Grant Anderson aims for Hibs-Raith cup repeat

Raith's Grant Anderson, centre, wheels away in celebration after his header against Hibs in the Scottish Cup in 2014. Pic: Phil Wilkinson
Raith's Grant Anderson, centre, wheels away in celebration after his header against Hibs in the Scottish Cup in 2014. Pic: Phil Wilkinson
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Two years on and the memories of what he ranks as one of the best days of his football career are still crystal clear in the mind of Raith Rovers forward Grant Anderson.

Having twice seen the Kirkcaldy club pegged back as their Scottish Cup tie with Hibs swung one way and then the other, Anderson rose to get his head to team-mate Joe Cardle’s cross to edge Raith home in a five-goal thriller.

And now he is hoping to enjoy another equally dramatic day with, obviously, the same outcome when the two sides clash again in the Cup at Stark’s Park on Saturday.

Remarkably, both clubs had gone into that match on February 8, 2014, in indifferent form, Hibs having lost their previous four matches as the alarm bells began to ring, while Rovers hadn’t managed a single goal at all since the start of the year.

Despite their poor record, the Capital outfit remained favourites, still a Premiership side up against a team from a lower league.

Even when Kevin Moon fired Grant Murray’s players ahead after just six minutes, there appeared to be little to concern the Hibs fans, Sam Stanton equalising quickly afterwards.

However, the expectation that Raith would then simply be rolled over failed to materialise, Ross Callachan beating goalkeeper Ben Williams with a low shot only to see the ball crash back off the post before defender Dougie Hill prodded home from an Anderson head flick.

Again, though, Terry Butcher’s players hit back, Michael Nelson powering home a header on the stroke of half-time, a most definite body blow for the team from Fife.

Not that they seemed to 
notice, Anderson rising to meet a cross from Joe Cardle to direct a backward header beyond Williams for what proved to be the winner.

Today, 29-year-old Anderson admitted it’s still a moment he cherishes. He said: “Hibs weren’t doing particularly well at that time but they were, and still are, a massive club.

“We were also on a bit of a poor run having not scored a goal all year, but you always have to go into to any game no matter who you are playing believing you can win.

“If you think you’ve no chance then you’re beaten before a ball is kicked.

“I’d never been to Easter Road before, so I was looking forward to the occasion and to playing in front of a big crowd.

“It’s not unusual in such games for the underdog to get the first goal and when they are pegged back the expectation is for them to crumble.

“I remember Duncan Watmore playing his first game for Hibs that day and he was one of the man threats to us.

“But like Hibs, we just never gave up. Ross hit the post and then Dougie scored only for big Michael Nelson to score from a set-piece, which was frustrating as we prided ourselves on being able to defend such situations.

“It was disappointing to be level again, but we kept going and Joe put a good ball into the box for me. It was going a little behind me so I had to check before trying to get my head to it.

“I knew if I didn’t the ball would probably just go out of play so I just tried to get it on target, to make the goalkeeper work, but it went in at the top corner and I could hear our fans going mental.

“It was a great result for us and then we went back to Easter Road a couple of months later and beat Rangers in the final of the Challenge Cup – it was certainly a happy hunting ground for us.

“And for me it’s given me two of my best memories in football. I’d never beaten a Premiership side before and then I went back and got my hands on a bit of silverware.”

Now Anderson believes a little more of that never-say-die spirit is just what he and his team-mates need again on Saturday, Hibs having won all three Championship matches between the sides this season, even if each of them has been a closely fought affair.

He said: “Hibs are doing really well in the league and have ground out some good results even when, as we have done, they’ve been pushed all the way.

“They’ve ground out results, but we’ve had good matches and I don’t think there’s too much between the teams.”

A Jason Cummings goal, his 16th of the season and his third against Raith, was enough to earn Hibs their win last weekend, but Anderson anticipates a different match this time round with a place in the next round of the cup at stake rather than points.

He said: “It’s a one-off and that’s the excitement of the cup.

“You can always get a replay, but I don’t think anyone really wants that. You want to win outright and hopefully we can do that.

“But we know we will have to keep an eye on Jason Cummings. It’s frustrating when it’s the same guy scoring against you all the time. We’ll have to find a way to stop him, but when you see he’s scored seven goals against Rangers in nine games over the past couple of seasons then you realise we’re not the only ones struggling to keep him out.

“It wasn’t the prettiest of games last weekend, but we’ll be looking for that little bit more quality. We moved the ball about well without making any clear cut openings so we’ll be looking to do that to give us that chance of winning.”