Last night Raith Rovers beat Aberdeen 1-0 in the replay of their Scottish Cup fifth round tie.
For anyone unfamiliar with the context or the sport, there’s nothing remarkable about this fact.
But it was remarkable when you consider these facts:
In the original game, Aberdeen bundled in an equaliser in the fifth minute of stoppage time, to the bafflement of many onlookers who couldn’t see where five minutes of added time had come from. It was a tough blow for Raith Rovers to take, and so often it’s in ties like this where the bigger club (Aberdeen) stroll through the replay.
Before and after the first game, Dons manager Mark McGhee’s comments to the media implied that his team had some divine right to just turn up and the result would go their way. Before the first match McGhee said on the radio that Aberdeen had the better players and it was just a case of putting in the performance, and after the 1-1 draw, he said:
“I couldn’t believe we were losing, it was such an injustice. I couldn’t believe we were on the verge of going out, there was something very wrong … We are going back to Pittodrie now and we can finish the job.”
Last weekend’s results seemed to confirm the likely outcome of last night’s match. Aberdeen fought out a 4-4 draw with title-chasing Celtic, while Raith slumped to an embarrassing 4-0 defeat at home to Inverness Caley. By normal logic, this would mean that Caley are a far better team than Celtic. It’s a funny old game.
To add even more complexity to the fixture, on Monday Raith captain Mark Campbell, who for the past four years has been a constant source of dependability in defence and was inspirational in the first game, was badly injured in a car crash. While it looks like he will make a full recovery, this news must have sent shockwaves through the Rovers camp. The players could have reacted in two ways: resign themselves to defeat, or commit themselves to fighting for every tackle and header and ultimately, the win.
Even on the night it looked like the fates were conspiring against Raith. Defender Dougie Hill was injured in the warm-up and replaced by Robert Sloan, and because of the bizarre rules of the Scottish Cup, this meant manager John McGlynn could only have two substitutes at his disposal. Then in only the 24th minute, striker Johnny Russell had to go off after coming off worse in a 50-50 tackle.
But all it took was one tap-in from French forward Gregory Tade, a half hour of dogged defending, and Rovers now find themselves in the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup.
Much of the media attention today has focused on McGhee’s plight (and if he hadn’t been so smug beforehand I might actually feel some sympathy for him after being spat at by Dons fans), but nothing should detract from this remarkable win.
Now all Raith need is the same kind of incentive to go and beat Dundee in the next round.