slid because he needs to get there and Ethan Ross is slow getting there, jumps in and the follow-through catches him.
“The referee saw it clear as you like and thought it was fine, and then he listens to the linesman and gives a foul.
“The way it unfolded, with the deflection right into his (Stanton’s) path… You’re just hoping it will be a wonder goal, or a good team goal, that cuts you open, and – in the end – it’s a bit of a freak goal.”
Nevertheless, Dee’s switch to 3-5-2 for the final 20 minutes did see them get forward more than they had earlier in the game.
The best effort came from Lachie Macleod, whose free-kick forced former Hearts and Kilmarnock keeper Jamie MacDonald into a good save after the forward had been taken down by Lang on the edge of the box.
Watt added: “I actually thought it might have been a red, but the linesman thought the goalie had possession of it and that’s why it wasn’t a red.
“But he’s stepped up and hit the target.
“The last two goals weren’t a true reflection of how our team performed.
“At 1-0 you take your hat off and say they probably deserved to win, but the way we competed, to end up 3-0 – it puts gloss on their scoreline, but our team definitely didn’t deserve to lose 3-0.”