RAITH ROVERS are this season’s Ramsdens Cup winners after John Baird’s goal in extra time clinched a dramatic victory over Rangers at Easter Road.
With 116 minutes played and the game goalless Grant Murray’s side produced one last attack and they were rewarded when Baird hit what proved to be the winner.
Cammy Bell did well to make a good block initially but the ball rebounded to Raith’s number 29 who stroked it under the Gers keeper.
It was a cruel blow for the players in blue who put so much effort into the game but could not find the one moment of quality in front of goal which might have given them a chance of winning today’s contest.
Prior to kick off the atmosphere within Easter Road was electric and as the managers and teams emerged from the tunnel for kick off both sets of fans cranked up the volume with the travelling Bears holding up a massive Rangers crest banner and blue cards.
The fired-up players on the pitch responded with the early stages of the game played at a frantic pace.
In the second minute Richard Foster blasted a shot from 25 yards high into the Raith end of the ground before Lee McCulloch’s free-kick went wide of the target.
Ian Black then launched a ferocious effort from distance which former Gers youth keeper Lee Robinson did well to palm away at full stretch.
But after a positive start to the game Rangers took their foot off the gas which gave their Championship opponents the chance to edge their way into the contest albeit their final ball in the last third let them down on occasions.
To be fair the standard of football in the first half was disappointing although Stevie Smith came close to breaking the deadlock three minutes before the interval.
Having scored a superb free kick against Dunfermline at Ibrox on March 15 he tried his luck with a similar left foot strike but having got the ball up and over the wall Robinson was there to make an acrobatic stop.
At half-time under-14 players from both Rangers and Raith Rovers put on a good display of goalscoring as they took part in a ‘Beat The Keeper’ contest.
But as the action got underway in the second half it was up to the senior stars to emulate the youngsters which was proving a bit more difficult.
On 46 minutes Smith found Lee Wallace marauding forward but when his cut-back cross went behind Fraser Aird it looked to have halted a potentially dangerous attack.
The winger however kept the pressure on when he dinked a delightful cross to the back post to Wallace but his low shot was brilliantly blocked by Robinson who dived at the left-back’s feet.
At the other end Baird fired a 25-yard drive over Bell’s bar as the pace of the game increased once again.
Nicky Law was now starting to see more of the ball and when he cut inside from the left his right-foot curler had plenty of power but lacked the accuracy to find the opposite top corner of Robinson’s goal.
With the sun now shining down on Leith and the game flowing from end to end it was then Raith’s turn to create the next chance of the game and what a chance it was.
Calum Elliot made a good run in behind the Gers defence and when he cut the ball back to Callum Booth the defender had plenty of space and time to look up but he skewed his shot wide from inside the 18-yard box.
Elliot himself could then have scored the opener himself when he latched on to the ball after Foster had slipped but his effort from a wide angle again went a couple of metres wide of Bell’s far post.
With an hour played McCoist made his first change to his side with Nicky Clark going on for Hutton and five minutes later Wallace was taken off with an injury and Seb Faure slotted in at left back.
The way Wallace tentatively walked off suggests he could be a big doubt for next weekend’s Scottish Cup tie against Dundee United but Rangers had no time to worry about that as they pressed for a goal in the capital.
With 83 minutes on the clock Robinson again did well to dive to his right and get a glove to Clark’s snap shot before Mohsni kicked a post in frustration as he somehow failed to find the net with a close range header from Smith’s free kick.
With time running out and extra-time looming there was now an air of tension in the stadium with both teams looking to hit a killer blow.
But despite several nerve-jangling minutes of injury time neither side could find the net which meant the battle-weary players had to push themselves for another 30.
In the first period of extra-time Law came within inches of getting on the scoresheet. The ball dropped to the Gers ace but his volley from 18 yards crashed off the inside of Robinson’s near post before being cleared.
The game remained goalless at half time of extra time and the introduction of Calum Gallagher after 110 minutes of football was to be McCoist’s last throw of the dice but there was nothing he could do as Raith scored with just four minutes remaining.
Bell made a good block initially but when the ball rebounded to Baird he slammed it low beyond the keeper before celebrating his winning goal in front of the jubilant Raith fans.
RAITH ROVERS (4-4-1-1): Robinson; Thomson, Watson, Hill, Booth; Anderson, Fox, Moon (Mullen 77), Cardle (Spence 90); Elliot (Smith 85); Baird
SUBS NOT USED: Laidlaw, Donaldson
GOAL: Baird 116
BOOKINGS: Fox, Elliot, Cardle
RANGERS (4-4-1-1): Bell; Foster, Mohsni, McCulloch, Wallace (Faure 65); Aird, Hutton (Clark 61), Black, Smith (Gallagher 110); Law; Daly
SUBS NOT USED: Simonsen, Shiels
BOOKINGS: Clark, Faure, Black, Smith
REF: Kevin Clancy