In the 136 years since the formation of Raith Rovers in 1883, meetings between Hibernian and the Fife side in the Scottish Cup competition have been fairly rare, and of the nine meetings before today’s game, Rovers are currently one ahead in the series. Today we take a look back at some of those games.
The first clash between the sides in the Scottish Cup took place on 8th February 1896. After a 3-2 away victory against East Stirlingshire, Hibs had been drawn to face the Fife club at Easter Road. The draw however had been complicated by the fact that although Raith had been defeated 2-1 by Lochgelly United in an earlier round, they had lodged a protest that their opponents had played an ineligible player who had earlier taken part in the competition for another side and was therefore cup-tied. Raith’s protest would eventually be upheld and the game ordered to be replayed, which would mean a delay before Hibs would discover just who their opponents would be in the next round.
Raith eventually managed to win the replay 5-2 and it was on to Easter Road, where the then non-league side would be defeated 6-1. After further victories against Rangers and then Renton in the semi-final, Hibs would face Edinburgh rivals Hearts in their first Scottish Cup Final for nine years. Because the final was between two Edinburgh sides, it was decided that the game would take place at Logie Green (now Logie Green Road), a ground not far from the city centre and previously home to St Bernard’s. It would be the first and only time to this very day that a Scottish Cup Final has taken place outside of Glasgow, Hibs unfortunately losing 3-1 to their great rivals.
After a bye in the first round of the 1912/13 competition, Hibs would eventually manage to defeat Motherwell 2-1 in the second round but only after a second replay, the third game taking place at neutral Parkhead. In the next round, Hibs would once again be drawn to face Raith Rovers this time at Starks Park. After a 2-2 draw in Fife, Hibs would be defeated 1-0 at Easter Road, Raith Rovers eventually making it all the way to the Fife club’s first ever Scottish Cup Final, only to be beaten 2-0 by Falkirk at Parkhead.
Although it would take another 36 years for the Easter Road side to gain revenge for the earlier defeat, after a 4-0 victory over Forfar at Station Road in the first round of the 1948/49 competition, the current league champions Hibs and Raith Rovers would meet again at Easter Road. In a game where according to the local press, ‘the finer parts of football were rarely in evidence, most of the excitement packed into the final few minutes’ it took a goal in the dying seconds to give the visitors another chance at Starks Park. In the replay however, Hibs would throw away a two goal lead at 3-1, allowing the home side to draw level. Raith centre-half Colville would thereafter put the ball into his own net and allow the Easter Road side to advance into the next round, where they would lose 2-0 at home to East Fife.
In the first round of the 1951/52 competition the sides would once again be drawn together, the game to take place at Starks Park. However, continuing bad weather throughout the entire country had seemed certain to cause the fixture to be postponed, only for the excellent work of hundreds of local volunteers who had worked tirelessly throughout the morning to clear the pitch of several inches of snow allowing the game to go ahead.
On a treacherous surface that was still clearly unplayable, the players of both sides finding great difficulty in keeping their feet, Raith quickly settled into their stride and were the better outfit, perhaps even surprising their own fans among the 30,000 crowd with a spirited display against the League Champions, and it took a brilliant display by the Hibs goalkeeper Tommy Younger, particularly in the first half, to earn his side a second chance in Edinburgh.
The Wednesday afternoon replay at Easter Road, with a 14:30 kick off in pre floodlit games, attracted another huge crowd for a mid-week game of 32,259, many of them presumably using the time-honoured excuse of attending a relatives funeral as the reason for missing work. Although there had been several near things at both ends in what was described as a ‘thrilling contest’, and despite the addition of an extra 30 minutes, this game would also remain goalless and it was now on to neutral Tynecastle for a second replay.
By that time the second round draw had thrown up a potential lucrative all -Edinburgh clash against Hearts, but any confidence among the Hibs fans for a meeting against their nearest rivals would be found to be somewhat premature, Raith somewhat surprisingly, but deservedly, defeating the champions elect 4-1 to end the Hibs supporters dreams of Scottish Cup glory for yet another year. It had now been exactly 50 years since Hibs last success in the competition, and during this time teams such as Motherwell, Aberdeen, Hearts, Clyde Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Airdrie, Morton, Falkirk, Partick Thistle Dundee and Third Lanark, as well as Rangers and Celtic had all won the famous trophy, some more than once.
After a 1-1 draw at Easter Road in 1956, a game cancelled from the previous week because of bad weather, a 3-1 victory for the home side at Starks Park in the replay would end Hibs interest in the Scottish Cup. In the replay at Starks Park, Hibs found themselves two down at the interval, another goal by Copeland not long after the interval increasing the home sides lead. A goal by Reilly briefly threatened a comeback, but in the end Raith were well worth their victory and a game against Queens Park in the next round.
The sides would meet again in the 1958/59 competition. In the first game at Starks Park, a game reported in the press as, ‘not one for the fans to remember in the way of constructive football.’ Raith had been much the better side in the first half and would take the lead from the penalty spot in the second half, with Gordon Smith equalising for Hibs seven minutes later from a Baker cross to force a replay. It would turn out to be the last ever goal that Smith would score in a green and white jersey.
The replay at Easter Road would turn into a real physical cup-tie with the emphasis on hard tackling by both sides and not enough good football. Hibs took the lead early in the first-half courtesy of the softest of penalties, Eddie Turnbull doing the needful from the spot. Another goal, this time by Desmond Fox increased Hibs lead, with the former Hearts player Alfie Conn pulling one back for Raith. Ten minutes from the end, Joe Baker was carried off injured to give Raith a real chance against ten men, but Hibs would manage to hold on to their lead.
After a 3-1 victory against Falkirk and a 4-1 defeat of Partick Thistle, both games at Easter Road, Hibs would exit the competition at the quarter-final stage after a 2-1 defeat by Third Lanark at Cathkin. In the first half, Thirds had been well on top and fully deserved their two-goal lead, although Hibs themselves had scorned several good chances. In the second-half, Ormond scored to give the Easter Road side hope, the same player coming within an ace of an equaliser, but once again Hibs dreams of cup glory would be put on hold for yet another year.
In the second half of a hard fought game, Gordon Smith had picked up a slight injury, and although the 22,000 spectators were not to know it at the time, after 18 often illustrious seasons, Smith had played his last ever game for the club. Just a few weeks after the cup defeat by Third Lanark, another member of the Famous Five would make his last ever competitive appearance for Hibs when the inspirational captain Eddie Turnbull led his side onto the field before a 4-1 home defeat by Dundee.
Since then, there have been other clashes between the sides in the Scottish Cup, the most recent was Hibs’ first round 2-0 victory at Starks Park on 9th January 2016, when goals by McGregor and Malonga would send the Leith side on their way to that year’s final at Hampden and a historic victory.
Written by Tom Wright