Brilliant Brechin beat Raith to reach play-off final

Brechin players celebrate their victory at Stark's Park. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Brechin players celebrate their victory at Stark's Park. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Raith Rovers 3 Brechin City 3 (Brechin win 3-2 on penalties)

Brilliant Brechin City reached the final of the Championship play-off after a dramatic penalty shoot-out win over Raith Rovers at Stark's Park.

Rovers were expected to progress after the 1-1 draw at Glebe Park in the first leg, however, the visiting part-timers, who finished fourth in League One, matched the home side goal for goal in a dramatic 3-3 draw over 120 minutes.

And a momentous day for the Angus club was confirmed in the penalty shoot-out as goalkeeper Graeme Smith saved three times to condemn Rovers to the drop, and send City through to a play-off final with Alloa.

A well-drilled Brechin defence held their full-time hosts to a goalless draw in the first half, with Smith making two key saves from Declan McManus and Danny Handling as half-time approached.

Raith were controlling the game without being dominant and City punished them for a defensive mistake six minutes after half-time.

Defender Jean-Yves M'voto played a risky pass back to 'keeper Connor Brennan without looking allowing striker Ross Caldwell to intercept and roll it past the Northern Irish stopper from close range.

M'voto made up for his earlier error as he powered home a header from McManus free-kick on 67 minutes for Raith's equaliser, but City were far from deflated as they retook the lead with seven minutes to go.

M'voto was again caught out, this time by Willie Dyer's long ball up the park, which the defender completely misjudged as it bounced through to substitute Alan Trouten to fire past Brennan.

City were just seconds from victory when Raith grabbed an injury-time equaliser. Bobby Barr's cross fell to Ryan Hardie who forced Smith into a save at his near post, but the rebound broke to McManus who rifled home to the immense relief to everyone in the home crowd.

With the tiring part-timers forced into extra time, could they muster up the energy for one last push? It looked beyond them on 112 minutes when Iain Davidson's pass split the Brechin defence for Hardie to race through and finish with aplomb, rounding Smith to stroke home.

But in a season where Brechin have consistently shown never-say-die spirit, they refused to be beaten and Liam Watt crashed home a stunning 25-yard free-kick with six minutes left to force the game to penalties.

Raith lost the toss which meant the spot kicks were taken in front of the McDermind Stand housing the vocal 200 Brechin fans.

After five penalties each, the teams could not be separated with two conversions and three misses each, so it came down to sudden death.

Scott Robertson took Raith's sixth, and a poor effort was easily saved by Smith, allowing Andy Jackson to step up and sent Brennan the wrong way to spark jubilation among the Brechin fans, and utter dejection in the home end.

The promotion dream is still on for Darren Dods and his brave band of men.

Raith Rovers: Brennan, Thomson, Benedictus (Thompson 63), M'voto, C.Barr, Matthews (Robertson 63), Davidson, McManus, Handling, Court (B.Barr 63), Hardie.

Brechin City: Smith, McLean, Dyer, Fusco, Lynas, Dale, Ford (S.O'Neil 75), Graham (Love 98), Jackson, Caldwell (Trouten 75), Watt. Not used: Dods, Costello, P.O'Neil.

Referee: Alan Muir

Attendance: 2932