ST MIRREN crashed out of the Irn-Bru Cup as League One side Raith Rovers booked their place in the last eight with a 3-1 win in Paisley.

It was the battle of the league leaders and the third tier side would’ve fancied their chances of an upset over the Championship table toppers when manager Jack Ross named a side that showed seven changes from the win over Brechin.

Two of those were enforced with Liam Smith and Lewis Morgan on international duty, but there was rare starts for Ross Stewart in goals, Dale Hilson and Ross Stewart while 16-year-old midfielder Ethan Erhahon made his debut.

Last year’s finalists were the better team for the first hour with Raith showing little attacking intent. The breakthrough finally came in the 63rd minute when Gavin Reilly converted from Hilson’s cross.

Just when it looked like Saints would be in the hat for the last eight, they inexplicably went to pieces, allowing Lewis Vaughan plenty of time and space to finish from 20 yards immediately after the restart.

Vaughan then turned provider for Greig Spence before Bobby Barr put the icing on the cake for Rovers with a fine finish.

The crowd at the Paisley 2021 Stadium were not roused by a rather torrid opening 20 minutes, with St Mirren failing to show any kind of tempo in their play and Raith Rovers happy to sit and absorb pressure while looking for a counter.

An Ian McShane corner in the 21st minute brought about the first chance for the home side, Jack Baird was free at the penalty spot but his header was blocked by Raith goalkeeper Graeme Smith.

The away side were able to break quickly and Spence’s exquisite flick sent Barr on his way, but Adam Eckersley got around well to cover and blocked his shot but conceded a corner.

From the corner John Herron rose highest to nod down, the ball bounced kindly for Spence but he struggled to keep his balance and skied his shot over the crossbar.

The home support were awoken from their slumber after 36 minutes when Ross Stewart cushioned a header down for Reilly who laid the ball off for the on rushing Gary Irvine. The defender has never scored for Saints and he won’t have come much closer than this fizzing drive from the edge of the area which had Smith worried and the keeper was forced to palm it to safety.

Moments later Ross Stewart’s shot from a tight angle following a corner cannoned off the post and out. On the stroke of half-time the Buddies were denied by the woodwork again when Baird headed against the bar from another McShane corner.

The second half continued in the same vein with Saints struggling to break down a dogged Raith side. Stelios tried his luck from the edge of the area on the hour mark and stung the palms of Smith.

But in the 63rd minute the long awaited breakthrough came. Stelios’ slide rule pass picked out Hilson who clipped a well weight cross to the back post where Reilly was lurking to finish.

But the lead lasted a matter of seconds. Straight from the kick-off Raith worked the ball to Vaughan and he cut inside with little in the way of a challenge to contend with before firing into the corner of the net from the edge of the D.

And it would get even better for the away side when Vaughan nodded down a cross for Spence who had peeled away from Gregor Buchanan and he had the simplest task to side foot the Stark’s Park side into the lead.

With 10 minutes to go the League One side were out of sight. A slack pass out of defence from Eckersley was intercepted by Herron, he played a square pass to Barr who cut inside and curled a terrific effort into the top corner.

St Mirren: Stewart, Irvine (MacPherson, 56) Buchanan (Smith, 76), Baird, Eckersley, Hilson, McShane, Erhahon, Stelios, Stewart, Reilly (Duffy, 76).